Not many events in human life can eclipse the pain and exhaustion of childbirth. The very prospect of it gives goosebumps to first-time moms, so much so that they often terrorise you with personal anecdotes. As intriguing as it may sound, there is one creature on planet earth that could easily rival the endurance of a female human — the Giant Pacific Octopus.
Unlike humans, it lays over 100,000 eggs at once, baths them in freshwater, fans them with its tired arms, grooms them to remove algae and dirt, refuses to take rest or have food till the eggs hatch and tragically dies when it finally does! It is almost heart wrenching for the little hatchlings (that are hardly the size of a grain of rice), to not see the mother who selflessly sacrificed her life in an unwavering attempt to keep the babies alive.
Taste of Hardship
Although humans do not make that solid a sacrifice to shelter their kids, they are experts at extending the safety net until the child attains adulthood (some, even further). But here’s the million-dollar question. Is it necessary to keep your kids safe in a happy cocoon or should we just let them get a taste of hardship themselves?
There is no better place to learn parenting than the wild, which offers a complex exhibition of intriguing hierarchies and resultant behaviours. Take lions, for instance. They are strong, large and are prey to none, but their resigned surrender to a tiger in a head to head combat would almost make your jaw drop. Frankly, lions aren’t any less capable, but the way they are conditioned – just doesn’t guarantee a win.
History has it that tigers invariably triumph over lions in a head-on battle, and a large reason for it lies in their overall upbringing. Typically, tigers live and hunt alone, and have no ally to assist them during a chase or a showdown. Their continual survival in such hostile settings gradually conditions them to be more agile and aggressive.
Lions, on the other hand, have their ‘safe space’. They live and hunt together, almost always have someone to watch their back, and do not overly fret over food as someone in the pride often finds a way to steal, hunt or scavenge it. Perhaps this answers why solitary animals that live in the wild happen to be more resilient than the so-called ‘civilised’ humans.
Every so often for the past few years, we’ve been witnessing reports of teenage suicides, the driving factors of which range from ‘being yelled at in the college corridor, shamed on social media, or reproached for cheating in an exam’. It definitely is disheartening to hear but you cannot stop a teacher from correcting students or ask them to turn a blind eye on cheating, can you?
While it is one thing to know how to deal with a rough patch, it is another to understand the importance of not haphazardly falling into one. And this is precisely where parenting plays a pivotal role.
For the past decade or so, rhetoric emphasising the importance of being agreeable with children has been prevalent in social circles; many Generation Y parents have already put it in practice by almost blindly gratifying their needs and justifying their wrongdoings, but contrary to expectation — the condition hasn’t improved one bit. In fact, research suggests that it has only worsened from the time activists called for curtailing the need for admonishment and guidance.
Because more often than not, a faint-hearted teen who has never been reprimanded or challenged in thought, carries forward the ‘cocoon effect’ to their adulthood, which then makes them vulnerable to outward criticisms, differing opinions and a range of other adversities. If you’ve ever seen someone explode in anger or tears for a mild disagreement or criticism, you’ve probably already met them.
One solution to this disarray could be to have support systems in place. But frankly, would you have someone save you from drowning in deep water, or not dive into the water at all? Because old habits are like geckos — even when you think they’re dead, the grip remains just as strong. So support systems could only function as temporary restorations.
Recipes for Recovery
Sounds dubious? Here’s proof. There are way more recipes for recovery today than there ever was in human history — helpline numbers, support groups, meditation, medication, massage therapies, counselling, self-help guides, online videos, talk therapies, pet therapies, even chatbots, but the number of people repeatedly falling prey to depression is surprisingly on the rise.
In fact, India witnessed a whopping 10,335 student suicides last year alone, with one happening virtually every hour — the worst statistic in 25 years. With more activism and less parenting, why don’t we see the results?
Truth be told, the focus has predominantly been on alleviating the after-effects than diagnosing the reasons. It is perhaps time we shifted the attention to precautionary solutions — efforts that ensure mental strength and not risk it to the point where people constantly rely on sources that may (or may not) help them. Mitigating the use of social media could be one.
Most parents hand their kids the key to social media at a tender age, not realising that they are leaving them stranded in the breeding ground of depression. Given how teens already struggle in school with the burden of upward comparison and bullying, serving them more of it could only trigger guilt, dissatisfaction, desperation and in the worst case, depression.
Ingraining these lessons, however, requires attention and tolerance. But when most young parents open up on social media themselves, expecting the child to be any different is wishful thinking. Because as the old adage goes “What children hear their parents say by the fireside, they repeat in the highway”.
(The author is a qualified tax adviser, management consultant and corporate trainer)
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