Parenting is a unique experience; Being a parent is a unique experience too.
There is subtle difference between the two. ‘Experiencing Parenting’ is what parents do until children are on their own. ‘Experiencing being a Parent’ is from then on. Parenting is giving unconditional love; Being a parent is to be, well, for lack of better words, taken for granted.
Our toddler already gives us cheeky responses. Suddenly, after last few years of unconditional love, getting back cheeky responses kinda makes one feel – a popular mega-serial dialog - “After all these years of love, after all I have done to you, after all the sacrifices – this is what I get?”
But then I think about my own life. How easily I have taken my parents for granted. How easily I cut them off, in an important discussion – making my own viewpoint as supreme. They treated me as if I was a young prince when I was young and, lo and behold, here I was, acting as the King – reigning over them! And to think, they would have spent the same countless hours and days and months and years, providing me unconditional love just like how I have to my daughter.
My parents recently visited me in US. In a small way, they were actually conscious of what I think about their paraphernalia. “What will our sons think of us in these shoes, these suitcases?” It jolted me that they were now actually concerned about my opinions about them, their stuff.
And then I saw around me – figuratively. This was the same with my brother. He too towered over my parents. Yeah, there was an undercurrent of love but on the surface, it was always – Do As I Say. I saw my wife. She was the same too. It was as if the tables had completely turned. She was giving advice to her mother – guiding her to do this, telling her not to do that. Her mother was concerned about what she was doing and hence consulted her children to guide her the right way. Remember the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? In a way, we are all growing old to become the children that we were, but the movie depicts the case of Button in true physical sense.
During my recent visit to India, I noticed my father interacting with his parents, and alternately, my grand parents' outlook of my father. Frankly - I was taken aback. In fact, there was no change in the way he was treating them for years nor in the way they regarded him. But, since I had recently become a parent, I was seeing the world differently. From my grand parents’ view, and how they would have treated my father almost seven decades ago - to now, when things had changed so much.
But then it is not easy to show the same kind of affection that parents show to their young offspring when it comes to offspring showing love to the old parents. For one lighthearted reason, the recipient is no longer cute!! But on a serious note, we adults just lose the patience, and the love we have for our parents just stays as an undercurrent ebb.
I tried to change myself too, to step back and think about the immense affection and love that was showered on me when I was a small boy (something which I could never have done if I hadn't become a parent myself), just before I start ranting against mom for some silly thing that she would have done or was about to do, but I just couldn't. For me – and I am sure, like for all of us – a mother is a mother, who is there for us to ‘blast at’, and yet she will always be there, with same affection and care towards us.
And this is all around us. My friends, cousins, relatives – irrespective of age and generation. This metaphysical feeling of us adults getting the upper hand over our own parents – and it is the same case each time that will go on forever: Parents sacrificed years together to give unconditional love and affection, only to become parents when they were taken for granted, and got their quota of advice and brickbats and anxiety from their own children. Such is this naturally unique and distorted cycle of a common man’s life.
It is fascinating, in a way, and depressing, in a way.
At this juncture, I can’t help but remember this excellent, excellent video which pretty much covers whatever I just penned.