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Can you be a parent and a friend?

Sunday, 18 November 2012 - 10:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The days of a ‘Child should be seen and not heard’ have long since gone.

Dear Gaurav and Aakanksha,

This year, seeing the two of you together doing the honours at Diwali, reinforced in a very big way how time has flown. You both have grown up, to a mother’s biased eye, into fine young individuals — with your own mixed bag of your quirks, your kinks, and your pluses. So, though there were moments of arguments, raised voices, there was a lot of bonding, fun and food. And, of course, the spirit of the festival made being together more special.

As you have moved from one age to another, a question has often entered my mind, and it raised its head again, particularly as you said with reference to a disciplinary point I had made, “Mom, you cannot be both our friend and mother!” This made me introspect once more — are both these roles mutually exclusive?”

The days of a ‘Child should be seen and not heard’ have long since gone. The answer to the question posited before is in my mind a yes — it is eminently possible to be a child’s friend and parent. As long as I as a parent juggle both roles with judicious sensibility, I think it is entirely possible to be both – what hat I wear often depends on what situation we are in.

I have often spoken about this dichotomy to your uncle, Ajit, who as a paediatrician, has dealt with countless parents and kids and he has always advised me, saying, “The parent has to be a friend who can guide his children in situations they are unable to judge. Using the power of suggestion and having a friendly discussion about the consequences of the child’s action may make ‘enforcing’ discipline easier as that instills a sense of responsibility in the child.”

It is important that both of us realise that I am first the parent and have to look out for your best interests and then, when needed, be your friend. The second role can rarely – and should not – take precedence over the first. Once you have understood that I set down the simple basic rules that you need to follow, I can then take the liberty to morph into the awesome fun parent that I think I am sometimes. Do I hear you sniggering?

But I have found that in our home, rules are set — and often broken — and the softie that I am the ‘grounding process’ often gets interrupted by a hug or a sorry. For I trust that next time you will know what is right or wrong.

And my way of reprimanding varies from one to the other. While you, Gaurav, get verbal volleys hurled in your direction, you, Aakanksha, get mailed when I need a point reinforced. The exchange of emails in swift succession sees the issue being resolved.

So, though Gaurav, I may frown on your obsession with football, I will — without thinking twice — rush out of a great dinner at a restaurant in Phuket to hurtle up to the upper level of the mall when my co-traveller and friend, Krishna, who knows of your fetish for the game, tells me that the latest range of Arsenal T-shirts is available. Why would I in my sane mind do that, especially since I am trying to curtail your absorption with the game? Perhaps, because putting myself in your shoes, I realise what would make you happy. Ditto with you, Aakanksha, when you ask for things via SMS, trusting that you know what you want best.

A friend would do that. As would any parent. So, in a sense the roles overlap. In my eyes, the main difference is perhaps this: as a parent, I would keep my eyes open at all times — to ensure that all’s well with your world. And this understanding becomes sharper when I am able to share your interests as a friend, and know what it is that makes your world go round. And as a parent and a friend, I am there for you, no matter what. Don’t you agree?
Yours affectionately, Mom

The writer, Executive Editor, Verve, is, in her personal space, often driven to distraction by her two growing ‘young adults’, but she loves the madness of it all

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