Last month when I spoke to her parents, we spoke of her as the "little one".
-"How's the little one?" I asked
-"oh as playful as ever. We still do not know when she will get serious about her studies or anything" replied her mother.
- "It is alright" I said indulgently, for this is a child I had known from birth and loved like my own. I said, "let her take her time to grow up. There is always the time to take life seriously."
And you can imagine the scene among her family and friends when the "child" decided to get married at 19 to someone who seemed to be entirely different from everything her family believed in.
Her parents cannot figure out where they went "wrong". From their birth the children have been handled as projects and every detail worked out meticulously, the best environment provided in every way and nurtured with sensitivity and care. The parents practised every value they wanted imparted to the kids. Nothing was wanting, in love or materially. And yet, the child-woman chose to do something like this.They cannot explain it. they do not know how to set the wrong right because they do not know what went wrong from their side. Enquiries revealed that there was nothing striking or spectacular about the boy - he is just an "ordinary, mediocre 28 year old from an ordinary, mediocre family". And yet he could motivate her to severe ties with everything and everyone she had known and loved in these past 19 years? Or was the ordinariness itself the motivation - having felt suffocated among "super-achievers" that was the norm in the parental house?
The parents simply cannot stop looking for the "why" of it and feeling somehow that they have failed.
I feel it is time the parents stopped trying to find the possible causes for her behaviour and blaming themselves. Every child is an individual and not just a product of upbringing. Give them love and a good environment to grow in - beyond that what they make of their life is their own choice. There is no point trying to control it nor seing their life as extension of your own.Every parent knows how tough it is to develop such a detachment towards their child particularly when they go through pain. But I guess life is something each one has to live on their own and learn and cannot be done through a manual of instructions developed by someone else!
18 Responses
  1. Mahadevan Says:

    Your last paragraph gives the right answer. Every child is an individual and just not a product of his/her upbringing.

    Alique Padamsey, the celebrated Dramatist from Mumbai, once made an interesting observation. " Perception is reality and not reality itself". To the parents, and reality itself may be that the boy and his family are mediocre. But the girl whom you described as 'the little one' perceived something different and decided to get married to the boy.

    Don't you feel the word 'mediocre' has a stigma attached and a less hurting words like 'lower middle class' or 'ordinary' would have done better?. Am I trying to improve upon a Tendulkar stroke?

  2. Usha Says:

    mahadevan, The perception of the family being "ordinary" and "mediocre" is of the parents - not mine. I am not judgemental about it at all, although I was shocked that someoen i had benn thinking of as a child was actually old enough to take a very important decision and the has the law on her side. I was blind!

  3. hari Says:

    Well said Usha. Nothing more to comment. That is why love is called blind.

  4. Preethi Says:

    Well, I see parents reacting really wildly in situations like this, but as you said, parents have to understand that the child has its own life and is fit to make decisions for herself... But then as said by Hari, love is blind.. both parents\' love and the childs\' love. Parents cant handle the thought that their child has grown up so much that she can take decisions on such serious matters all by herself. Child doesnt regard parents love before making such decisions....

    My stand on the whole issue is - Fall in love, but never be ready to severe ties with the rest of the family for that person\'s sake.. everything is important in this life..


  5. Anonymous Says:

    I think that the age of the person in question is important too. I'm not sure if 19 is the kind of age when people are making "educated transactional" choices, in general, though I also feel that people are probably maturing faster these days.

    Also, the sum total of external influences, outside of the household, is becoming more & more significant as the world becomes more connected.

    Perhaps on a slightly more cynical note, this is not the first time I hear a story of a late-teen woman falling for a much older man. I think there is some psychological factor behind it.

    I think letting children having the freedom to choose has to be a guarded, gradual process & parents have to prepare themselves & their kids by letting them make decisions from an early enough age so that they'll get hands-on life skills & can plot a more direct relationship between their emotional & transactional sides.


  6. Anonymous Says:

    There is one old quote of Osho that I vaguely remember...

    "Remove the weeds on your child's path, but dont hold ur hand" .. or something like that. I guess the message comes out...

    Its very hard to develop that "detachment" because many parents have that atttitude of seeing in their child what they missed out in their younger life, rather than realizing the child has its "own" thoughts and attitudes.

  7. A soulful Beatles song that fits the moment is "She's Leaving Home". The lyrics can be found here. Although the song is just creative writing, I believe that it reflects reality. Your friends may find some solace in the fact that they're not alone in this.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I recently was shocked too as u in your case when I heard that two of my classmates are gonna get married and we, in our batch had no clues of the silent love between that guy and gal.

    It happens...
    First time here to ur blog...

    good post. Good place to drop by. Kepp goin

  9. Paavai Says:

    Wish them well and as parents be available with a security blanket if something goes wrong (hope nothing goes wrong).

    This is something a friend told me when she was talking about her growing son - 17.

    Being available at all times for a kid is more important than making decisions for them.

    Fortunately/unfortunately in today's world relationships have become transient in nature that helps boys and girls move on with life.

  10. Wild Reeds Says:

    Beautiful post. You have such an amazing way with words! Many parents whos children come out to them as non-hteterosexual or transgender have the same "Where did I go wrong" feeling. But you are right, children are like birds who should be allowed to find their own skies. Upbringing, or "sanskaar", can build the aeroplane and take it as far as the runway. Then it has to fly on it's own, na?

