I am no parenting expert. I don’t even know if I am doing my job right.
But I know for sure that I’ve always tried to be a friend and guide to Nadine, my ten-year-old daughter. I keep adapting my parenting style as my child outgrows one phase and steps into another.
Nadine and I make a regular mother-daughter duo doing the regular stuff that mothers and daughters do, you know! Like watch movies, read books, make lemonade, bake goodies, enjoy lighthearted banter, as well as have long, deep conversations.
In my decade-old parenting experience so far, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the following adage is so true.
“The child is the father of the man.”
Today’s children are a brilliant lot, and they march to the beat of their drum. Even as tiny tots, they are quite deep, reflective, and the questions they ask can baffle even the most modern-day philosophers.
Never keep the conversations dangling
At the start of this academic year, Nadine discussed her fears and anxieties about being a legit middle-schooler. The middle schoolers and high-schoolers shared the same block and she was intimidated being the youngest. I suggested some ‘do’s and don’ts’ and how she can cope.
Then out-of-the-blue, Nadine asks me,
“Mummy, if Life is a gift by God, then why is it a test?”
I was taken aback by such a profound question all of a sudden. I was dumbstruck for a moment before muttering in a low voice, “Good question!”
I understood where this spiritual question came out of nowhere.
In her mind, she was wondering and trying to figure out this whole moral debate between the Good vs. Bad. The ‘do’s and the don’ts’.
How good actions lead to good Karma and vice versa.
About the concept of Heaven and Hell.
Why should we be good if life is a gift?
Why be accountable to anyone, including the giver of the gift?
I thought hard for the rest of the day and came up with my rational answer to this tricky question.
Introducing the concept of Privilege
That night, as we tucked into bed and hugged each other by the side, I said;
“Life is a gift. It’s a privilege. But, we cannot take our life, our gift, and Privilege for granted. It comes with power. And with power comes with responsibility.
The Earth is also humankind’s gift. But, we cannot squander it and treat it as we please. We have a responsibility to treat it right.
The same goes for anything given to us freely. Just because we are privileged in certain areas doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility and doing the right thing for others and ourselves.”
Nadine peered at me from under the blankets and asked me,
“What is privilege, Mummy?”
I knew this was an opportunity to discuss greater things that will not just add more meaning and enrich her life, but also others around her as well.
Nadine’s just ten years old. But, I’m glad she’s raising some critical questions.
“Another time, another day, I promise!” I smiled in assurance.
What does Privilege look like for a child?
That perfect opportunity came a few days before Christmas.
“Mum, I don’t know what to ask Santa this year.”
Yes, Nadine used to be one of those kids who would diligently write a letter to Santa a good one-month before Christmas with her long wish-list.
But this year, she was content and hence skipped writing a letter to Santa.
“Remember, you asked me about privilege a few months ago?” I reminded her.
“This is privilege, Nadine! You have all that you desire, and it’s an easier life for you compared to other children.”
“No, that’s not true!”, she disagreed as she listed the names of many celebrities around her age, including Anantya Anand of MyMissAnand channel.
I asked her to think of her classmates and other children she comes across in daily life. I wanted her to also think of children and people who don’t even have what we have. This time I listed some names in our known circle and added,
“This is why you don’t feel the need to ask Santa anything this year. You have a family to take care of all your whims and fancies.”
Her silence spoke volumes as I caught her thinking deeply.
Why we parents need to discuss Privilege with our children
We live in the most divisive times than ever before today, where vested interests are committed to widening the gap between the haves and have-nots.
We live in a world that hates poverty, women, lesbians, gays, transgender people, minorities, and every kind of non-privileged section.
Children like Nadine are the future of the world. Our hope.
We don’t live in a just world. So, we need to prepare our children for the stark reality by being brutally honest about how society discriminates against some people while favouring others.
Amidst the recent NRC-CAA bill protests in our country, we need to raise a future generation that is not afraid to listen and talk about diverse viewpoints and experiences with empathy and respect.
As parents, we have the moral responsibility of raising an inclusive generation that is devoid of racism, sexism, transphobia, and xenophobia.
It’s important to teach our children to put themselves in the shoes of the less privileged and always do the next right thing.
Discuss taboo subjects with our children
I’ve subscribed to an age-appropriate newspaper for my daughter. At ten, I know that Nadine is ready to consume uncomfortable and even disturbing news.
She asked me recently what rape meant when she read about the deceased Hyderabad vet’s case. When she heard me discuss the details, she was mortified and devastated.
It allowed me to discuss with her about the socio-economic disadvantage of being a woman. I spoke about my struggles of having a career once I got married and became a mother. I told her how it’s not an easy ride for me to start from scratch after a long professional sabbatical. We discussed many gender-related issues including –
How we need more women to loiter and conquer the streets, and all public spaces.
How we need women to conquer their fears and break all societal shackles to pursue their calling.
How the world belongs to both women and men and it’s not a man’s world alone.
Privilege comes with more opportunity and responsibility
I’m determined to make my child aware of both her privileges and disadvantages in this world so that she can recognize injustice when she sees it and fights to change it. She can also identify the various ways; she stands to benefit owing to her privilege and how she needs to be ethical and do the right thing, not just for herself but also for others.
On the last school day before the Christmas holidays this year, Nadine played Santa Claus for her friends when she gifted them handmade cards and gifts. It was a voluntary act with no expectations in return.
A few days after Christmas, she surprised my husband and me with a handmade card for our 12th wedding anniversary. I was amazed at how she touched upon the right notes with words like ‘togetherness.’ How did she know we completed 12 years of togetherness?
With privilege comes greater opportunity, responsibility, and hope.
I am very proud of Nadine’s generosity, kindness, and compassion. There must be something that I’m doing right as a parent after all. Phew!