By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent
Every parent wants their child to be a good and moral person. We all try to get our children to do what we think is right and stay away from whatever we feel is not wrong. So, how many of the children of this generation are really following the ways of their parents and how many are just trying to live their own lives? If we look around us we can see that there is an on going struggle between the elders of the house and the children. By children I donâ€™t mean 8, 9 or even 10 year olds I am actually talking about older teenagers. Because when their children are young they have no problem with obeying the adults. It is when they get older that they start to develop their own mind and want to do things in their own way. Now the question is twofold at this pointâ€¦the first question is how much the teenagers or young adults listen to their parents? And the second question is how reasonable the values and beliefs that the elders thrust upon their young really are.
Both these questions are very hard to answer and handle. They are philosophical debates about moral values and belief system. Some experts will tell you that the young of a society should hold up the same values, beliefs and cultures as their elders. They should only be vessels through which the old traditions and customs are rejuvenated. However, others will tell you that with time people change and so should the things they believe in and the way they practice. And so the young of any society should be taught to keep moving ahead with time and learning new ways and approaches of accomplishing things.
It is very obvious that whatever the culture meant to our elders, it doesnâ€™t mean the same thing to us. It still may be important but the rules and the intensity has changes much from their times. In light of this reality it would be honest to say that what cultures means to us it doesnâ€™t mean the same thing to our children. Their intensity and reality about how important culture should be is different from ours as well. So, as time passes by the meaning of peopleâ€™s obligation to the culture changes drastically.
This is important to note because as the meaning changes how people deal with culture and how they uphold it changes as well. We know that young adults whom we call GEN-Y now days do not look at culture the same way their parents looked at it. Now when parents try to tell them how to behave according to custom and tradition they donâ€™t have quiet the same reaction. Letâ€™s see what our parents have to say about their children following the customs and culture as they want them to.
Rashida says that her two children are very good but they donâ€™t view the culture and customs of the culture the same way as she does. She says that she tries to talk to her son about getting married some day and his idea of how he wants to arrange his marriage is completely different from the way me and his father thinks it should be. When we even go to visit people the way my children speak to elders is different from what I would like them to do. But they donâ€™t listen. They tell me they are not being rude and that I have to realize times have changed. Rashida emphasizes that these are very few example of what I go through each day with my two teenagers in terms of cultural values.
I spoke to Farzan and Sarah, the two teenage children of Rashida and Shakil. I told them what their mom has said and asked them what they think about the cultural values that their parents try to uphold. Farzan thinks that his mom is just way to cultural and lives in a world that does not even exist any more. He feels that she goes over board with trying to please others and worrying about what people might think if they donâ€™t do things exactly how they are required to be done in the culture. I asked him to give some specific exampleâ€¦he said once on Eid in the evening he wanted to go play basketball with his friends. His mother got upset with him for wanting to do that because she said it is a day for family. Farzan says, I did try to explain to her that you visit your friends and hang out with them on Eid why I canâ€™t do it; to that she responded, fine then invite them for tea. The point is she did not mind the hanging out with friends she just disagreed in the way it was done because it was different from what she believed to be the customary way of getting together with family and friends.
Sarah says it is the most difficult to deal with her mother when she gets proposals and she is asked to pretend to be something she is not in front of the guyâ€™s family. Her mother says this is what is expected of a daughter in law in the society. But Sarah believes that she should be her self so that they get a glimpse of what they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Her mother does not agree and she cant even wear the clothes she normally wears. It is bad to the point that her mother has made a couple of outfits for her that she only wears when people come to look at her. Sarah thinks this is deception but her mother looks at it as keeping up with the traditions.
I asked Rashida why she just doesnâ€™t let her kids do what they want to as long as they donâ€™t hurt anyone or donâ€™t commit a crime. She said swaying away from the culture and customs does become crime. She believes that it shouldnâ€™t be a crime and shouldnâ€™t be as important as it is but things are the way they are and one has to put up with them in order to live in the society.
Maha is upset with her parents because they made her leave her studies in the middle after she got engaged. This was not a demand of the guy or his family. â€œMy family has their own weird traditions that they cannot part withâ€ she says. She says that she was one year into her masters when she got a proposal and was engaged. Right after that her father told her that she does not have to go to the university any more. He said that she needs to sit at home and prepare for her wedding. She fought the idea but she was not heard. She says her parents said that people will talk that even though our daughter is about to get married we are letting her run around and every time she is seen here and there with friends they will worry about her in laws making stories. This did not make any sense to her but she had no choice but to listen to her parents.
I spoke to Mahaâ€™s father Riaz who explained that he knows his daughter is right. But he also knows that they all have to live in the society that they are in and people can be really cruel. He insists that he would not want people to talk about his daughter because she does not deserve it. She deserves much better and as her father it is his responsibility to protect her from things that he feels can be harmful for her.
