No Kidding Business, This!

My pal, Mr. Professional (MP) is very upbeat about his child these days. Every conversation has to have at least a few mentions of his 10 year old daughter. Like thousands others like him, MP is a very proud parent, and wants the best for his child. He always goes the extra mile to give his daughter the best he possibly can. The best of clothes, toys, education – everything. In fact, MP revealed to me once that the amount of resources consumed by the child has been the single largest expenditure for the family ever since his daughter was born.

And now, I arrive at the real point of this post. When I met up with MP recently, he was with his Childhood Friend (lets call him CF). CF has an 8 year old son. CF has radically different views about bringing up a child. He put an entire new angle to this child-care thing.

CF insists that although he yearns to give his child the best, he does not equate “the best” with “the best that money can buy”. For example, he has chosen not to enrol his son in one of the “exclusive” schools (even though he could have afforded one had he stretched his finances a little). Instead, he has sent his son to a good middle-class school. He wants his son to interact with children from all backgrounds. And being a middle class guy himself, he believes that his son should go to a middle class school too. “There is no dearth of excellent-quality middle class schools is there?”, he argues. I think I agree with CF here.

Secondly, CF believes that a child brought up in such a protected environment will find it difficult to face the challenges of the world out there. A child who always travels in an A/C car, who has never boarded a city bus, who only rides an upmarket bike to college is out of touch with reality, he says. I am not sure whether I agree entirely with this opinion. I feel that no matter how protected a child is, as he grows, he will get acquainted with the ways of the world and will learn to stand up for himself.

CF's third point was about the child's sense of social responsibility. He feels that the trend of projecting only the best of the world to children makes them unaware of the sufferings of, and reality about their fellow human beings. His contention is that such children are less likely to do anything for the society. I guess he has a point there.

CF's final, radical punch was yet to come. He put forth a question to MP: “Imagine you had not had a child; and that you had spent all the amount that you are now spending on her, in philanthropy instead. Can you imagine how many under-privileged children's lives you could have turned around in that amount? And, can you imagine how many children's lives those kids might in tun improve when they grow up?”

I find this argument to be .. well .. far too extreme. Suggesting one not to have kids because one will end up spending a lot of money on the kids – instead, spending the same amount of money on dozens of underprivileged children!!! I mean .. if CF had suggested that – for example – imagine cutting down on the amount you spend on your kid by, say 20%; and imagine putting that money into social causes; well that would have been a far more reasonable and acceptable argument. Or would it? I wonder how CF would respond if I challenged him to undergo a 20% cut in his pay with the assurance that this amount would be used for philanthropy!

There is one thing I agree in this far-fetched point of view though. It has been my observation (and by no means is it a generalisation), that people who have come from not-so-rosy backgrounds are more active when it comes to charity – than people who have never had to struggle in their past. They would even undergo some sacrifices in order to give to the underprivileged. And by the end of the debate between MP and CF, the only take-away I had was that it might be a good thing to expose a child to the real world from an early age in order to make the child a good citizen in the future.

But hey, why am I worried about all these things? I ain't having kids anytime soon! I would like to know the opinion though, of those of you who have kids or are planning to soon. At least that way, when I bump into CF next time, I am more prepared to enter into the debate rather than remain a mute spectator!

5 comments to No Kidding Business, This!

  • First of all,bringing up a child is one of the most difficult tasks in life which goes unrewarded most of the times and I think we should really thank our parents for the the wonderful job that they have done.
    Coming to your post, I loved the title.It sums up the entire post in just one line :-).
    I personally feel as parents,we need to strike a fine balance between MP and CF's opinions.Pampering is necessary, provided we do not overdo it but at the same time we need to make our kids aware of their social responsibilities during their growing up years.Kids look up to their parents, teachers, elders and they tend to mimic them most of the times so its important we set good examples for them to follow!

  • Kiran, I wouldn't know much about bringing up a child, but like you said, CF did have a few fair points to make.

    Actually, I do think that children protected from the harsher realities of life tend to grow up with an aura of aloofness/indifference towards them. (I might be wrong, of course!)

  • I agree with most of what CF says except for 2 points

    1. Good education. If there is one thing that parents owe their children...i think it is education. Today n alwez it is one of the MOSt imp things....spend of education n it ll take care of u for the rest of ur life. SO if a fsther is able to afford putting their child in a good school..then why not do it?

    2. Wellhowever kind n generous each of us want to be..therez a stroke of slefshness in us..n thts not necessarily bad tho it may nto be good. it is natural that parents want to have children. it is hard to convince onself to not havea child n instead donate to other children on a daily basis!

    other points..i think Cf is rite. There shld be a limit abt how much we spend on our children. there is no reason why we shld provide them an AC car or every other toy in town!

  • It is one the most exciting and happy experience bringing up the child.There can not be one single correctb way of bringing them up.Any parent would do his/her best for the child.Ultimatly,it is PARVARISH...nothing else

  • @Di: Thanks! And yes - I agree with your comment that kids mimic their parents/teachers/older siblings .. and look up to them. So it is important what standards we, in any of those capacities, set for the children to follow.

    @Sumit: What you said about aloofness in children protected from harsher realities may be true .. But I am not sure whether that is the complete picture. That's the reason I hesitate from agreeing with this point in its entirety.

    @Pavi: I agree with your points. However, there is a distinction between "good" education and "expensive" education. The trend in the big cities in India is shocking .. with parents having to shell out lakhs of rupees to get their children enrolled into the prestigious schools .. and most of the time it is just to satisfy the parents' ego! This, IMHO, is uncalled for.

    @BK Chowla: Thanks for putting the entire issue in one sentence - It's all about Parvarish! That's invaluable advice which I will keep in mind in the future :)

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