Have you noticed what happens when a baby has a fall, or when it bangs its head inadvertently against a table or wall while playing? The shaken baby of course starts bawling. But what interests me is the way those around, the grownups, react. The mother, father or one of the handy grandparents around and/or someone else in the vicinity rush over, pick up the bawling baby and spout words of consolation. There, there little one, don’t cry, they say, checking to make sure baby has not hurt itself. They rub the injured part (if any, or otherwise pretend there is one) and wipe the tears off chubby cheeks. Awww…. don’t the tears on long lashes look so absolutely adorable. Warm kisses are showered on the cute face to reassure baby that everything is alright. Most babies, loathe to let such a golden opportunity pass by without milking it to the maximum, cry some more. More kisses and more attention please. I am so loving it.
Then something curious happens. The supposedly sensible grown-ups (or at least a sizeable chunk of them) who have been pampering the baby, go hit the floor where the child fell (or the table or wall where the baby had banged its head) and say,
“Bad, bad floor. Why did you hurt my darling baby?! Take that and that!”
“Is this the table that hit you, darling? Take that and that you bad, bad table, hurting my sweet little baby!”
Crazy as that sounds, not content with spouting such balderdash, they then egg on the little one to follow their vindictive example and seek vengeance in a similar manner. Tiny feet can then be observed going pitter patter to the offending spot and the even tinier fists pummel the floor (or whatever offending object it was that had come in the way) and coming back. Applause and smiles greet the baby who is now all smiles itself at having got that right and won approval from loved ones. Awww… oh-so-cute and so innocent, right?
You have just witnessed the first lessons to the human baby on playing blame-games and how best to palm off responsibility, taught (incredible as it may seem) by none other than the baby’s own parents. Of course grandparents, extended family and other near and dear ones join the parents in solidarity to reinforce the message from the tenderest of ages. Quite early on in life the child has been initiated in putting the blame on someone or something outside rather than correcting self. After all, a fall or crash is never the floor’s (or the table or the wall’s) fault, is it? And yet for some strange reason, the baby is encouraged to think so, laying the foundation for a smilar future.
Did I hear someone say these are harmless and innocent diversionary tactics to stop the baby crying and dwelling on the fall? R.e.a.l.l.y? I mean to say is this the best that humans can come up with in the form of “diversionary tactics” to take away a baby’s attention from an unpleasant expereince? Give me a bleddy break. I have brought up two of my own and we all got on just fine without ‘taking revenge’ on inanimate objects for carelessness on the children’s part. What is wrong with a ‘You gotta be careful while walking/running”? Doesn’t that put the responsibility where it actually belongs? Or simply don’t talk about it, just console the child, talk of other things. What’s wrong with a little fuss, a little caution and a lot of love and whatever else you want to offer minus only the drama of revenge, a wrong lesson? You hurt me, I hurt you. Wah wah! What a beautiful thing to teach your child! Not that the floor or chair or wall ever hurt children wilfully. But isn’t that just the impression conveyed?
The best part about the whole thing is after having sown the seeds, when it germinates, takes root and grows into a strong monster tree, these same jingbang that set the ball rolling, turn around and squarely (and mercilessly) blame adolescents and young people for (hold your breath) not taking (or not knowing to take) responsibility. They are blamed for giving it back as good as they get after the trouble taken to initiate them into it so early on. Of course it goes without saying the creators (the adults) are no better themselves. They have walked the same path and are yet to learn to stand straight and look within themselves. Most are already seriously into blaming everyone and everything in sight except themselves for the mess they are in. Most are already using sarcasm and barbed words to perfection in return for imagined slights.
I can almost hear the thought wheels churning in some readers’ minds. Come on, this is such an innocuous thing, this hitting the floor (or whatever) that ‘made’ baby fall. Why make such a big issue of it? I can also see a few eyebrows raised high in derision. Oh come on now, you are not suggesting that this action of the parents is the root of all evil?! Nope, I am making no such suggestion. But, I am suggesting that thing start and blow up from some other things we consider too small to take notice of or correct at the right time, things that we consider so harmless and oh-so-cute, but has a message inherent in it. I am just saying this is one such thing.
This actually reminds me of something that happened years back. The first born of mine was at the time a one year old. The L & M, the baby and I had just landed at our native place Palakkad. As soon as the car stopped, my mother was at the gate to see her grandson and scooped him up in her arms. She had last seen him when he had been just 3 months old. But she being a stranger to him, he soon spread his arms towards me, calling, ‘Amma…’ wanting to come back to me. My mother wanting to hold her grandson longer, said,
“Amma is bad. Don’t go to her. Stay with me…”
I am sure you must have heard such talk too. I hear it quite often all around me when people want a baby to stay with them and not go back to the one it wants to be with. “She/he is bad!” they say. Honestly, how stupid can people be?! Do they care about the baby? Have they given thought to how what they say affects the child? Here are people (sometimes those the baby is already familiar with) telling the baby that someone the baby loves is bad. How much more confusing can it get for the poor thing? Selfishness and ignorance makes people who should know better lose sight of everything else. And much as everyone likes to be oh-so-magnanimous (The I-am-so-great syndrome) and close their eyes to ignorance, remember that each of you who does that is guilty of perpetuating and glorifying it to the detriment of both yourself and others.
I have observed many grandparents want grandchildren to be more attached to them. So with no thought for the welfare of the child they play power games to get the lion’s share of the attention, competing with their own children! Wow, is this the strong bond of love between parents and children we hear so much about?! When the grandchildren arrive on the scene, they are ready to cut the feet of their own children so as to be ‘first’ in their grandchildren’s book! And they actually have the temerity to use the word love in all this. The saddest part when this happens is that, the parents (of the child) keep silent, out of “respect” (that word, my foot!) for their own elders or sometimes because for the shirkers they are (many truly are as it leaves them free to enjoy life), it is so much easier if the grandchildren are closer to the grandparents.
Since I was/am neither, I protested vociferously to my mother. Nothing doing. You DON’T tell my son that his mother is ‘bad’ No way. If you want your grandson to come to you, you have to earn his love and trust the hard way.
The views expressed here on this blog page is mine and what’s more, I have the right to do so. If you have difference of opinion, you may state so CIVILLY. I will NOT tolerate comments of a personal and vile nature. And, guess what, I will not even approve them because you see, this is MY blog page, NOT the comments section of the TOI (a delusion which some of the new commentators seem to be laboring under).