In my Chennai neighbourhood I see parents carrying bags, as they walk their daughters/sons to the school bus. Wonder when or how these school-goers would grow up. At times , I want to tell these kids they are big now, and making mom or dad carry their schoolbags made them look small, weak and helpless. But then my wife, more sensible of the two, holds me back.
As parents, we have all been guilty of pampering our children in varying degrees. But I don’t remember carrying our only son’s bag, not even in his pre-school year . My wife usually took him to the nursery school. What I do recall is, when he started college, we travelled with him to BITS, Pilani ; stayed in his hostel for a day, tasted the mess food; and met a couple senior ‘wingies’ (staying in his hostel wing). My bright idea was to persuade them not to subject our son to the kind of ragging we witnessed on the campus.
But then, as I later heard our son say, the wingies I had met targeted our son the moment our backs were turned on the Pilani campus. So much for my bright idea. Now I know, how parents can help, if they stop being their children’s baggage-keepers.
After first and second semester holiday, on his return to Pilani my wife and I used to see off our son at the Chennai Central Station. That most other students on Delhi-bound TamilNadu Express made it to the station on their own wasn’t lost on our son. But there was no way he could stop us from dropping him at the station. On one of these train trips, I believe, after the second semester, a Pilani girl had her berth next to my son’s, in 3-tier sleeper compartment. My wife, fussing over our son, got down to setting his baggage for him, securely, under the seat. The girl did this, for herself – arranging her baggage. What’s more, no one had come to see her off. That was when our son put his put his foot down, so to speak. No more bag-carrying for him. That was the last time he allowed us to see him off. For the next three years he spent in Pilani, our son’s train to Delhi left the Chennai Central, without our presence at the station. The girl on the train was Anu Hasan.
Sheila Hailey’s I Married a Bestseller devotes a chapter on bringing up children . Shiela, insisting that her children helped them around the house, assigned daughter Jane to dust daily Arthur’s study, empty his wastebasket, and set her author father’s table as organised as he wanted it, using a checklist to get it right. When she reached 13 Jane was given a monthly clothing allowance, and was taught to sew. Jane was made to realize she could get more out of her monthly allowance, if she made the clothes herself.
Steven, at age 10, maintained the family swim pool, testing chlorine and acid levels, adding chemicals when necessary, and backwashing the filter. Mom urged him to work for an allowance, and Arthur encouraged his son to use tools at an early age.
Hailey who authored Airport, Hotel, Wheels and several other bestsellers made it a point to dine with his children – aged ten, eight, and six - and often shared his thoughts on the book he was doing. For children family dinner gave an opportunity to discuss with parents what they wanted to do in class and off-school. The whole family spent quality time, feeling relaxed.