How parenting has evolved: Every parent is unique, just like every child

Parenting is not merely a biological connection and definitely not just an act of bringing up a child. It is an unseen bond and an unsaid promise to be there regardless. Anyone can be a parent; a father figure or a godmother, one could even be parenting a friend.

By Priyanka Jaitly Judge

“You’ll love your children far more than you ever loved your parents, and–in the recognition that your own children cannot fathom the depth of your love–you come to understand the tragic, unrequited love of your own parents.”

– Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River

The emotion called parenting

When you think of your parents you remember them as a set of feelings. An example would be social media posts on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day where you read about sacrifice, unconditional love, support, hurt, resentment, anger and the list go on.

Parenting is not merely a biological connection and definitely not just an act of bringing up a child. It is an unseen bond and an unsaid promise to be there regardless. Anyone can be a parent; a father figure or a godmother, one could even be parenting a friend. Parenting is an emotion and hence a parent resides forever in their child as a feeling.

The parenting landscapes across different eras have been labelled differently and often analysed from behavioural perspectives and styles such as Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive and Neglectful. The one thing that has been a constant is the emotions that drive these styles and the criticism every single parent receives. Despite being the most evolved emotion of the rational human there is a lot of negative judgement around.

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Walking along the parenting path

No one is every ready to parent. A parent is an emotional anchor in a constant state of flux, learning the ropes and growing up with loads of love, drama, fun and lots of fears along with the child.

A mother who has carried a baby in her womb for whole nine months knows nothing about what to do for the first few days, books are being written to help new moms find a connect with that lost thought and emotion. She cannot tell why the baby is crying and when the baby will sleep. The father who looks on is equally clueless and wants to desperately be part of this experience with the mother who at least gets to call the baby an extension of her body. So, there he tries to form his own ideas of what he thinks would best convey his love and intentions or inculcate the values that will hold their child in good stead. This could even include the distance or the restrain he exercises over his own emotions.

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If there are two parents, they often disagree on something as small as when to cuddle up with the baby and when to let them learn through the falls. If there is a single parent, they wish they had someone to disagree with, they take their decisions nonetheless. These decisions of being strict or indulgent are driven by love and fear. Love for all that you desire your child to have and fear of all that you think would leave your child wanting. These then manifest themselves into behaviours and routines and patterns.

Parenting has a shade of grey

There is some bit of inherent narcissism in parenting as all parents live by the fact that they want the best and know the best. That of course is not the case all the time. Parenting aspirations are often super imposed on their children leading to sadness and frustrations if the child deviates and happiness and borderline arrogance if children accept it as their own aspiration.

There is a sense of control that comes naturally in parenting and as children grow up these start getting substituted by a feeling of rejection of ideas and ways. Setting and blurring boundaries around these sentiments and so many other emotions is the fine art of parenting.

Parenting DNA over the years

Our parents didn’t have with their parents the kind of equation we have with them and we don’t have the same equation with our children. Back in the day there were far too many children and few options to choose from be it education or jobs. Conversations were not free flowing and thoughts were highly reserved. Most mothers were not working yet not helicoptering, there were no gadgets not even to get news on your loved ones wellbeing leave alone be glued to minutes of every friends’ existence. Children were put through tests at every stage and effort was made to prepare them for it, failure was a part of the system, schools were left to the teachers and rules were followed. Academics, morals and balance in life were talked about, value was sought in every transaction, every relationship.

Today there are more gadgets than people, one child or two, overwhelming research on child development, psychology and good parenting, an information overflow on what other parents are doing and present-day parents who have decided they will parent without their life and ambitions being tampered with. Trying to tune in to every emotion of your child and respond in a measured way, children are allowed to be more than just the sum of all that is desirable and there is effort by the indulgent parent of today in celebrating all that the child chooses to be. There is the effort, the guilt pangs, the nervousness and the fears are still right where they are in a parent’s DNA.

This parenting business has always been tricky and will remain so. It will remain a combination of a deep sigh of contentment and the hyper activity of restlessness mixed with every good intention ever. But at the end of the day it is an emotion felt differently by each parent, unique just like every child.

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