In this series ‘Myths & Matters’ I have been sharing few insights for parents and their grown up children to enhance their relationship there by improve peace of mind. As we progress in the so-called civilization, there are newer issues introduced and one such is the conflict with the grown up children. I am of the view that most of these issues are due to our wrong paradigms and expectations which prevents us from improving our ability to ‘Adjust’ with the our loved ones. In this episode let us evaluate few new paradigms that bring peace in our family. We invariably suffer due to our behaviour, which is the result of our belief. If we need to alter the outcome we need to alter its root cause, which is the intrinsic belief, which resides deep into our being. The only way we can change our actions is by changing our beliefs over a period of time by reeducating our mind. The other name for our belief is ‘superstition’ which needs to be understood before we even attempt to alter our paradigms.
Beware of Superstition:
I was trying to understand the true meaning of the word ‘superstition’ and found few synonyms as ‘Fallacy’, ‘Delusion’, ‘misconception’, ‘myth’ and the like which means they are not facts but misleading information’s passed on by our predecessors. One such superstition I dealt in previous episodes is “cat crossing is a bad omen”. India is one of the few countries with certain unique values and culture many of them should be nurtured but few of them are no longer valid due to the changes over time. The older the civilization the greater is the ‘Superstition’, which is evident from India & China, which are the oldest civilization known so far. Our life runs mostly on superstition than facts. For some unknown reasons as we travel from the West towards East, slowly the logic is replaced by ‘superstition’; the science is replaced by ‘beliefs’. Education is supposed alleviate ignorance replacing superstition with scientific facts; but it provides unwanted information and ensures the ignorance is retained. I would say, “All learned people are not educated and educated people are not learned”- for example, Sri. Ramakrishna Paramahansa is not educated but learned.
Galileo eyes were poked as he proclaimed that the earth is a globe and sun is at the center of our solar systems. This challenged the ‘superstition’ that time ‘the earth flat and at the center of the solar system. If you are ahead of time and challenge a superstition, you will be crucified or your eyes will be poked! I am going to take the risk of challenging some of these superstitions in this series.
One of the major disappointments for modern parents is their children are not choosing to live with them during their old age or soon after they get married. Even when they are not lamenting about it openly, they sob internally and share it with few of their close associates. I wish to deal with this myth, which robs the happiness of many senior citizens these days particularly when all younger ones has a dream to disappear to US after all their job is done in India. It is one of the social issues that are haunting the modern nuclear families. Unlike the older generations like me born in a family of 14 children, the modern parents have either one or two children and if they also leave them for ever, it hurts them particularly when they need them the most.
One of the superstitions passed on by our previous generations is “Joint Family” – all brother & sister’s families should live together with their parents. This must have had many advantages in economy during the time people mostly lived in villages sharing certain common resources. Some times the family size reaches more than 20 people sharing the same resources leading to lots of inconveniences and compromises. These conservative believes die-hard over time. One of these superstitions led to the modern nuclear family parents to keep their children in tact with them after their marriage although sometimes live in one-room kitchen apartments. One of the mother-in-law’s concerns after their son gets married is the ‘Advice from their daughter-in-law to live separately’. She suspects that her daughter-in-law will hijack her son. The same mother wants her daughter to escape from the nagging of her mother-in-law. The law that is applicable for her daughter is no longer valid for her daughter-in-law as she is somebody else’s daughter you know?
All the happiness of the family disappears the moment a new human being is introduced into the family. It is like the human bodies immune system attacking the foreign particles or parasites entering the body. Is there a solution for this? Definitely I believe so; the only way is re-educating the mind and shifting to new paradigms. The moment the attitude changes, the whole World starts appearing differently. Please read further. Let me caution you that what follows is not an advice to parents only but also for the grown up children as well.
Suggested Paradigms for Parents:
Paradigm-1: Closeness does not mean ‘Physical closeness’
Recently one of our business partners came from Nigeria and stayed in India for a week. While in an informal chat I asked him what is the difference he found between Nigeria and India. He spontaneously said “The closeness in the family and overwhelming hospitality”. As he rightly pointed out, the issue is the “closeness”. Those who have witnessed the “Super singer” program in Vijay TV where the parents sit at the edge of their seats while their grown up children are competing in the singing competition. When their child is eliminated from the rounds they cry profusely like a child. This proves the old adage “Children never grow old in the eyes of their parents”.
Closeness is a mental process and not physical – living physically together does not guarantee mental closeness. Many husband and wife live together for ages without any sense of love! If the parents truly love their children it is unimportant where their offsprings are living. Let your children live anywhere they want and bless them to explore. In the space age distance does not matter at all as we are electronically connected through Skype and many other media. Talking to them once in a way is better than living in the same house and not talking to each other for months.
Paradigm-2: ‘Nest Leaving’ is a natural process
I was surprised when I saw the birds pushing their little ones out of their nest prompting them to leave. The 5 sensed animals know what is right to their little ones. One popular argument parents put across to me saying, “We are not animals”. There is so much to learn from animals if we are open. The love of the bird is so evident when it keeps itself hungry and feed it’s loved ones throughout the day. The mother bird knows when to stop feeding and drive the little one to find its own food. If it does not do that at the appropriate time, the offsprings would become so dependent on their mother and die after it disappears from this planet one day. Don’t suffocate your children with your love and prevent them from exploring the sky, for which they have born to.
