thing about July and August is that you see children everywhere you turn:
swarming like bees, (sweet, sticky and likely to sting in many little
ways) around the streets, the malls, the yards, the homes. They trail
behind grown-ups - bored, excited, fidgety, high-spirited, sometimes
uncontrollable. Behind every group of children is a shouting adult.
provide high entertainment with their peculiar grammar and their gullible
faith; they believe in everything and that anything is possible. They are
delightful and selfish, impetuous, compulsive, and impulsive, cruel,
clever and curious and can surprise you with unexpected acts of kindness
people, especially those with children, are moved by the sight of the
children who sell oranges by the highway, who never go to school, and have
been hustled out of babyhood into the harsh adult world. We look at them
with a catch in our throats and we know we live in a world where some
people are more equal than others. Always will be. They are the ones who
fell through the safety gap, the living proof of the inevitable poverty
statistics, victims of the fall-out factor in a free-market economy.
the ones who are getting to me these summer days are the ones who come
from middle-class and privileged homes. The ones who will one day take
over businesses and Government offices, from their fathers and mothers.
I thought, walking out of a mall the other day, are so many children from
comfortable homes, fat? Why,
I thought, is the sight of a child reading in a park, or queue, home or
doctor’s office as unlikely a vision as a UFO? Why, I asked myself are
so many of these children mindlessly glued to a Nintendo game, first thing
in the morning? Why, I asked myself when I saw a frustrated mother
actually telling her child to watch TV, are these children so unable to
entertain themselves? Why, I asked myself, are so many of these children
so inarticulate? Why, I wondered, when they are articulate but obnoxious,
is their rudeness palmed off as intelligence, precocious?
finally, why does one get irritated with a child who wasn’t able to say
please or thank you, hello or goodbye, or stand up to offer a chair to an
elderly relative so confidently able to ask for a glass of coke, or
something to eat, or an electronic game?
began to rage, shuddering over what these kids would grow up to be;
thinking childhood can excuse a lot, but as adults, these children would
be obnoxious, spoilt brats.
are hundreds of complicated books on how children turn out to be the way
they are. Some say they are formed primarily by their genes; others say by
their peers, still others say its to do with opportunity, others social
circumstances. Yet, each child has a unique personality. Children brought
up in the same home could be as different as chalk and cheese. But most
say children repeat the cycle started by their parents - girls ape mothers
and boys, their fathers. Ambitious women breed ambitious girls and men who
abuse their wives breed sons who do the same. Who knows?
dear reader, I stopped grinding my teeth at the plethora of brats that
have appeared in our rainy “summer,” and did what most writers do -
became a shameless maco to test the parent theory.
the grocery, I spied a fat kid. I shadowed his parents and their shopping
cart. The cart was filled with junk: chocolate, cookies, ice-cream, fatty
processed meats and soft-drinks; guaranteed to hype up the child and give
him bad eating habits which will lead to life-long medical problems. No
wonder we live in a country ranked among the highest rates of strokes,
heart disease and diabetes per capita in the world.
OK that explains the fat kids. Not their fault.
I want to make the point I once read on a T-shirt. “Sloppy thinking gets
worse over time.” If you are sloppy about your body then you will be
like that over your work, and your relationships, and your life.
is easy because it is like a kind of giving up, giving into gravity and
decay. Much harder to walk uphill, and abstain a bit so you can live
longer, healthier, and fuller lives.
it was time to maco some homes. Oh, there were some classy ones, and could
be easily featured in homes and gardens magazines. They had swimming pools
and Jacuzzis, gardens and pretty patios with wicker, chandeliers, and
crystal, and velvet curtains, but no library. The children of many of
these homes never saw their parents open a book. The parents did the
cocktail circuit and travelled once a year but did they read on the plane,
while waiting for flights, or on a Sunday afternoon? No. That’s why
their children never read, and would always come across as a bit rough, a
little vulgar and not quite at ease in the real world.
it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, at the end of the day, as
everyone knows the only real wealth any man is judged by is the kind he
carries around in his head.
to why some parents today tell their children to watch TV, occasionally
its because we are products of our time. Why would these kids start
building tree houses and go-carts, make a kite from scratch, sketch or
read when they can receive instant gratification and excitement from TV or
a Nintendo game?
the rudeness? One aphorism rings in my ears when I think of children:
“when the small courtesies go, the big ones will go.” That dictum has
been proven to me time and time again. It is tiring, exhausting, boring,
because it takes years, even decades to civilise children because they are
blank slates who need to be given perimeters until they are grown up. You
have to remind them say “please” and
“thank you” and “excuse me,” and “sorry” till you’re
hoarse, and till it becomes a habit in them. When they’re old enough
they understand why. Because good manners are about empathy and respect,
about acknowledging somebody’s little kindness, or agony, about building
you don’t immediately pounce on every bit of childish insolence because
it’s cute, it grows and creates a monster. One day a two-year-old hits
you because he can’t get a toy and when he turns 16 he is threatening to
beat you up because you won’t get him a motorbike.
It’s the greatest injustice you can do your child and will ultimately
break your heart. You create obnoxious spoilt adults who are disliked.
They won’t value hard work or excellence, or the high of achieving
something for themselves because everything has been handed to them in a
platter at home. They become insecure under achievers.
The world becomes stale very quickly. There is no enjoyment from buying a
treasured toy after working for it, going to a nice restaurant as a reward
for striving for and achieving some goal. They are forever discontented
because they expect the bag of tricks and treats from home to be
bottomless. And when it dries up they are angry.
will never appreciate you as your parents. They will never want to give
back to you or the society they live in.
holidays are lazy days for children to play and get up late, a time to
relax from the rules. But for us, the parents, although we laugh, play and
bond with our kids, it cannot be a holiday. We need to work overtime
because we know these long stretches of freedom, without the routine of a
classroom create a void for the children, is a trial run for their entry
into the real world. We need to reward them for striving towards
excellence, encourage them to fill in long hours with books and activities
that stretch their minds; help in the home, hold back and correct them
when they are selfish, indolent or rude.
need to let them know adults are people, too, with feelings, and lives,
not just machines that supply endless goods and services to satisfy their
desires. Summer days like these remind us, ultimately, we need to look at
ourselves critically, since our children reflect us. And if our children
turn out to be losers rather than winners in the game of life whose fault