My dad didn’t even make it to high school. He started working when he was barely fourteen or fifteen. At twenty he was already married. My mother was barely nineteen. Those ages were actually quite old to get married back then. In their times, they didn’t adopt parenting models or methods of discipline; they lived as their culture expected. They just did the next thing. Pre-marital counseling or having a dream and pursuing it passionately were not things they intentionally did. My dad was expected to work as soon as he was able, which at that time was around 10 years of age. My mom was expected to work in the fields and do housework and didn’t even have an opportunity to go to school; even though she was from a pretty decent family. She used to tell me stories of how her younger sister wanted to go to school so badly that she even considered running away from home. But in that day, getting an education was not for the girls.
As the result of their upbringing, when my parents started having kids they had no predetermined goals or dreams for their family. My dad went to work every single day. Mom tended her kids as well as the extended family. Yet by the time we were born, lots had changed. At least for families who could afford to send their kids to good schools. All of us went to fine schools in the city of Kathmandu. Sending us to school was not a financial challenge for my parents. But what they could not give was their involvement in our lives and education. Kids were just left to grow up on their own. Grandparents, relatives or even neighbors took care of each other’s kids. Dads made money and moms did the housework.
The school I went to was equivalent to a prep school in the United States. In Nepal, we call them boarding or English medium schools. We had teachers who went to missionary schools, and that meant they had a quality education under foreign teachers. That type of western influence was present in the school I attended. Unfortunately for me, however, there was also a high level of parental involvement. Parent-teacher conferences, parent’s day, carnivals and extra-curricular activities abounded. My family could afford to allow us to participate, but couldn’t come themselves, even when the school expected them. I remember begging my dad to come to parent-teacher conferences. I was embarrassed of my mom because she couldn’t even talk Nepali very well, let alone English. As a result, I carried a lot of resentment towards my parents, especially my dad. My dad for always being away and not being able to get involved in my school/education; and my mom for not being educated and thus seen by my uppity school affiliates as an uneducated hillbilly.
As an adult, though, I am grateful to my parents. My dad gave us a very privileged life and my mom fulfilled her role as best as she could with the skills she had. Given our current life situation, sometimes I long for what my parents had!-I wish I could be a stay-at-home mom and that my husband could be a big money maker. I’m not kidding!
Yet, as a result of my experiences I had resolved that if ever I were blessed with kids, I would be very involved in their lives and adopt a very intentional parenting model. Well, as I currently have three children, I now know these resolutions we make can be challenging to actually accomplish! A month or so ago, we got a call from one of our kids’ teacher. She was concerned that our child wasn’t fully applying himself at school and that he was forgetting important things that he should be remembering.
I found myself in a place I never envisioned myself to be. But I am so thankful for the wake-up call from that teacher. As we wade through the mundane details of life, which are important, don’t get me wrong, we also tend to do things we never imagined ourselves doing. In my case, I wanted to be very involved in my kids’ education and just their lives in general. But, over time, I may have let electronic devices do some parenting and assumed that my kids are responsible enough to manage themselves. But heck, it was nice to wake up from that sleep. I can’t let those devices do the parenting that we should be doing. And, no, I can’t let my kids think that we are not watching. My kids are at such impressionable ages that doing this can lead to some very damaging consequences.
I think times are worse now. In a blink of an eye, we can lose our kids to some really bad things. Technology, which we think is making our lives easier, can be equally demonic. Children can find most anything, or it can find them, within a few seconds. They are growing up faster than we think. I am surprised every day at what my kids know and wonder where they are picking up those things from. I am aware that as a parent, we cannot fully shield our children from these things; however, that is no reason to let them just slide.
As I write this, I just want to remind myself again of who I want to be for my kids. I want to be the best parent that I can be – seeking to protect and guide them while, at the same time, letting them make some choices of their own.