On one of the Television shows on the lives of celebrities, Cricketer Yuvraj Singh was the guest. Initially I got the impression that here was another rich spoilt kid who had it all tailor made for him until I heard him say that as a child he wanted to be a skater and he even won the National championship. But when he took the medal to his father he threw it out of the window and said he wanted to see his son play cricket and not a girl's game and for good measure he also threated Yuvraj that he would break his leg if he played any sport other than cricket.
And then they played a recorded footage where the father (Punjabi actor and former cricketer Yograj Singh) told his son that he had to play cricket and be the best for no reason except for the sake of his father. Apparently he was pained when his son played other sports without any special interest in Cricket and so one day he told him:
"Son, how do you want me to live in this world with the same face if you don't complete my dream? I want you to play cricket for the country and complete my unfulfilled dream."

And then followed years of rigorous training - six hours on the ground and four hours at home in the nights - and the rest as they say is history.

For those of you who do not know the saga of Yograj Singh, here it is in his words:
Years ago somebody snatched my right to play for the country. I lived this game all my life and then someone who was afraid that I would take his place in the team snatched it from me. These so-called living legends took the life out of my soul. the hurt they have caused will go with me to my grave.

If you are interested, you can read the rest of his words in this interview here where he says he breathes through his son. In fact you can read any interview with Yograj Singh. This is all he says over and over again.

I do not understand this whole business of sons fulfilling fathers' dreams - what about the son's own dreams? Why the hell is he made to live his father's life by proxy? And what kind of a father uses his child to have his revenge on people who were unfair to him? Of course our mythology has examples of this - for example Drupad who observed severe penance to please the Gods so as to have a son who would kill Drona and a daughter who would marry Arjuna through whom Drona caused his disgrace. That is all their purpose in life was to be - tools to help their father avenge the shame he suffered.

In the case of Yuvraj it all ended happily but what if he did not possess the talent or perseverance required? Imagine putting a child through this kind of torture if all he wanted was to skate or to play tennis. It seems like a classic case of child abuse to me. I know a boy who took to drugs in college to escape his sense of failure at not being able to live up to parental expectations - a very bright boy, only he did not enjoy doing what his parents wanted him to pursue. Left to himself, he might have been successful following his own passion.

Speaking of child abuse, I think the same of parents who put the child through similar torture in academics. For every Yuvraj tortured into cricket there are a thousand boys who are kept forcibly away from taking sport as a career. The arguments are too familiar to repeat.

I know some parents who start their day by taking the child to some tuition or other and then feed them breakfast and drop them in the school. In the evening they are waiting outside the school with snacks and a change of clothing after which the child is taken to some coaching class or other. They feel proud of their superior parenting skills. I say "Please let the child be." It is one thing to be supportive and encouraging. This is pushing, stifling, suffocating, imposing parental ego on the child killing his desires and passions. But they tell me that the child will thank them for all this when he gets into IIT or REC or one of the top engineering colleges. The child does not even know what he wants to do with his life. He is not allowed to think - the parents have already done it all for him. And I have heard many parents say that they wanted to be something but could not so they hope that their child would do it and "fulfill their dream."

Time we realised that we have the right to dream only for ourselves . Let the children have their own dreams. Too bad if we did not achieve ours in our lifetime - we have no business to dump it on someone else, even if we gave birth to that someone. Whatever else we can give them is of no use, if we snatch their dreams away from them.
17 Responses
  1. Altoid Says:

    Very nicely put Usha. But if children fulfilling parents' dream is one kind of pressure, another is that of parents feeling guilty about their children not being competitively ahead of the peers and hence feel it to be some kind of mandatory duty to push and compel the kids to be over-achievers. Either way, while on one hand- being assertive/ambitious is a good trait to have, sometimes it brings on its own kind of baggage.

    Its nice to have people(parents) like you bring forth such valid points.


  2. Hip Grandma Says:

    agree with you hundred percent.we start deciding for children before they are born and expect them to be grateful all their lives.but the present bunch seem to have it better than their senior generation.

  3. rajk Says:

    Very True...Many times I find myself dreaming about what my child will grow up to be...and them I have to remind myself that my dreams may not be I just have to be supportive in whatever they may be...Good luck to all us parents...

