Monday 24 October 2016

The half born child and obsessed parenting...

The last post which was a metaphor for an existential dharma sankata[1], resulted in quite a few reactions. There were some other interesting visualizations such as

The baby is afraid to be born through mermaid, for it fears of a form that wouldn’t be beautiful or functional” and someone who was aware of my dilemma quipped “…the baby can choose another womb where it feels safe and give the hell to this mother (for not making it feel safe)…”

Most reactions wished for a healthy child being born without any harm to the mermaid, like one saidThe passion of the mermaid, the love of the man and the faith of the midwife will win and influence baby's evolution”.  The moot point being, just like a bollywood movie, most people wanted a “happy fairytale ending”, resembling my dear friend Vidya’s comment on the blogpost that reads “The story will end most gloriously… man's deep desire…, the woman's will …mid-wife's unflinching faith willdeliver a golden baby”.

Earlier this month, I was in a tehsil in Vidarbha, Maharashtra to address a group of 70 women who had assembled to celebrate their ‘wholesomeness’.  I started my interaction with them by narrating the metaphor of ‘Mother, Father, Midwife and a Half-Born Child’.  Most of their responses converged around ‘mother has to push harder and she will’; it was very clear that, in their view the complete onus of bringing the child into this world rested with the mermaid.  Deeper exploration with them revealed that their only focus appeared to be the half-born child.  They were completely obsessed with the child’s well-being and not one of them expressed anything about the mermaid.  Along the same continuum a friend’s message read “The child has to be born, this is the moment when their belief of creating their perfect world is being tested.The world they are seeking can happen only when this child comes into being… if the child does not find life, the man and the mermaid wouldn’t be same again…”  

What do these convey about our psyche? In these responses I find guiding beliefs and obsessions of parenting.  During the past several years, I have observed across the country - from remote parts of Telangana to industrialized patches of West Bengal; even in distinctly different cultures - working mothers in Nigeria to women entrepreneurs in London – most assume an obsessive & onerous duty of bringing up their progeny.   Underlying their disposition of ‘try harder for my child’ appears to be a belief that these women are solely responsible for the evolution and well-being of their children.  Often, in this belief, they sacrifice everything.  Recently, a Nielson report pointed out that about 87% of the women in India are most pressured for time; embedded in that report is the dominant cause of it (pressure for time) - that has to do with the children.

It’s not as if only the women are obsessed parents; even men when obsessed with the idea of a perfect/ most glorious future for their children, more often than not end up being the most significant stumbling block in their child’s ability to realize his/ her true potential.  The visible characteristics of such parents appear to be
  • Possessiveness
  • Over-protectiveness
  • Continuing to wear kid-gloves even in a child’s adolescent years
  •  Self-sacrifice & pampering
  • Yearning to control the child in her/ his teenage and
  • Continuing to be preoccupied with affairs (no pun intended) of grown up children

Mostly, these parents have never recognized the ability and willingness of their child to explore and embrace the world at her/ his terms.  A flawed idea of love at the root of their behavior leads to excessive interventions, regulations and an overwhelming presence till the child suffocates. Every time I was able to let go of my obsession as a parent, my children delighted; but have I truly got over my preoccupation – perhaps not.  However, whenever I meet a parent who truly treats their child as an equal and rejoices in her/ his explorations, I get inspired.

Last week, I happened to be conducting a program where the organizers had invited Mr Harvir Singh Nehwal, father of Ms Saina Nehwal[3] (pride of India); while responding to his audience, he narrated his own life by quoting a poem that left a deep imprint on him and am sure he would have offered the same to his daughter that made her embrace life's adventures.  This is by Hindi poet Ayodhya Singh Upadhyaya 'Hariaudh'. Bear with me while I attempt an English translation alongside -

एक बूँद
ज्यों निकल कर बादलों की गोद से
थी अभी एक बूँद कुछ आगे बढ़ी
सोचने फिर फिर यही जी में लगी
हाय क्यों घर छोड़ कर मैं यों कढ़ी
मैं बचूँगी या मिलूँगी धूल में
चू पड़ूँगी या कमल के फूल में
बह गयी उस काल एक ऐसी हवा
वो समन्दर ओर आयी अनमनी
एक सुन्दर सीप का मुँह था खुला
वो उसी में जा गिरी मोती बनी
लोग यौं ही हैं झिझकते सोचते
जबकि उनको छोड़ना पड़ता है घर
किन्तु घर का छोड़ना अक्सर उन्हें
बूँद लौं कुछ और ही देता है कर !
A droplet

