As a young child, I have always seen my maternal grandmother
around the house, helping, vibrant, grateful, taking care of us, and teaching
us. She lost her husband a couple of years ago but still stands strong, holding
together our family of eight and now 5 grandchildren. My grandmother is well
educated and very pragmatic, I chose her for this assignment because I have
always been fascinated by the story of her generation and what she thinks of
the future generation.
My grandmother, Maryam who is now around 90, was born
in Iran, lived a part of her life in a joint family with uncles, aunts, cousins
and her two sisters. She was the oldest child and they all lived in the capital
city of Iran, Tehran. Her parents were not conservative but not too liberal either,
but they believed in educating their daughters, so that they could be
independent, think for themselves and raise their children with the same
Maryam’s mother did not get the opportunity to receive
education, since it was looked down upon during her time to send girls to
school. She had made up her mind then, to educate her daughters despite of the
evils of the society back then when one was expected to keep their daughters
home to prepare them for marriage, and because of this strong mind set, she
willingly transported Maryam at the age of 14, to India where education was on
a rise. Maryam, received her education which was not common in the community,
but it set the pace for every generation in our family. She lived with her
grandparents who moved in with her to support their grandchild’s dream.
Maryam’s childhood was spent learning her mother’s
traditional duties, culture, responsibilities and work ethics. She always had
chores for which she wasn’t paid, helped her mother in cleaning, learning to
cook traditional foods, accompanying her dad and helping him at a family owned
farm, milking the cows, cleaning out the chicken coop and other overbearing
were expected to constantly keep themselves busy, performing duties at home or
in communities. Her parents raised them to be helpful and they would help in
community cleanups, volunteered in religious schools to teach young children
and would baby sit as well. They were raised with this idea to always give back
to the community.
Schooling was an essential part and my grandmother’s
strength and willingness to learn, humbles me. My grandmother was raised with
the idea of making a difference in her community, she influenced the women of the
community to participate in social work, became a spokeswoman for women’s
education in Iran and pursued her field of study as well.
Her first job was in a retail establishment which was
a place for fabrics and sowing, she got her job when she was in her latter half
of 16 and most of the training was received on the job. She was taught how to
sow, feel fabrics and tell them apart, handle angry clients and learn the most
important task of persevering.
She had this
job for quite a while and then moved on to receiving her training as a social
worker during the day and attending school in the evening. Maryam, juggled her
time exceptionally well between her education, work, empowering women and
supporting her grandparents as well. She never complained of having shorter
days and less time to achieve her goals. She always looked forward to spending
her time with family and relatives, and her source of entertainment, was to
cook hearty meals for the family on weekends.
Marriage was taken seriously back then, and couples
stayed through thick and thin till death tore them apart. Married for four
decades, had three children all well-adjusted, college educated, and
responsible citizens has always been a source of pride for her. Even though Maryam’s
husband passed away due to cardiac arrest, their relationship had a staying
power which exemplified happiness and assurance. Sure enough they did have to
cross bumpy roads and it was not always rosy, but they just dealt with issues
Belonging to a Muslim family, Maryam was never allowed
to date, let alone think about her marriage with the guy of her dreams. She had
to marry the guy her parents chose for her because back then parents had more
authority and children respected their parent’s perspective and trusted them to
choose a befitting partner for them, so she married my grandfather in an
Maryam reckons that youth today have higher
expectations from marriages than the generation back then, which helped them
immensely to survive long relationships. Marriages today are measured by
individual happiness and success due to which divorce rates have gone up and
children these days, seem to be the targeted victims.
She also pointed out to the fact, of her children
being raised slightly different from how she was raised because she had better
education and a better outlook on life. Her children were held accountable for
their actions but without overwhelming stimulation and supervision because back
then there wasn’t any technology to track their kids, it was purely based on
mutual trust and honesty.
Children were expected to devise their personal
amusement; including games, skits, constructing forts out of sheets and playing
outdoors. They learned how to explore and discover their creativity and gain a
sense of confidence about themselves. Reading was an activity that was highly
encouraged, and her children were not burdened with overwhelming tasks. Chores
were kept to minimal, but they had everyday duties and responsibilities after
Maryam’s parents had distinct set of rules laid down,
being a girl, she could talk freely to her mother but her father being the man
of the household, was a typical stereotype of unreconstructed manhood and when
he entered the house they were expected to leave their tasks, greet and serve
him. They weren’t allowed to giggle, talk or engage in mundane tasks when the man
of the family was around.
This concept changed overtime and Maryam and her
husband worked in unison to raise their children with love and care. The father
played an equal and significant role in inculcating right habits,
responsibilities and playing a crucial part in their children’s lives.
Maryam feels that the current generation of children
are very different especially in the way they are raised, depression, divorce
rates skyrocketing, and a certain affinity linked within them. Parents have
become very controlling due to media terrifying them and their goal of becoming
the absolute parents have driven their kids to become entitled and lonely.
Parents are raising their children today with less
emphasis on parent child relationship and more emphasis is given on trying to
be friends with their children. The level of expectations for children have
been dropped down, less responsibilities assigned and often, children are
spoiled even though the parents don’t have enough earnings, they invest more
into their children than maybe they should. Most parents are raising their
children, where the children are not required to do much in their early ages
and they are expected to be responsible when they are of a certain age.
“Participation, trophy and generation” is a phrase
that comes to Maryam’s mind when talking about the children of current
generation, which signifies that with any generation born probably since 1990, have
been lead to believe that by just participating in any activity they deserve an
award, every person should be congratulated or awarded for attempting
something, children are receiving certifications for simply signing up
irrespective of their efforts and it just doesn’t seem to be a push for
competitiveness. This has been downplayed, and children are not given freedom
to investigate the world on their own since there is an overemphasis on their
safety, prohibiting them from getting the opportunity to learn and grow as well
as they could.
Children as young as toddlers have access to
technology and there is no online or offline, it’s all one continuum. Parents
feel that it’s their job to fill every minute of their kid’s life with
stimulation and entertainment, rather than ensuring schedules with structured
and unstructured time for their children, they feel handing them over tablets
or phones does the job of keeping them entertained.
At this point I realized that we should be able to
plug and unplug regularly, embracing our traditions, discovering ourselves and
only through our actions will our children learn how to handle creativity, boredom
and various aspects of life without the need of technology, head-phones or
remote controls to fast forward their childhood.
There are commonalities across generations including
differences, people have different outlooks in current generation and grew up
with technology and internet at their fingertips, able to find answers to their
questions without any assistance. I personally think parenting style has
changed overtime, the economic and political environment i.e. the exosystem,
has a lot to do with the defining characteristics of our children so, does the
peer groups in which they are raised.
Children these days are exposed to overflowing information
which has been hard to rationalize, and they are required grow up faster due to
increased expectations. Parents enroll them in endless activities, schedule
play dates, fill their personal space with books and toys, which tends to
overwhelm a child. We are essentially robbing children from the gift of boredom
which encourages creativity, self-directed learning and most importantly
enjoying childhood as it is.
Protecting young minds to develop and grow is the
basis for happy and healthy adults. By providing a sense of balance and
protecting childhood without the involvement of societal and peer pressure is
the greatest gift a child can receive in this society.