June 02, 2005

A parent by definition....

By definition a parent is one who has part ownership of begetting a child biologically. But that is just the tip of the iceberg,there is so much more to parenting than producing an offspring; the outtcome of the union of the sperm and the ovum. Yet it is this one criteria which is focused upon when parents with children decide to separate, and the matter is taken to court. Till everything is okay between the two partners who beget a child, there is no problem. Both, mother and father, do everything right by the book; drive the child for soccer, for piano classes, for buying sprees at the mall; they keep vaccination schedules, send their children to prestigious schools, and many more things.

Unfortunately, it's when things go sour in a marriage that the test of parenthood begins. How does a parent do right by his child when it means so much pain for the parent: eating humble pie at various times, giving up a major part of your earning toward child support, letting go of your child for its benefit, being reasonable with an exspouse, taking on the ire of your current partner, not overindulging your child and spoiling him simply to win brownie points, and the list goes on. How does a parent do justice by his child in the face of all these odds?

Going by the very basic principles of Darwinism, a parent is responsible for the well being of its offspring till such time that the offspring is capable of looking after itself. Parents provide a safety net for the offspring while it feels out its way into the world. The parent birds not only feed their young, they also teach them to fly, and keep them safe from predators. Not very different from what a human parent is expected to do. Except that a human offspring has a developing brain which needs as much nurturing as does its body. In fact, in countries like the United States and other developed nations, the physical need of an offspring have become secondary since they can well be taken care of by the state if the parent is absent or is unable to provide for some reason.

It is the mental well being of the child which is jeopardized when marriages fall apart. A broken home cannot provide the offspring the much needed and unconditional security net which is so vital for a childs growth. It is this intangible net of security which cajoles an infant to take that first independent step on his own, to board the bus on his first day of school, to stand up for what he believes in even when he has few supporters, to take calculated risks for betterment in life, to make experimental conjectures in scientific fields which he may or may not be able to prove. It is this ability to take risks, 'to go where no man has gone before', that is developed by the parental security net.

What happens when this net is ripped apart due to differences between the two parents? The child is plunged into inaction because he's scared of falling since he feels there'd be no one to break the fall. In this mental frame the child avoids decision making or conscious action of any sort; donning a mantle of inertia, which if left untouched over a period of time becomes the child's adult personality; one that is defensive and introverted. As an adult he becomes distrustful of people and relationships and thus perpetrates the same wrong that was done to him. A picture so marred by its own creator; whose reason for being was to produce and protect that creation.

Does that mean that parenting in the human world will soon become a dying art? That cannot be so long as the forces of procreation run strong; and that they will, thanks to the Viagras of the world. Produce we will, but whether we'll be able to function as parents thereafter remains to be seen.

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