Mahaâ€™s friend Anila has a different kind of fight with her family which also revolved around going out. Anilaâ€™s mother wants her to wear a scarf on her head every time she goes out. Her mother insists that it is a part of our religion and you have to do it there is no choice in the matter. Anila says I have not done it for 20 years of my life I cannot just start now at this stage. So, needless to say they argue about it every time they go out. When they go out as a family Anila admits she puts on a scarf just so that her mother would stop yelling at her. However, she does not do so when she is going out with friends. Sometimes she will put the scarf on to leave the house if her mom is watching but as soon as the door closes behind her she takes it off she says.
I told Anilaâ€™s mom what her daughter said to me and asked her how she feels about it. She said she knows that her daughter takes the scarf off when she is not around but she believes itâ€™s her job to keep trying to get her to do the right thing. I donâ€™t have a choice I have to answer to Allah about her deeds as well.
But Anila looks at it in a completely different way. She says that she is an adult and that she doesnâ€™t need to be told what to do. And may be this thing would not have been so hard on her if her mom had prepared her from childhood for something like this.
Now after all these years itâ€™s not fair of her mom to expect her to do something she has never done before in her life. She is used to dressing this way now and itâ€™s not possible for her to change just because her mom wants her to all of a sudden.
Raza has a different sort of problem with his parents. They want him to start memorizing the Quran. He is strongly against it. He thinks he needs to concentrate on his studies and once he is done with studying he should work on memorizing the Quran. However his parents look at it differently. They believe that he should take a break right now from his studies first memorize the Quran then give him metric exam and go to college. It will only take him one year or two at the most his father says. â€œBut he is just not ready we are trying very hard to convince him, he adds.â€
Razaâ€™s mother is very emotional about this situation. She wonders where she went wrong. She wonders why her son does not give any importance to religion and why he wants to pay more attention to this world and the worldly gains. She feels that she has lacked some where in raising her children that they are like this. I asked what she would have liked Raza to ideally say to the demand they have put in front of him. She says ideally I would have wanted him to suggest the idea himself to memorize the Quran; and if not at least be excited about suggestion when itâ€™s made by his family.
The Real Problem: Too old to understand and too young to comprehend
We have seen that whether it is about religion or about culture young adults and their parents have completely different ideas. Why is it that even though all of these people are living in one house they all tend to have different ideas of what is important in terms of culture and religion and what is not? There were also some incidents that we encountered in which even the parents viewed social and religious situations differently which confused the children of the households even more. What is the real problem in this whole scenario?
The real problem seems to be what we call â€˜generation gapâ€™. We have introduced our children to all sorts of new things and given them the new and improved education. They have access to television and the net on which they are able to experience the world. While we have done all of this for our children we have not learned anything of that world that we are presenting to our children ourselves. We have not taken out the time to understand the world that they are living in. This has caused a lack of understanding in the older generation about how the world works today and how young people think and feel today.
Another problem that is related to this issue is that we have not even tried to teach them our values and ways from childhood. We have kept a distance from our children. Some issues parents donâ€™t like to discuss with their children until they are much older. And once they are older its too late because they are already set in their ways and are not ready to change their behavior and beliefs.
To put the problem in perspective we need to look at how we raise our kids. This means what school they go to. What television shows they watch? What kind of books they read. Who are their friends that they hang out with? All of these things affect their personalities. When we donâ€™t pay attention to these aspects or ignore them by saying they are still young they will learn once they are older we isolate them from our way of thinking and the way we want to raise them.
Also wanting to raise them exactly the way we were raised is also something that causes problems. This occurs when we are okay with our children watching English movies but we never sit down with them to watch as well. We never wonder what they are watching so that we can learn something about their world and their ways. This keeps both parents and children in different worlds and when their worlds have to collide there is usually an explosion.
The Real Solution: Hearing and Being Heard
The first and most important thing would be to get involved with everything that your children are involved with from a very young age. If the parents are involved they will be able to understand their children better. It still doesnâ€™t mean that parents will agree with what the children are saying but at least they will be able to understand why they are saying it and where they are coming from. It may also help in being able to find better ways of convincing your child to do something you want them to do.
There is no doubt that parents usually ask their children to do things that are beset for them. Children donâ€™t understand that. So, if we try to peak in their worlds every now and then and stay long enough to understand it its possible we can find ways to make the young adults understand that what the parents are saying is for their own good. They may not like it and may not agree with it but they will understand that its out of love and concern and the situation has a chance of ending in a peaceful discussion or some kind of agreement.
Where to Begin?
This is not going to be an easy task. We have much to do in the department of making our children feel like our culture and our religion are things to be upheld and desired. The first effort in this process would be to realize the difference between useful cultural values and baseless customs. Also, in religion itâ€™s important to know the difference between what the Quran has taught us and what we think that the religion asks of us.
As it turns out we have to pick our battles with the children today. Beccause the more things we find to disagree with them on the less things we can get them to listen to us about.