Dubai Diaries: Why I don't enjoy being a role model
The single most important education we can impart to our young ones is to see us as entities that are separate from their idea of us.
When do you become a bad influence on a child? “When you stop being an individual and become the figure they read about in textbooks,” a slightly frustrated mum told me recently. In today’s day and age, we are quick to judge parenting — it’s either a bliss or simply an overwhelming exercise. No matter which way you look at it, it is quite simply one of the greatest learning curves of adult life.
I got a taste of it recently as I went on a ‘staycay’ with a couple of friends and their kids. Almost all of us were overwhelmed by either life or work or a combination of both, and were looking to give our minds a rest. And what better way to do that than eating, drinking and letting ourselves loose in the pool. The kids, however, did not quite approve.
A child who is rather fond of me was in tears after she saw me drinking a beverage that she considered wasn’t suitable for ‘model’ women. Such was her hurt that her eyes immediately welled up and she chose to stay away from me for the rest of the evening.
Did I really do something terribly wrong, I wondered. But then I thought it was as much my staycation as anyone else’s and I deserved to enjoy it as much as anyone else. But the child wouldn’t be convinced. The following day she decided to maintain distance. And any luring on my part — with candies — wouldn’t deter her resolve to stay as far from me as possible.
As much as I was surprised, I could not forget my own reaction when my father would call his friends over for dinner. The loud chatter and laughter would be an immediate indication that they had gone overboard. In a strange way, I could identify with that sense of discomfort, even if I could not rationalise it. If I couldn’t escape the bearings of what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, how could I expect this child to behave any differently?
Children don’t often see adults as individuals. To them, they are beings that should embody the rights and wrongs that are taught to them. Which is why when their model ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’ deviates from the moral template, they find themselves unable to stomach it. What is needed, from us adults, is to perhaps create a finer understanding of what is right and wrong.
A parent going out for an occasional smoke does not mean they have failed as individuals. A parent enjoying his time by poolside instead of running after children’s needs does not automatically mean they are careless. They are individuals who need time and space for themselves as they come to terms with professional and personal lives.
Even as we wear different hats — mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, sister — our selves cannot go into hibernation. That self might enjoy many things that the child does not approve of. So, the single most important education we can impart to our young ones is to see us as entities that are separate from their idea of us. This is how we can liberate ourselves. This is how we can liberate them!