By Arathi Devandran @miffalicious
A couple of days ago, while I was aimlessly trawling the net, procrastinating from the essay writing that awaited me, I stumbled upon some ads for extra-curricular classes for pre-schoolers. By extra-curricular activity, I’m referring to abacus lessons, ballet, spelling classes etc. Just looking at the garish meant-to-be-cheerful-but-really-colour-clashing adverts made my head spin.
Abacus?! For… 2 – 3 year olds? Really?! It seems that these days, the rat race to Be The Number One starts a precociously young age. Parents are vying for places in pre-schools. This madness then continues through every single stage of a child’s life, and seems to exponentially worsen as the child grows into a teenager before finally hitting adult hood.
And even then, this business of doing more, moving faster, achieving better results, earning more money, having more kids just keeps rolling on, and on, and on. Interestingly enough, this phenomenon seems highly prevalent in our South Asian community. There’s always this one word that seems to flash in neon lights every time South Asian parents sit their children down for a Serious Talk.
“Kids, you need to work hard.
Only when you work hard and succeed in life, will you be able to live comfortably.” Fess up, folks. How many of you guys here have (over)heard this at some point or another in your lives? I know I have. I’ve always wondered why this is the case. Why is there so much of emphasis placed on this airy-fairy notion of ‘success’. What is success? Why are our parents so intent in making sure that we succeed in life?
I personally believe that one of the reasons for this constant pressure that South Asian parents knowingly or unknowingly place on their children is good old love. Yes, you heard it right. Love. Our parents (or at least, mine) come from a generation when education was a rare commodity. Only the affluent could afford a good tertiary education.
Without a strong educational background, they learnt that to put food on the table, and keep their families going, they had to work hard. And work hard, they did. So hard, in fact, that they knew they never wanted their children to struggle as much as they did. Because they loved us. Hence, this phantom concept of ‘success’ gained so much of importance. A noble reason, isn’t it? A very noble reason, in my opinion.
And yet, in this time and age, this pressure issue has been blown out of proportion. This competitive society feeds this need to keep doing, and keep pushing and to keep achieving. Caught in this tirade of superlatives (the best, the fastest, the smartest, the richest), parents sometimes forget that the Generation Y does not function with the same goals and objectives in mind.
We are a generation that dares to be different (sometimes, just for the fun of it). Away with the traditional ambitions of being doctors and lawyers and engineers. In with the photographers, and DJs, and poets.
Do these ‘new’ goals fall in line with what the parentals want? More often than not, no. This is the opening scene for lots of family drama, apparent parental disappointment, tears, anger et al. What all of us need to realise is that we function with different ideas of success in our minds.
Some of our parents deem success to be a job, a car, lots of food, and perhaps several holidays a year. (I understand that I over generalize here, young adults might feel the same) As mentioned earlier, we can’t blame them for thinking this way. They come from a time when all of this was a luxury, perhaps even something they never dreamed of having.
As for the Gen Y people, success might be two years taken off work for a round-the-world tour. Or perhaps, publishing a book of short stories. Or striking a record deal with an amazing music producer. Or it might be having the option of being able to sit at home and tweet all day if you wanted to.
There has to come a point where both parties have to communicate and understand the different perspectives. No one said it would be easy, but then again, nothing good in life ever comes easy. If your version of success is too avant-garde for your family to understand, convince them that the happiness you get out of it makes up for all the money and material goodness in the world. Wear their ears (and hearts and minds) down with your conviction and passion, and soon enough, tides will turn.
In the meantime, keep dreaming, and for you young parents out there, think hard about whether you want to go down the same road your parents did (read: abacus lessons for a 3-year-old) or whether you want to do things differently.
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