Why are parents so eager to tell the world that their children are the best?

Rohan, come here and say ‘one, two three’ to this aunty and uncle,” cooed Bindu, an acquaintance. But little Rohan remained silent; he looked at us strangely, as if wondering how we (the aunty and uncle) grew to be so big without knowing one, two, three! “Come on Rohan, say it, there’s a good boy,” pleaded his mum. But Rohan, already distracted by a big fly, ran away after it. “Funny, he usually says it whenever there are guests; guess he’s not in the ‘mood’ for it now,” his dad reasoned. However, after that bad start, 15-month-old Rohan got his act together; he counted up to 10, said the first line of this rhyme, a few words from that sloka, and generally pleased his parents no-end by ‘performing’ almost non-stop. At the end of the evening, we came away convinced that (a) Rohan’s parents clearly believed he was a prodigy (b) we would never go to their house for dinner again; at least not until Rohan grew up and went away to college.

New parents, really, should be recognised as a completely different gender altogether. Their outlook changes overnight and even the most diffident ones, as a rule, are raring to tell the world how clever their child is. They breathlessly list their achievements, their advanced motor-skills, their phenomenal verbal abilities, their stupendous memory, their this and that.

Of course, this ‘I take great pride in my child, preen, preen’ routine is quite natural honestly, which parent can own up that he/she never bragged that their child rolled over in record time, can distinguish the letter ‘w’ from ‘m’, can reel off all the capitals in the world…?

“When my first-born Shravan was a baby, he was good at imitating animal sounds, especially the elephant,” recalls Yashoda Pindi.

“So, whenever we had company, I used to ask him to make the elephant noise, with the corresponding hand (trunk) movement!” she laughs. “But this pride in the child’s achievement doesn’t stop with the first child,” says Beena George. “I had tears in my eyes when my son and daughter were on stage for the first time.”

Today and now, it is actually quite simple letting the world at large know all about your kids’ achievements. Cyber-space teems with enthusiastic parent-bloggers, who upload live their child’s first few faltering steps, e-mail cute pictures of their little darling to everybody on the mailing list and sit back and beam when people politely go ‘awwww, isn’t he/she cute!’.

But parents’ showing-off their children isn’t new; and it is certainly not restricted to cyber-savvy couples. Beena recalls an incident during her childhood. “When I was very young, I somehow managed to read an entire story in Malayalam. I remember, distinctly, that the story was about an industrious hen, and I was rather fond of the tale. My parents obviously got very thrilled, and every time we had a visitor, they used to call me forward and say ‘Beena, why don’t you say your kozhi amma story’. I enjoyed all the attention immensely the first couple of times; then it lost its charm, and till date, the kozhi amma story embarrasses me!” she laughs.

“There are times when all this boasting about kids and their differential abilities can foster unpleasantness and complexes,” says Yashoda. “Besides, unwittingly, we’re imposing our likes/dislikes very strongly on the child,” she adds. “When you overdo it, it especially affects the kid’s psyche, as they feel pushed, pressurised to perform consistently,” warns Beena. “Frankly, beyond a point, it’s highly amusing!” says Indumathi Elangovan. “Of course, for each of us, our kids are exceptional; however, won’t it be much nicer to let others notice it rather than thrust it under their nose?”

But then, what would we do for entertainment?

APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

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