  4. noon Says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. noon Says:

    Hi Usha
    It's not an easy thing for parents either. At least some of us who are conscious of this and don't want to push our children the wrong way. What does Yuvraj think of his success now? Does he regret it? Parents have to constantly keep making changes as they go along - go with the flow. A child does not know what he/she wants - so you guide the child. But you have to also listen to the child as he/she grows up - if the child/teen seems unhappy - of course you have to go with the flow and change direction accordingly. I think a lot of parents (this is a different case) genuinely try to put the interests of their child first...the thing is though I hardly come across successful individuals who have blamed their parents for getting them there. It is only if things go wrong that the parents get blamed. Of course there are extreme cases...but a middle ground is not bad to take I think. Parents don't want their children to get into sports in India for good reason - there is way too much competition, too much politics even if you are good at it - it is natural for a parent to want a good life for the child - so if you are a middle class (not the rich middle class like now but average person I am talking about) person who neither has money nor influence - you have to think twice even if your child has talent for some sport. Even the govt doesn't support sports people as much. Unless it is cricket and even then only if you have abundant talent. (btw I posted recently about "helicopter parenting" (give your child roots and wings post) - it happens all over the world...over involved parents...

  6. Anil P Says:

    If I recollect correctly Yograj Singh was reported to be sought in a murder case quite sometime back, and folks said that it was the case that put a spanner in his career.

    This needs to be checked for accuracy, but it seems so. He was reported to be arrested and released on bail for harbouring the main accused, Manu Sharma, in the Jessica Lal murder case.

  7. Preethi Says:

    A very profound post as always... aad I agree I wanted to be in mass communications but my parents thought engg best suited me.. and it did I was good at computers.. and maybe it was my true calling... who knows...
    But so many parents are guilty of this.. albeit unintentionally. My husband and I have taken a concious decision.. we will open all options out for my son at an early age and educate him about teh options he has.. but his decision will be his alone.
    If we can give our kids the strength and maturity to make the right decision at such an early age (a life decision at 16 is early) we have succeeded!! Wont you say?

  8. B o o Says:

    I loved dancing when I was little. (I still do.) When I was around 7, my mom put me in a Bharathanatyam class. I was so shy that I started crying and refused to enter the class. Tried again when I was 12, but had to change schools and it did nt work out. Now I blame my mom for not trying harder and giving up on me so easily. What Yuvrajs father did was atrocious. No denying that. But some indecisive kids like me need a little push and the parents have to take the call. Its as tough for parents as its for kids these days. Damned if you pushed, damned if you did nt! Sigh!

  9. Usha Says:

    Altoid:There seems to be a kind of vicious circle in operation here. I know most parents push their kids because they feel that they want to have the child to have the best.

    Hipgran:How do you say that the present bunch seems to have it better? I see the pressure has now begun from the hunt for the "right" play school - at the age of 2. parents are only partly to blame - it is the "system" (hm..wonder who is the "system")

    rajk:Yes it is tough and we need to hold back every now and then consciously.But many dont even want to stop and think if it is ok to put their children through this - they want to flow with the tide - so that success is guaranteed. if the child is happy too, it is a win win if not , at least (s)he is successful!

    Noon: It is a very tough decision not to push the child and let him/her bloom naturally. it is tough to take the first steps against the flow.It is tough to listen to the child's heart when it is a risky choice and not a popular one.
    As for career choices , sports is an extreme example. But how many parents are happy with their child taking B.Sc or B.A.or career options other than the top 4?
    How many are willing to let the child have a break from studies to explore what he wants to do. What is the hurry for a child to finish his degree by the time he/she is 22? I know parents who tamper with date of birth to make the child go to school a year early. in bangalore a child should have completed 15 years and 10 months to take the 10 std exam So working backward the child has to have completed 5 years and 10 months to be in the 1st standard. many parents think that their child is losing one year because of the system. Losing what? So what if Chennai children finish school by the age of 15?
    let them enjoy their childhood a year more..
    I know most parents dont "intend" to harm their child. It is just that they themselves are messed up.
    have you read "this be the verse" by Philip larkin?

    Anil: yes he was. Not in the Jessica lal case but in that Tandoor murder.
    But he is a great cricketer no doubt.