Paradigm-3: Provide a psychological space to children
One of the greatest poet and prophets Khalil Kibran said, “In any building the columns should be sufficiently spaced to support the superstructure – If they are too close there will not any space to move around or alternatively if they are too far away the building will collapse – similarly for any relationship to prosper, each person should leave sufficient psychological space to other. If suffocation happens the relationship will not last”.
Paradigm-4: Don’t deprive freedom
When we were young we expected lots of freedom from our parents and we never liked when they imposed their choice of dress and the food what they felt we should eat and so on. We pretended that we drank the full glass of milk and poured it in the gutter when they went inside the kitchen! But when we have grown up children we forget that they will have the same expectations we had as a child. I am not saying like US we have to alienate ourselves in the name of ‘Freedom” but we have to respect the privacy and expectations of each human beings particularly the children – after all we live for their happiness. Every human being has come to this planet for a purpose – A Jesus for redeeming the mankind, Einstein to show the path for modern nuclear science and so on. Similarly we don’t know for what purpose our children have born.
The parents see their grown up children as the toddler they were feeding. When the child gets up and walking the parents have to leave their grip believing that the child will learn to walk; if they would have held its hand to prevent it from falling down the child would not have developed any confidence. Freedom instills responsibility.
Paradigm-5: Avoid dependency
The rationale with which many parents argue saying ‘We sacrificed everything for our children and they are supposed to return when we are old’; there is logic in this argument but when we look after some one and expect return then it becomes ‘Business’. One cannot lower the ‘un-conditional love’ towards their child as business. In fact parent’s love towards their children is a one way traffic and expecting two way is unnatural or against the Dharma of children. Unfortunately when we are old we slowly become like a child again starting the physical, emotional & intellectual dependency all over again, which we had with our parents. In addition if we add economical dependency the things gets worse. If we have to remain sane during our old age we have to take care of our own economical, physical, emotional dependency and transmit love towards our children watching them like a rose flower blossoming. In developed countries the parents have no need of any support from their children and hence freedom for both.
Paradigm-6: No one needed around when we die
One of the strong expectations of parents is expecting their children at their bedside when they die. Take a moment to look at the fact - when we die we will not know that our soul is leaving this planet and if so how does it matters who is around? One cannot escape from death, which is the only thing we were certain about our future when we have born. If we stop denying this universal truth and accept it then no worry. We did not come to this planet on our will? In the same way someone who took that decision will take us wherever He wants! Then why worry about death? Please remember if you can overcome the fear of death, life will suddenly become very enjoyable. In other words “We need to learn the art of dying before learning the art of living” – the fact is if we learn to die we have already learned to live!
Paradigm-7: Expectation robs peace and joy
Finally a bit of philosophy, which teaches us “How to love & live life”.
One of the expectations that robs our peace of mind and joy is our ‘attachment and expectations’ from our children as they grow. I heard Sri. Sri. Ravishankar once saying, ‘Expectations reduces the joy of life’, if we don’t guard ourselves from this ‘monster’ we end up in misery. I am hearing you whispering ‘what else life is all about?’ Please don’t read me wrong ignoring that I am philosophical. I will cover this concept of ‘Attachment’ in greater details on the topic of Pragmatic Spirituality later. For now let me tell you one simple recipe for peace in life as we grow – Learn to live with ‘detached attachment’ on anything. The moment we tend to ‘possess’ anything the problem starts – this includes our children as well. Remind yourself one day we will have to leave everything and go from here if so what does possession really means. When the mind recognizes this fact we have already learned to let go off everything including our children. They have born through us but “They don’t belong to us”. Remember – you can use what you possess but you cannot take it away when you leave for heavenly abode. What you cannot possess does not belong to you!
Recommendations for the grown up children:
Vedanta as well as psychology proclaims that children who have un-cleared relationship with their parents will never have a peaceful life. Un-cleared here means ‘One has a strained relationship’ with their parents. I come across lots of modern middle-aged people these days who are not in talking terms with their parents since they carry many grudges against them. Let us look at the following rationale:
1. Parent’s love towards their child is the only pure love next to divine love towards living beings. All else are ‘selfish’ as Swami Vivekananda says. The mother’s love towards their child ever since the embryo nucleates from the sperm is so genuine she cannot think of anything else than her baby. We would have died prematurely if our parents have not looked after us as infant.
2. When we have animosity with our parents for any reasons we cannot create a future for ourselves as we got stuck in our past. Those who have got stuck in the past have already lost their ability to create a future.
3. The curse of the parents to their child is the last possible among any relationships. These days many people dump their old parents in the old age home and earn their curse with great ease. This curse will ruin all their happiness in their life. In Kali Yuga the effect of karma has to be served in the same incarnation for short of time.
4. Your life itself is the alms given by your parents and your lack gratitude reflects your personality. If you can ditch your parents you will ditch anyone – it is the reflection of your character.
5. Ask your wife whether she is willing to ditch her parents – she will never say yes. If so why your parents are the causality?
Wherever you live, take care of your parents – you need their blessings.