My parents have always had a bit of Yin and Yang in their social behaviour. At least, that has been my observation as a child. But they have always been somewhat outgoing. Not quite party animals in the traditional sense, but still very social creatures. Unfortunately for them, I never entirely turned out that way.
As a kid, I can't remember a weekend when we weren't attending some sort of party or social get-together. In fact, most times we played host. The reason? Well, my parents were, and still remain to this day, damn good hosts. Yes, the ones who go that extra mile (and half!) to make sure everyone has a good time, tasty food to devour, a diverse variety of drinks to keep the conversation going, and games to engage some friendly team brouhaha. They even made sure there were things to do for the kids.
Growing up, I've often felt that my parents would make kickass party planners. Not the fake 'pish-posh' ones; but the ones who always knew the pulse of the guests. Of course, back then I didn't know there was such a thing as 'party planner'. I blame the 80s and 90s for that. Suffice to say, our weekends were mostly packed with things to do.
There was another reason why we played hosts. We were one of the few fortunate people to live in an independent villa as opposed to a flat. (Yes, I'm aware that the phrase 'villa' makes it sound really posh). Dubai and the UAE, in general, was still going through the real estate bubble back then, but flats were mostly the norm everywhere, especially in the cities. But you know the drill with apartments and parties - you always have to think about the neighbourhood. No loud noises after 11pm - no yelling, screaming, music - the likes.
Our detached house gave us some freedom from those societal norms. Plus, we lived way out of the city - which meant lots of parking spots for guests. And kids back then really enjoyed playing outside. Well, we had an Atari console during our generation - and let's be honest - great concept, but not the best group activity.
So, I have fond memories of playing outside even at midnight. Because, well, we could. There were walls to be scaled, swings to be swung, roofs to be climbed onto and general naughtiness to be gotten into. Of course, my only gripe with all of this was that I was often the eldest in the group of kids - which meant I was both host and chaperone. But if I'm honest, I quite enjoyed it. Sort of made up for the fact that I was an only child.
And then when all got tired from playing, we'd just go sleep. Wherever. However. On someone's lap. Under a pile of coats. It absolutely did not matter. Not to us. And probably not so much to our parents either. We just knew that our parents would pick us up when it was time to go home. Or if they were staying back, well, we'd just continue to sleep where we'd fallen asleep. And on occasions where we had to return home late at night, I have vague memories of my father just throwing me over his shoulder like I was a sack of potatoes, and just dumping me in the backseat of the car. My mom would just throw a shawl or something over me, and they'd head back. Simpler times.
I'm quite conscious that all of this makes it sound like parents from generations previous didn't really care much about kids. No, they did. But there's a reason I brought this up. I've been thinking a lot about this recently. Even as a parent in this current world, I say this:
As a generation, we are now way too overprotective of kids these days. I probably am too. And I agree - it's not the same world that we grew up in. Threats are less 'black and white' these days, and definitely more high-tech. There are also more opportunities for kids to get screwed up.
However I feel, and I'm quite guilty of this too, we don't let kids be kids at times. We work too much around their convenience than the other way around. For instance, I've seen parents say they're leaving a party because it was 8pm. And their kid needed to sleep. I appreciate the thought behind it, but please don't make your kid the reason to leave. The kid will sleep where he or she is. My parents would have probably just asked me to go to sleep somewhere there, and then just take me home later. I know that sounds callous in some way - but as a parent, I really appreciate that they were like that and didn't mollycoddle me.
I love being a parent, and I'm willing to make tons of adjustments to my life for my kid. Because I want to. I have to. And to be fair, we decided to bring him into this world. But, I'm also determined to remind him periodically that the sun doesn't shine out of his lovely little behind. So, he will need to adjust too.
There has been a lot of talk about this new style of parenting that's cropping up these days. Apparently called 'snowplough' parents, these are the ones who are determined to remove every last obstacle from the paths of their kids. No matter how simple or trivial it may seem. I suspect the College Admissions Scandal that's going on in the US is probably a result of this 'privilege' thought process.
Having said that, I will also take a moment to appreciate the sentiment here. As parents, we all want the best for our kids. But let's dwell on this for a minute too.
Think about the kind of example we're setting our kids. Yes, they know we've got their backs. But if history has taught us one thing, it is this - people who reach the pinnacle of success without overcoming any obstacles on their own are entitled arses. Okay, maybe one or two exceptions are there - but mostly they all turn out that way. These are the ones who go to places and ask stupid questions like 'Do you know who my father or mother is?' - which I'm always tempted to answer with, 'I'm sorry - don't you?'
So parents, love your kids as much as you'd love yourself. Or even more. They deserve it. But don't be blinded so much by your desire to give them all they want, that they stop appreciating the finer things in life. That joy of working hard for something. That smile of a job that's well done. And so many other things that you can't put a price on.
Give them a backstory to tell.
So that one day when they're successful, they can talk about overcoming the odds. Let them inspire future generations with their story.
Don't take that away from them.