When Riju was an infant, I was driven out of my mind trying to decipher what exactly his wails meant. Did it mean he was hungry or was it a mosquito bite? Was it ear-ache or tummy-ache? My actions were almost always a blind guess. I could only hope for the best.
Now that Riju is almost a teenager, the problem has merely shifted shape. As I scold him for not reading enough Bengali books or watching way more television than is good for him, I am not sure if I am doing the right thing. Will scolding make him rebel against all rules? Will my body language set a wrong example? And, on top of everything, why can't he enjoy life the way he wants to? We do it, don't we?
Even when I am being all disapproving or enthusiastic, I am torn in at least three more directions. The moral high ground which lends the ringing oratorical quality to one's preaching is lacking in me. If I can look for ways to ignore centuries-old pearls of wisdom, then what chance do these have with a 12 year old? But being a parent (a more experienced individual at least) means you need to try your darnedest to 'instil values' and 'discipline' your child. But how in heaven's name does one ensure that he's imbibing the correct values? If Riju switches off the television after a censure, is it because he realizes that too much television is a habit to avoid or is it because he merely wants me to shut up? In the long run, what is the 'value' he is learning? Obedience or hiding his irritation with boss figures?
Then there's the tricky bit of setting an example. After spending half a lifetime striving to get approvals (in the form of report cards and appraisal ratings) by putting on my best behaviour, don't I get to be myself even at home? Even if I feel like swearing at a stupid tele-caller, do I need to swallow and be patient if Riju is nearby? It's a bloody moral morass, I tell you!
Parenting at the end of the day is all about taking blind potshots and hoping for the best. I, for one, refuse to take any responsibility if my child turns out to be a coke-smoking sociopath. If, however, he turns out to be a warm, caring human being, then of course I'll write a book on How to Influence Children and Bring Up Brats. :-)