When parents suck up to their kids in public, the intent needs to be examined
The other day, I saw this post by a #ProudMother who was Facebook-felicitating her only daughter for completing (drum roll) five whole years in a particular field. Apparently, it was a post worthy of 450 likes, not to mention innumerable loves and wows, too. Considering the preceding post on my timeline was a retired gentleman’s low-angle selfie that allowed us a view of his brain via his nostrils, with the words ‘In Delhi’ which had garnered 295 likes, my surprise was surprising.
Anyway, I checked out the post in detail. Maybe the pride-inducing daughter had invented something, saved lives, improved in some manner the field of her choice. Other than the fact that this role model had performed the groundbreaking, awe-inspiring, death-defyingly selfless task of switching jobs four times in the gruelling, backbreaking, life-threatening, incredibly looooooooong five years, there wasn’t much else. Trust me, I went through her bio with a fine-tooth comb.
There was no vaccine attributed to her. She hadn’t saved three hundred orphans from starvation. No pending legislation in her name with regard to the abolishment of capital punishment. No addition of a word or two to the lexicon on her account.
I looked again at the comments section to see if I’d missed anything. It was overflowing with awesomes, stay-blesseds, amazings, warriors (my favourite), and for some reason, a few hottieeees, too. But not much else.
Is this what we’ve come to? That we elbow our way through a screaming crowd to fete a person with clappy emojis, lurid bouquets and meaningless dancing gifs for just going to work? For five years?
What was the mother’s pride about, really? And the hordes of awestruck appreciators, what was the applause about? I’m baffled. Readers, let me know, please.
Is it because she woke up every morning? Did the daughter have impeccable attendance that was not apparent in the post? Did she have good handwriting? Maybe she bathed every day, hygiene is a good thing, right? Or is it because she didn’t run away with the petty cash or stab anyone to death with a ballpoint pen in those five years?
Then came a proud father. His humble pride apparently stemmed from the awesomeness of his fourteen-year-old son’s painting.
“This painting is by the love of my life, my reason to live, my handsome son, Rishimoolesh Babu (‘Mool’ for short),” went the post. “I can’t thank the heavens enough for having blessed us with this invaluable treasure of the seven seas, this Hrithik without an extra thumb, who will reach the moon one day like Lance Armstrong. I’m tearing up as we speak.”
And then came the painting. I looked at it carefully. I had dabbled as an illustrator in the past. After careful consideration, to me, it looked like a perspective-free study of a raccoon run over by an SUV whose corpse had been partially eaten by a bear, on which someone had cruelly thrown rotten fruit.
I saw the caption: horse running in a meadow at sunset.
Followed by #LeonardoPicasso #feelingawesome #fatherlovesmost #familyvalues.
It made me think fondly of my own father’s response to my painting when I was about the same age. If memory serves me right, it was “If you touch one more of my Size-3 brushes, I’ll brain you with that bottle of poster-colour.”
Have the ‘commoners’ learnt this from celebrity dads and moms? Constantly, publicly praising the achievements of their offspring — ranging from bagging an endorsement deal to winning a medal in some sport, from setting up a new venture to being able to tie their own shoelaces? Or did being a needy, deluded brag just become okay because of social media? It doesn’t matter I guess.
I just yearn for the old days when you took a parent’s harrumph as a sign of approval after you showed them your essay or drawing. What happened to that kind of good sense? It was the norm if I remember correctly. Parents who bragged about their kids were a rarity, to be mocked. Perhaps that was why we produced a generation of genuine achievers.
Your kid’s ‘achievement’ isn’t yours to crow about. The more special you think your kid is, the more you speak about her triumphs in public — even if she wins the Nobel for Peace at age thirteen — the greater the disservice you are doing her. How is that not obvious?
When parents suck up to their kids in public, the intent needs to be examined. What does the general public have to do with your approval of your child? And how shaky is your relationship with your kid that you have to show your appreciation publicly? What are you compensating for? Or are you merely vampiring off your child for energy?
Pride in one’s children is natural, I suppose. But how can the parents of today not see how counter-productive that would be for the child. How do you expect the world to see her newborn glow if you kill it yourself with the klieg light you’ve turned on her?