I was reading this article which talks about an essay by acclaimed Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie titled: “Dear Ijeawele, or a femininst manifesto in fifteen suggestions,” where she elaborated on how to raise a feminist daughter. Truly inspiring. Reading that, I couldn't help relate her to my own mother, and the way she has raised me. One thing which I feel Chimamanda missed though, is that you can never truly raise a confident child alone, the father equally plays his part in it. Also, the same could be extended to men as well, as to how you can raise a son who if not feministic, is at least morally sane, which is way beyond expectations for a lot of men these days.
Feminism is by default a misunderstood word. It has been misused countless amount of times, so much so that it is often confused to be the same as Feminazism. The two have completely different meanings though. A feminist is someone (man or woman) who believes that men and women are equal, whereas a feminazi hates the men race and strives to generate inequality between the two genders, putting women above men everywhere. A feminist is a sane person who views the world objectively, whereas a feminazi is the female version of a male chauvinist. Completely different terms. Have your child be a feminist, not a feminazi, or a chauvinist.
So reading this article put me in a deep school of thought. It was like my entire childhood flashed before my eyes and I suddenly appreciated the way my parents raised me. Gave me an entirely new perspective towards myself altogether, and also gave me a lot of answers about why I was always a tad bit different from my girlfriends. At the end of my epiphany, I had my own list of 'how to raise a sane child' which I am going to compile here. Not that I am sane myself, a lot of things about me are literally batshit crazy, but at least I have my morals right, and I am thankful to mom dad for it.
Smiti's guide to raising the socially comfortable child:
1) Men and Women are NOT equal, but there is no right or wrong answer here.
Something I know and accept since childhood. The two genders are CREATED differently. Biologically, that is to say. Men by default have stronger bodies, and women by default are a little fragile. Before the feminazis jump off the bat and start giving examples of fragile men or wrestler women, let me clarify: sample set matters. There is always a percentage of any generalized population going against the odds, which doesn't make it necessarily true for the entire janta. In return, women have more beautiful bodies, are prettier than men. (Feminazis will not jump here and give me examples of pretty men and ugly women, I'm sure). A woman's body is designed to be caring, child-bearing, albeit so much resistant to pain that it can push out a fully grown human from inside it. External strength vs internal strength I would say. The moment you respect that and accept it, you are not prejudiced about your appearance or your partner's. It is okay for the man to be the weightlifter and the woman to be the home-organizer. If a woman handles the servant/maid/dhobi/groceries and the man handles the plumber/driver/electrician/bills, that is okay too. Skillset wise, it is relative. Some women are better with artistic thinking and some men are better with logical problems. Sometimes its vice versa. At the end of it all, everyone has the same brain, we just use it differently, which is not even gender related.
2) Co-dependancy is good, but non-independence is bad.
There's a very thin line here. My mom used to say - you marry someone so that you can sleep peacefully at night. Because no matter how your day goes, you know that at the end of it, there is always someone you can count upon. That does not mean that your day will not pass without that person. I see women (and men) who are extremely clingy and dependent on their partners, who cannot carry on with their day without them. I've seen people destroy their careers, their ambitions over love, or what they think is love. It's not just wrong, its downright pathetic. By the time people realize what they have done for their partner, its too late and then they blame the partner over it, although the mistake was theirs to start with. It's amazing to relate your identity with a partner, but make your partner your strength, not your weakness. My parents taught me that, and I will be forever grateful to them.
3) Your problems are mostly yours, so deal with it.
This is something I used to follow since I was a child. Not sure how my parents imbibed this in me, but they somehow magically did. I would never go running home to my parents crying over any problem, I would always solve/settle it outside on my own. I was never a bully, but could never stand bullies. When I was very young and would go to my parents with an issue, they would always support me and offer their help. Initially I would take their help, but with time I just stopped asking for it. Simply knowing the fact that my parents would be there if I needed them would be enough for me to take over a person double my age or size and come out victorious. You always lose a battle in reality second, you lose it in your mind first. So always have your children know that you have their back, but let them handle their crap themselves first.
4) We're always there for you.
Continues the third point in a way. Haven't we heard enough stories of children committing suicides, getting into drugs, gangs, or simply just lying their way through everything, because they are scared of the fact that 'what will happen if mom-dad get to know'? Making a child believe that your parents are your confidantes is very very important, and that if all hell breaks loose, they can always count on you, rather than hide things from you. I was always the rebel child. There were rules in my house and I would occasionally break them, but I always knew, that no problem was so big that mom-dad would disown me. Just that incredible trust on the fact that I will always remain their daughter and have a house I can call home is what gives me immense strength on everything I do, even till this day.
5) Life decisions: If you can't do it right, don't do it.
Lot's of things here. Like marriage, for example. You think you are ready to marry, but are you ready to take both the good and bad aspects of it? Or you just think its going to be a happy ever after without knowing the consequences? You would love to have a life partner, but are you ready to love the family which comes with the partner? And the extended family? The sacrifices and compromises? And the customs, traditions, being the ideal bahu or jamai, taking family responsibilities, running expenses, managing a home along with work, dividing chores and completing them on time: are you ready for that? If yes, go ahead. If no, don't do it. And vice-versa, just because society says you're at a marriageable age doesn't mean you're ready. Same could be applied to career choices, having kids, relationships etc. My parents taught me that if you do something, be the best at it. This is the advice because of which I am happy in my marriage, because of which I treat relatives well, because of which I run a house and a freaking company together. My house groceries and meeting proposals all are on time. I knew what I was getting into and I knew that I was ready for it. No rash decisions.
6) Extra-curriculars would not have been invented if curriculars were everything.
I have a folder which has uncountable certificates. My husband has two. When I interview today and meet people into extras and those not into extras, I see the difference and feel the immediate bias I have towards candidates who are able to speak basic english or communicate with me without losing their mind. Academics aren't everything. Sure, in non-technical profiles personality is directly proportional to success, but even in the world of techies, fun people are appreciated more and climb the ladder faster than sad ones. Even a techie would need basic nerves to demo a product or collaborate with a client or cross-team for requirements or simply put his/her point forward in working together. Acads aren't the fun part, co-curriculars are. Encouraging a child to engage in non-studies helps in an overall personality development which might not seem relevant initially, but if your child has it, he/she will be thankful to you for inculcating that his/her whole life. Like I am to my parents for. They somehow pushed me to excel in both studies and outside, although that is a rare skill I might not be able to have my kids do. But I will always encourage extra curriculars since I have experienced the effects secondhand. The world is a big place, there is just so much to learn beyond what you are expected to know.
7) Teach your kids to be strong and confident.
That's pretty much it. If they are in trouble, make them understand why. If they are a subject of abuse, physical or mental, it is NOT their fault. They shouldn't back down on any sort of harassment done to them. Sure, we should teach our sons to behave (as a feminazi would say), but we should also teach our daughters to be fearless. Before every exam, my parents would applaud as to how calm I was. Even if I was squirming with fear within, every time they would applaud me on my strength, I would become stronger and the fear would disappear. 'I'm surprised that you're not scared' and 'I'm proud that you are so strong' are not the same statements and don't have the same impact. Word choice is important I guess. A lot of times children end up liking things because their parents say that they are good at it. Applauding your child at every tiny achievement will increase their confidence base. When I look back and remember the little things my parents showed so much pride on, I laugh over it. But I know that it is those little things which have cumulatively created a huge impact in my overall development as an adult.
With this, I end today's lecture (if you're still reading)! It's been a long time I've written something and since I had some time and will to write, I typed my thoughts down. And no, I'm neither having a kid nor do I plan to have one in the near future :-P