  11. Visithra Says:

    at 19 i would have said the same thing that im gonna say now - coz i did say that then

    19 is too young to be saddled to someone in matrimony - somehow i think it has to do with learning how to make the right decision

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Dont you think you (and her parents) are being too judgemental?

    Married at 19 to someone the parents dont approve of is not end of story, its just the begining of one.

    I personally feel 19 is too young an age to make a decision that big.

    Parents, if they were more understanding, could've bought more time with their "little one". May be, I dont know.

    Irrational oppositions draw angry, abrubt, incorrect decisions from immature minds.


  13. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Usha,

    Although I agree that there is no satisfactory answer to the question 'why?', I think part of the answer lies in the fact that the 19-yr old is still considered a 'child'. Maybe she just wanted to make her own decision for once. I've seen this happen to a 'child' in my own family. It was tough to take at first, but looking back we realized we should have taken her seriously as her own person a lot earlier.


    p.s.: Have been a visitor here several times thru Vaish's blog. You have a wonderful way with words.

  14. Aqua Says:

    it's not the parents' fault. and they shoudl not blame themselves. Their daughter is probably feeling terrible at having let down her parents too. But there are certain choices that one must make in life, that is yours alone. And i'm sure the parents will come around..someday, they always do!

  15. Usha Says:

    Mahadevan: I agree that most of us confuse our perception of reality with reality itself. And as i said before, I am not being judgemental about the whole thing - that was the perception of the family. Of course as you might appreciate, parents usually think that no boy is ever good enough for their dear daughter but in this case, what they mean is the educational qualification and status and other accomplishments.

    Hari:That is exactly what I am worried about. Blind love can be a very expensive mistake. Marriage is not a decison that can be based on the kind of love a 19 year old is capable of feeling.

    Lovelysmiles:Yes, I also believe that the girl should have had enough faith in her choice to wait and convince her parents. It would have been worth the wait if it was worth having.

    Souvik: I agree. In fact they are that kind of parents - not ones to force anything down their throat but discuss and make them see sense. But I think in today's context of the priorities of youngsters, marriage was not something they even discussed as they probably felt that it was premature considering the girl had just entered college, had yet no clear idea of her career and had a older sister etc...

    Kishore: I guess it is a mistake that parents make in wanting to see their ambitions fulfilled through their children. And it is possible to develop a certain degree of detachment once they are settled. But it is tough to do it when you just have to stand by and watch them suffer.

    Rational fool: That is a beautiful song. but I do not think I have the strength to face the pain in the eyes of those parents and say anything to make them feel better. It is just too painful to watch.

    mahen: that is interesting. Obviously alot of this must be happening among youngsters. you see it all the time in films.

    Paavai; yes, that is all they can do.And hope there won't be any trouble and it might actually be the right choice.

    Wild reeds: This was exactly the scenario I was thinking when i was initially reeling under the shock. But I guess there is a slight difference here because she may not have the maturity to choose the right person. And in any case, you cant live your life by proxy. Sooner or later you have to learn to fly!

    Visithra: Exactly what I hear from 80% of youngsters and that is precisely why marriage was not even on the minds of the parents as she was just 19.

    Neel: Yes, it should have been discussed and sorted out. We still do not know why the girl didnt feel comfortable enough to discuss it with them before takinga huge decision whose consequece is completely going to alteer her life.

    Vivin: thanks. Vaish did pass on your nice comments. yes i think it is very young considering her level of emotional maturity. I was betrothed when I was 20 but that as a different age and time. By that time I was equipped for running a house and adjustment to a completely alien lifestyle and the parents had ensured compatibility on most grounds. And on top of it if anything would have gone wrong, there was a support system to fall back on. This girl has burnt all her boats.

    Aqua: The issue is not who made the choice but whether she had the maturity to make the choice.
    Yes , I hope it all turns out ok for her sake and for the sake of her family!

  16. passerby55 Says:

    Hi Usha,

    I reached here through 'WIld Reeds' Blog roll..I thank him for helping me know a wonderful blogwriter and a person who has aged...BUT AGED PRODUCTIVELY...i admire that quality in you.

    "Give them u r love...not your thoughts"... Usha, do we as parents want to inculcate wrong thoughts in them?...

    Yes, they are individuals but should not total freedom be given when they can take the responsibility for their every action and their needs.

    At the age of nineteen if she can take her responsibilities its fine, but if it is otherwise,and if she is not able to handle it, not to feel her pain would be difficult for me then.

    As a parent we can respect their individuality and love them for thier thoughts, but total freedom i think should be given when they have a key to their needs and know responsibilities as independent individuals.

    With warm regards

  17. Sphinx Says:

    Parents try to protect their kids from the bad things in life and often end up over-protecting. Also, when the kid does not do what they want to, they say, where did we go wrong. Let the children be. They are human beings in their own right and by making them do what we think is right is denying that fact...

  18. Usha Says:

    passerby: thanks for those kind words. I hope you will keep returning.
    As for right time for freedom to be "given" to children, I suppose that is where we parents go wrong. When Law says they are ready to take an informed decision on all matters by the time they are 18, I suppose parents have to just hope that their children are capable of assuming the responsibility or train them to make informed decsions by the time they are 18.
    The line "Give them your love, not your thoughts" is borrowed from Khalil Gibran's prophet. Those are his words to parents vis a vis their children.
    he says:
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

    Sphinx: Parents do it most of the time to protect their children from hurt and not out of their ego. There is nothing more painful for parents than to see their children suffer and that is why theuy try to protect them from possible hurts.But yes, I see what you mean.