Leaving the bosom of the clouds
As the water droplet proceeded a bit
She hesitated and thought
Why did I leave my home?
What’s there in my destiny -
Will I survive or disappear in dirt
Will I vaporize in a fire?
Or embrace a lotus petal
The moment brought such a gust of air
Reluctantly she drifted towards sea
Where lay a beautiful shell with open orifice
She fell there to become a pearl
People hesitate unduly
When they leave their cocoon
Yet leaving their home often
Brings them a transforming breeze

And those of us parents who do not recognize this spirit, continue to keep our child in the half-born state even though the child demonstrates her/ his ability and willingness to take the biggest risk known to humankind just as an unborn child that decided to step outside the womb and embrace all the uncertainty and ambiguity. 

Amidst the scenario where, with every passing generation, the degree of obsessed parenting seems to increase, there’s a need to recognize the downside of such parenting orientations.  We may not be conscious of the lopsided mental model, notwithstanding the purest of intention we carry.  This triggered behavior causes immense damage to our children by denting their ability to realize their own true potential.  I do hope parents are able to see the delusional attitude they carry– whether it lies in role-modeling they imbibed as a child themselves or with the fact that they are fixated with giving the very best to their children or whether it emanates from their flawed understanding of love.  

Let us bless our children to experience and receive an enlivening, spirited & sorted parenting.  As the Alchemist[4] says – “…when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it…” Let us all, as parents dream of evolving to such a notch that would make sure that no child is left half born.

[1] One of my teachers Raghu Ananthnarayanan defines dharma sankata as a dilemma between two rights
[3] -- Born 17 March 1990 is a professional badminton singles player has been a world no. 1 and maintained her world ranking in the top ten since 2009 Won over twenty international titles has represented India three times in the Olympics  the Arjuna award winner and a Khel Ratna, the Government of India (GoI) conferred on her the Padma Bhushan - India's third highest civilian award
[4] The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


  1. Harish,
    Very pertinent post ...
    Totally agree that women (and men ) can take their parenting / nurturing role a tad too seriously !

    Much at the cost of their own nurturing and growth drawing too deep from their well of resources ... it is very important to replenish their wells too ....I think

    When they pause to do that, they can find renewed energy to being a parent !

    Parenting the self is also an important part of parenting , I think :)

    1. Thank you Vidya, I liked "...drawing too deep from their well of... important to replenish their wells too" -- perhaps our quest should be to find effective means of replenishing the wells

  2. “Good parents give their children Roots and Wings. Roots to know where home is, Wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them.”
    ~Jonas Salk

    Jonas Salk says it right. But here is my academic take, with no grounding in experience, but only through observation.
    You know when you are a good parent when you know that you trust your children to make their own way. But to reach this level of trust in your children, you have to be confident about yourself and your own values. Self-doubt is what holds back parents in trusting and freeing their children.

  3. Excellent post. I guess this is a generation which is so obsessed with trying to provide all those things that they missed out (as children) , that they become in the process overbearing.

  4. You have brilliantly captured the existential dilemma that generations of parents have been and are still grappling with. Call it excessive love, concern for the kids' well-being and growth mixed with the fear of an unknowable tomorrow, a parent prefers to guide and keep a watchful eye on the children irrespective of the latter's phase of life. Yeah, it probably has its roots in the parent's own perception of unfulfilled aspirations and failures. The problem is we as parents are well aware of the need to let the kid go, but just do not bring ourselves to do that, thereby unwittingly stunting the child's growth potential. No easy answers to this dilemma!

  5. Hi Harish, very well captured the modern day parental phobia. Many times I have been called by some of my relatives that I am irresponsible towards them where as I enjoy, watching them from a distance, exploring their world. Great metaphor for half born child.

  6. How many of us adults are still halfborn because of obsessive parenting. Its like the umblical cord not being cut yet..
    A most fantastic picture and poem you got to go with the post too.....
    While the picture roots the thought in the practical, the poem takes us to the heights and depths that metaphors can take

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  8. Awesome post!! You have very nicely brought out what we as parents most of the time do. But by doing so, we don't allow them to decide, what they want. You are an enigma!!!!!

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  10. Thanks for sharing mama!! Very well said & covered the most important aspect of adult human; parenting. Its only humans specially indian parents who are so over protective & over possessice about their offspring, hence retarding the natural growth. I find my ideas resonating in your blog... For the success of any relationship; we must communicate, respect & give space mutually. Let go...

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