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Not in front of my friends. . .
"It's the worst kind of nightmare for any teenager, " says Nishant Kaushik. "You plan this normal, post-Class XII exam vacation with friends and find your parents parked there. " The 18-year-old was in Mussoorie with two of his friends for barely a day when he came face to face with his folks. "They followed me there! I could have died of embarrassment! This was their idea of a joke? Why do parents forget they were young once and there are certain things that are a complete no-no as far as parents are concerned?" Nishant's form of protest? "Taking the next bus to Delhi and sulking majorly over the next few days. "
As most parents know, kids seem to specialise in moments of parental mortification. But then, the reverse also holds true. Wonder if there is any child that hasn't been embarrassed by its parents at some point? Only last week, Hollywood actress Sarah Jessica Parker revealed that her eight-year-old son, James, has created a list of rules for her to ensure she doesn't do anything in public that might make him uncomfortable. "James doesn't like me using words he thinks I'm too old to use and I'm not allowed to dance in front of anyone, " a website quoted the Sex And The City lead as saying. "I would never dance in public in a million years but I do it in private just to annoy him. I used to do a special song and dance for him when he was a toddler, but now when I say I feel it coming on, he screams, 'Nooooo', " she says.
Fifteen-year-old Mehak Atri could well empathise with James. "There are a million things that would make it to my list. " Dad's jokes in front of her friends top the list. She talks about the orientation session for parents at her new school where, "daddy started talking about the time he had to first dissect a frog. It was supposed to have been a joke. No one in my class laughed except for him. It was so embarrassing, " she says. Following closely is his metrosexual dressing in shorts and pink t-shirts (" you'll be surprised he has some" ); together with his "incessant requests for a back scratch", again in front of her friends, she giggles. And for her mom Archana, the 'no-no list' includes, "no visible strands of grey hair and keeping away from her faded jeans and loose tees that maybe have been in at one point, are so uncool now. "
As clinical psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma says, "The tables have turned, and children seem to be revelling in their new role that sees them as more assertive in family matters. No longer content just to be 'seen and not heard', they even dictate the way their parents must act and behave. But often, what both sides forget that this should be done in a way that no one gets offended. A fine balance has to be struck. " But, more often than not, parents enjoy giving in to their kids, says Nilanjana Puri, a teacher, who's been a keen observer of this trend. Kids want their parents to be 'cool' but not 'too cool'. "You can't be cooler than your kids. People like Genelia D'Souza's parents in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na are fine in movies, but they wouldn't work in real life. " When broadcasters Prabhjot and Sanjiv Baruah gave their son the green signal to celebrate his 18th birthday at home, he had a strict condition: "We had to stay out of the house till the wee hours. So you may think you are completely with it, but your kids are on another wavelength altogether, " says Prabhjot wistfully.
Ruchi Dhir, 36, in dealing with her little sons, keeps going back to her own time as a kid. "Kids need space to do their own thing. I remember how I would hardly have any time with friends after my German classes at Max Mueller, because papa would invariably be waiting outside to pick me up. It was undoubtedly embarrassing at the time - after all, I was no kid. " She can appreciate her dad so much more now. "It was much better than going back in crowded buses but at the time one didn't have the patience for such sentiments, mainly because none of the other students' dads would come to pick them up, " she smiles. Dhir, however, doubts whether her 11-year-old Rahul would ever be an "obedient, meek child" like she was. "He takes decisions and expects us to follow them. Not just in front of his friends, he wants us to behave in a certain way even at our own family functions. Seeing us sing and dance (something that all Punjabis so enjoy), makes him feel very awkward. And of course, baby talk is a complete no-no. Say his pet name aloud in front of his friends and he gets furious, " smiles Dhir, refusing to part with the term of endearment for us to print. "You must be joking, " she says.
Dr Sharma calls this part of growing up. "Listen to your kids but don't give them the message that all their whims and fancies will be heard. "
Fourteen-year-old Tulika Munjal threw a fit when just before her school PTA, her father cut off his mooch and got his hair styled. "He looked terrible. I'd have been a laughing stock if I unleashed him like that. " So Papa was forced to bunk the compulsory PTA meeting and send a note of apology instead. Of course, Tulika's list of no-nos doesn't end there. "No using words like chill and fundoo in front of her friends. And no playing loud music, either at home or in the car when I pick her up from school, " laughs her father Dhirendra Munjal.
Beyond a point, most parents say they don't take such things seriously. "You can't keep giving in to them all the time, because there'll be no end to stuff that embarrasses kids about you. One moment you are your usual self (the one they're used to) and in the next you're embarrassing them, " says Munjal. "You can't ever win this one. "
As psychiatrist Dr Samir Parekh says, "All this is very transitory. With time, new expectations keep cropping up, both with parents as well as with children. Before you know it, we'll have the next generation to deal with. And with it a whole new set of rules and expectations. "
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