From the Editor’s desk: Other children in your community need you to care about them too.

I was at the hospital most of last week, and had lot of opportunity to observe parents, especially mothers, and children that I don’t know very well. After having kids the ages of nine and either, I thought I was jaded enough to not notice new things about interactions between children and parents. This was not so. The more I looked around me, the more I realised that mothers are all the same, only the details differ. And kids are all the same, if you let them be. You could interchange any kid with any mother, and after a couple of hours, the mum would have found out what makes this kid tick and handle him accordingly.

In one such state of observation, when I waiting for my turn with the doctor to come in, I observed a particularly boisterous child running around the fairly quiet waiting area. Littlest noises annoy me (disproportionately, I will admit) and this kid was sort of getting on my nerves. I tried to focus on my phone and take deep breaths. Then he came running closer to me and I knew for me it was touch and go before I held the child firmly by his hands and asked him to  keep quiet. He veered dangerously close to him and I tried not to make eye contact. I looked askance at the mother who seemed quite satisfied with the way her sweet young one was behaving, seeing absolutely nothing wrong in her delicious five-year old mistaking a hospital environment for a playground. She, of course, was attending some life threatening emergency on her phone.

The little barbarian came closer to me and just as I was in that split second where you decide to do something about this or decide to let it go, he swung his leg back and kicked my son who was ill and sleeping on my lap, legs dangling off the chair. Rage erupted within me would be an understatement. A rampaging newly-indoctrinated gaurakshak would be positively saccharine when compared to how I felt at that point. I stood up, grabbed the kid’s elbow and asked in a low, scary (I think) voice what he thought he was doing. In typical gentleman fashion, he started to yell, “Mummmeeeeee.” His mother continued saving lives on her phone, and so he continued in his dulcet tones. “Mummeeee.” This time, she reluctantly put her superhero tendencies away, walked away from the calamity she was helping with on her phone and came stomping over to me, finally noticing that someone had grabbed her kid by his elbow. Meanwhile, this little gentleman, all sweetness and light, was having his little joke with his feet, giving me fairly effective kicks in my shin, trying to escape my warm, maternal grasp.

I won’t go into the details of the altercation but suffice to say that we resolved that her son was a gentle cloud come to earth, and that he was just having a bad day. “Rain cloud,” I muttered under my breath and told her to please keep her cloud in check, other I was going to be a storm wind to his lightness. Just before, the mum and son walked off, she shot back saying, you have no right to correct my kid. Ooooh, just the provocation for me to sit her down in the cafe upstairs, sit her down, buy her chai and tell her, “Behen, let me tell you, it takes a village to raise a child.” She was spared my wonderful life gyaan by my doctor being freed up and our appointment having materialised.

But here’s the thing: I remember as a child how many strange people would correct me, or tell me off if I did something that was not acceptable (sometimes, only to them). Some of them were justified, some weren’t. But it taught me how to navigate the world, what was acceptable in public and what was private. The world has a way of correcting all the bad behaviours that your family indulges. The world also has a way of testing your confidence, and your ability to stand up to it. For all the embarrassment I felt when I was corrected, the resentment I felt towards adults, it made me sensitive to how I could behave in this world without overstepping my freedom, and intruding on someone else’s.

Today, though, there’s such a huge indifference to any other kid but the one you have birthed. When other children misbehave around our own, we prefer taking our child away from the scene of crime rather than correct the misbehaving child’s behaviour. When I say misbehaviour, that’s exactly what I mean. Not your personal preference. For example, I don’t like to be in the proximity of someone who chews loudly but that’s not something I’ll impose on children that are not my own. I also do not like a child who spits on other kids. This I will correct, tell off, reprimand. Whatever it takes to correct the child because it’s unhygienic and affects other kids. And I won’t back down from a confrontation from the parent either. Honestly, I am not here to be liked or win a popularity contest. And if an adult can’t tell that it’s not a personal attack, then I’d rather not be liked by that adult.

And this is the crux of the problem: this inability to confront other adults about issues without thinking it’s some personal attack on generations of the family tree. This desire to be liked on the surface: this is keeping us from building a society that cares for our children, and not stops and just being nice to them. What will it take for you to care for children that are not your own, so that these kids grow up believing they’re cared for not just by their families but an entire “village”, so that they feel secure when the step out into the world?

Anyhow, this last week, we had some stories that I thought you all should absolutely read. A story close to my heart is one a guest blogger wrote on the bright side of being a single parent (It really isn’t all stress, you know!). Things that only a C-sec mum could tell you, things that really needed telling. And finally, an opinion piece I wrote earlier last week about something that makes me mad: parents discussing religion and their bigotry in front of or with their children.

Sandhya

Feature Image Source: Goodnet.org

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