Published: 19th October 2017
What is the kind of relationship you share with your father (and mother)? Here's is an interesting insight
Is the parent-child relationship as good as it is being taught at schools? John B Monteiro adds some logic and psychological facts to it
If I chance to talk (or write as in this case) a little wild, forgive me.
I had it from my father — Shakespeare (Henry VIII)
We celebrate Father’s Day on June 18 and Mother’s Day on May 17. Father’s Day celebration started in the US in 1910 and Mother’s Day, two years earlier, in 1908. It is said that a mother is a fact and a father is a myth. Now, this myth is being sorted out with DNA tests. On both these days, resident children wish their parents in person – either with a kiss or hug or both. Those who have flown the coop call, Skype or send emails. My daughter and son, both in Mumbai, called me with fond wishes. That is the reminder and provocation to go public on the subject.
Father’s Day is time to introspect on father-child relationships. One outstanding story is that of the Prodigal Son from the New Testament of the Bible. Since it is widely known, I am presenting some perceptions of fathers down the centuries.
When I shun Scylla, your father,
I fall into Charybdis, your mother. — Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
It is a wise child that knows his own father. —Homer
It is a wise father that knows his own child. —Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
The eye that mocketh at his father… the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. — Bible (Proverbs 30:17)
The virtues of the mother shall occasionally be visited upon the children, as well as the sins of the fathers — Charles Dickens
She got her good looks from her father—he’s a plastic surgeon. — Groucho Marx
My father was not a failure. After all, he was the father of a President of the United States. — Harry S Truman
While we put fathers (and mothers) on the pedestal on days dedicated to them, there are cases of children mistreating their parents as doormats.
If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
Rudyard Kipling, English poet (1865-1966)
Despite such tributes to mothers and even fathers, they are often treated as doormats and kicked aside like ladders used for climbing without regard for the sacrifices made for their children.
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a son beating his father when the latter became old and useless. The son would constantly nag his father and order him to get out of the house. Several times he would beat his father and drag him out of the house up to the deserted village path. One day, the son dragged the father beyond the path and was about to reach the main road. Then, the father pleaded with the son, “Please go no further. Even I did not drag my father up to this road.”
Even now, this happens in subtle ways. Old parents are consigned to Old Age Homes. Does this mean that children are ungrateful and do not reciprocate the love their parents bestowed on them? Or, is it explained as being practical?
We are reminded of this father–son confrontation by a reported incident that took place at Enterprise (Central Florida), USA in December 2004. The dishes, garbage and dirty laundry would pile up for days when Harl and Cat Barnard’s two teenage children refused to do their household chores. So, the parents decided to take a picket line in their neighbourhood. The hurt parents went on a strike. They moved out of their house and into a domed tent set-up in their front driveway. They decided not to cook, clean or drive their two children around until they shaped up. Cat, the mother, said, “We have tried reverse psychology, upside down psychology and spiral psychology, and nothing has motivated for any length of time.”
The event, which took the two teenagers by surprise when they came home from school, attracted wide local, national and international media coverage. While it would be interesting to know the outcome of the exercise and how the children responded, the issue is relevant far beyond the US and needs to be debated. It is well known that parents make great sacrifices to bring up their children, including the good education. Do children reciprocate by helping parents whenever they can, say, by helping out with domestic chores? In India, we get girls involved in domestic work, including cooking, to improve their marital prospects. Do boys escape from their responsibility?
Recently, laws have been passed in China, making it mandatory for children to periodically visit their old parents and otherwise extend maintenance support. (There are also similar laws in India, but that is for another time). But will parents file complaints with law enforcement against their children? Commenting on this, some Indian papers have asked if love can be enforced.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response, within 250 words, should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org