    Preethi:Yes it would be nice if parents play the role of facilitators rather than the decision makers on behalf of the child.You can discuss, argue, brainstorm but using authority, emotional blackmail and force - hm, I find it hard to accept.

    b o o: let us say you started crying when you went to school would you have been let off so easily? It was "only" dance and anyway it wasn't going to be your career ( in their opinion)
    And I guess if you were to be a Hema Malini , you would never have been so resistant to entering the class.
    I don't believe they are damned if they don't push if they have been good facilitators and information providers. At 13 or 14, a child is quite capable of knowing what interests him/ her, what she detests and what her strengths and weaknesses are. And if the parent is in touch with the child, he/ she can figure it out too.
    Many parents like to take the easy way out. cant go wrong with IIT/MBA or Engg/ U.S masters can you? Even if the child turns around and says that he/ she wasn't happy you can throw back the number on their paycheck and ask them what they are unhappy about. right?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I agree to all you say, but I feel that if the child has a potential, then why not give it the right direction? These days as it is the children have too much of distraction...
    All things said and done, do you think we would have even discussed Yuvraj, had he been a skates champion?
    I feel that sometimes parents need to dream for kids... maybe I am wrong!

  11. B o o Says:

    Usha - Thats the thing. My parents were nt pushers even when it came to studies! I dropped out from tutions, I bunked college, almost discontinued my studies and they were ok with everything as long as I was happy. Their non pushing helped my sis who has been taking life decisions very early on. but no so in my case because I wanted my parents to tell me what to do. I would nt have done my masters at all if my sister had nt pushed me. (Again my parents did nt.) And Im happy that she did. The same way, I would have been happier if my mom had pushed me in to a dance class. All Im saying from personal experience is, it depends on the child. Also if you push, the so called world is going to blame you. But you did nt, your child might blame you. What would you choose? All said and done, Im a non pushing mom myself having inherited it from my mom I guess. I might have to change depending on what sort of Child my daughter is.

  12. Usha Says:

    WIN: Giving the right direction is necessary - it isn't the same as pushing the child in the direction you want.
    Yes only we would have discussed as a person who followed his heart to success like Sachin or Dhoni.
    You can dream for them but it isn't fair to impose them on them.

    B o O: Really? and you Wanted to be pushed? or was it facilitation, a little more encouragement that you needed. I am not against parents taking an active interest in their children's progress, interests and offering suggestions and advice on improvement. My whole grouse is against them imposing their desires, dreams on the child without consideration to the child's own interests.
    You are right, children who have a similar attitude as yours probably need a gentle push - again "gentle" is the operative word. :)

  13. Hip Grandma Says:

    i did not mean toddlers and two year olds.I know quite a few students in plus two and school finals who refuse to toe their parent's line and for a change parents seem to understand that it is the child's preference that matters in the long run however disappointing it may be for them.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I'm happy to say that my parents let me decide- everything. When adter XII 95% of my batch enrolled in engg colleges, they were happy to support my decision to do a BSc. They also stood by my "love marriage" (!).
    In my case it boiled down to trust-my parents trusted my decision making and I have enormous respect & trust for them as a result of them not being pushy.
    I kinda feel Yuvaraj must have a teeny bit of disappointment deep down somewhere, however successful he currently is, right? I agree with you, I think it's preposterous for parents to have kids live their lives for them.

  15. Raj Says:

    Should I quote Kahlil Gibran again?

    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 our 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.

  16. Usha Says:

    Hipgran: Yes, I agree.

    CW:I am happy for you. Yuvaraj may not have regrets because he is a phenomenal success now but if he wasn't he might have, I am sure.

    Raj: Yes, you can never quote that enough. We parents have to memorise it and keep reminding us every time we make a decision for our children.

  17. Mahadevan Says:

    I think we, parents, are mere facilitators. Our duty is to allow the bud to blossom and remove the weeds wherever necessary. Perhaps, Thiruvalluvar had this facilitating role in his mind, when he said "Thanthai Mahanukku Attrum Udavi Avayatthu Mundiyiruppacheyal".

    About the Yograj Story, the player he referred to was Kapil Dev. Yograj frittered away his chances. Kapil Dev grabbed his opportunity and proved to the world that he was the Cricketer of the Century( Sir Vivian Richards rated him that way). Having failed, he tried to play his son as his proxy. Because his son is successful, Yograj may feel that his stand has been vindicated.