I was visiting friends in another city over the Good Friday – Easter weekend……. with my 14 month old ….alone …..I must admit I was over whelmed at first. I questioned if I would be able to manage the air travel and the baby by myself. It turned out to be a far less scary than I initially imagined.
I packed in extra diapers, wipes, snacks, formula, toys and a change of clothes in my diaper bag. It was a heavy load to carry but it was better to be prepared for the worst case scenario than being sorry later.
Honestly , I was more concerned about the comfort of fellow passengers and was almost walking on egg shells trying not to disturb anyone. I am including my self when I say that we in North America have attached some kind of nuisance value to little children and kids. More and more adults expect not to be disturbed by children crying or screaming when they are enjoying a movie or dinner at a restaurant. The local movie theater in my city doesn’t allow children under six for movie shows after 4:00 pm. Some restaurant don’t allow children after 6:00 pm in order to serve other patrons better. It is ironic fast food chains, where you hop-in – eat- hop out, extend a warm welcome to kids and families.
The apartment building I lived in, when I first came to Canada, was an “Adult Only” building with no kids and pets policy. Over and over again I noticed that different age groups mingled on very few occasions. Very rarely a fifteen year old could be seen hanging out with a two-year old. Schools and sports teams are separated by age groups. Even churches are not spared from this practice. To me this kind of segregation seems unhealthy. It makes the generation gap even wider.
Once again , I look east wards to my place of birth for advice. What could a culture where children live with their parents well into their thirties and many live in joint families for life, teach us about raising independent & secure children? At the least it can teach us about healthy integration of people of all ages into most public experiences. At any family gathering, marriages and outings you can see children being accepted and even welcomed in the company of adults. The big joint families often ensure that children interact with grandparents and cousins well outside their age-range. It is accepted that children will be all around us and occasional crying , screaming, hurts and falls are part of daily life. It is considered natural when a 5-year-old can celebrate in the success of a much older cousin and that a child may find a mentor with in his/her extended family. I fondly recall, as a 13-year-old, looking up to my 25 yrs old second cousin with much reverence for guidance and life lessons. In fact it was he who picked up the forms for the entrance exam that got me admission into architecture program of the university in my city. You can say it had a big impact on my life thereafter.
Indian style of Parenting taught me to trust my parents and elders. It assured me that valuable advice and counsel could be found with in a family. It also made me tolerant of the differences that very often and easily divide us. As I welcomed nephew and nieces into the world , I also learnt to be responsible and helpful. Now that my daughter is born, my 12-year-old cousin has no objection to being addressed as aunty. Isn’t that what adulthood is supposed to be – being able to hold your own in the middle of the situations life throws at you, to be able to respect others’ point of views despite how different they may be from your own, and to be more tolerant of displeasing situations. There are many things that we may learn from children and one of them can be to become better adults.
Share with me your parenting tips and experience that you have found useful.
Post script: added Apr 12, 2012–
Just hours after I finished this post, I caught an episode of the new comedy series “Best Friends Forever” on TV. One of the leading ladies in the show , wishes her ex-husband a terrible flight and goes on to say, “I wish you would sit next to a baby…. a dumb baby”. ……. At the risk of sounding rude – Babies don’t cry on planes because they are dumb. They cry because they are nervous, hurting or hungry or may be all three at the same time.
I can understand many people would describe sitting next to a crying baby for the whole duration of the flight as one of their most unpleasant experiences. However my request would be to extend a little bit of kindness to the baby and his/her family, especially if it happens to be the child of a new mom who herself is overwhelmed. In the same breath, I would extend thanks to my co-passengers who not only were kind with us (even when my baby stretched her legs on to the other person’s lap) but generous even to help me carry my bag to the exit while I handled the stroller. Thank you !