The silly season is upon us again. That time of year when helicopter parents and hands-off parents come together in a rare display of guilt-ridden solidarity to hover around their offspring and send collective stress levels soaring into the stratosphere. That's right, it's board-exams time.
The helicopter parents may be forgiven their trespasses. Hovering is their raison d'etre, as it were. Their children have grown up against the constant hum of their parents' hovering and have had 18 years to devise effective defense mechanisms — the most common being the take-it-in-through-one-ear-let-it-out-through-the-other policy — to tune it out. So let's leave them out of this discussion.
But what of the otherwise sensible parents, who have busy, productive lives, hosts of friends, and other passions besides their kiddies? The kind that taught their children to be independent and self-reliant by example, exhorted them to take responsibility for their own successes and failures? The type that bursts with self-congratulatory pride while sharing clothes, confidences, and 71 mutual friends with their child on Facebook (never mind that they have no clue their child has them on 'restricted access')?
Let March roll around, and in workplaces across the country, these otherwise happy, secure, and driven professionals begin to desert their posts, in droves, to 'be there' for their aghast children, who have no idea how to deal with such divergent parental behavior.
What is that prompts this collective exodus, this inexplicable need to hover? Why this sudden nationwide spiking of concern for the kids? Sure, the XII Boards are probably the highest-stake academic exams — at least in popular perception — that an Indian human will take in the course of her lifetime. Sure the stress levels are (even for normally calm, well-prepared, and responsible kids) is higher than usual. Sure the media takes ghoulish delight in informing us just how many XII grade students took their lives last year.
But is all that enough reason to warrant flapping aimlessly about the house in your pajamas, clucking endlessly about your child not getting enough sleep, getting too much coffee, living in a pigsty of a room, being on his/her phone ALL the time? Wouldn't you serve your child's cause better by taking yourself out of the picture and leaving him/her to do what you have taught him to do best — take care of himself/herself?
Yes, but, say the parents, scrambling to justify their actions.
- Yes, but remember what a nightmare our own XII grade exams were? Remember how, for years later, we'd wake up in a cold sweat, having just come out of a dream where we had discovered, too late, that the subject we had stayed up all night mugging was not the subject that we had to take an exam in the next day? Remember how our parents told us we'd end up on the dung heap of shame and live out the rest of our sad lives in the real and metaphorical hovel of abject poverty while all our friends whizzed by in their fancy cars if we didn't score that impossible 90%, and we believed them? Yes, things aren't so bleak anymore in this country, and the kids know it, but it won't hurt to keep relaying supportive, empowering messages to them anyway. In person.
- Yes, but I sometimes wonder if all this 'liberal parenting' I've always practised and stoutly defended to all comers is such a good thing after all. Look around, and it's easy to see that it is the helicoptered children that win the International Spell Bees and perform the arangetrams and become state-level tennis players (and you know that means they have reserved seats in colleges) and of course, always score the centums in math. Maybe I've let things get out of hand a little around here, and it's time to crack the whip. Maybe a month spent haranguing her about being 'focused' and watching her like a particularly baleful hawk will be a month well spent, even if it annoys the heck out of her. After all, it is only her welfare I have in mind.
- Yes, but maybe I've been really selfish all along (this mostly from moms, not dads), chasing my own dreams while leaving him to his own devices. Maybe I've let my work take way too much precedence over my life, my home, and my kids. Maybe the comeuppance I've been assured is heading my way — by my mom, the aunty next door, and all the holier-than-thou parents I know — for not spending enough time with my kids, is just around the corner. Maybe if I give up one month of work and partying and squeeze him glassfuls of orange juice with my own hands, the gods will be appeased. Maybe I will feel less guilty, more able to deal with his/her second-class marks (yes, even I am not so delusional as to think that my one month of staying at home will change that) without resorting to self-flagellation. Oh, all right, I confess — I am doing this more for me than for him/her.
Ah, whatever. In every case, though, pity the kids.