In our culture, parents, grandparents and other elders have a place of importance. One particular endearing aspect of our culture is the respect we show to elders. Since childhood, we are taught to touch the feet of our elders. We treat them with respect. We don’t raise our voices against our elders. We address our parents’ friends as uncle or auntie and not by their names or surnames. All these stem from the belief that elders are wiser, they know better, they sacrifice a lot to make us come up in life, and much after we are adults and have families of our own, they are still there to support us, provide guidance and love.
Of course, many elders crib that this culture is getting vitiated and that youngsters are becoming irreverential. Not totally untrue, I would say that there is a certain problem with their rigid thinking as well. Elders do not always know the best in all situations, but they feel that just by the virtue of being older they are always right. I learn so much from my kids and others. I cannot say that I know what is the best thing to do in all situations. Hence, we all must cultivate the habit of listening. Our elders must be conservative in giving their opinions in all matters and must not take umbrage if those are not acted upon. It gets my goat when I hear things like “hamaare yahan aisa hi hota hai” (this is the way in our family). That is not a good enough reason for anyone to continue doing things that don’t make sense anymore. We do the same when we tell our kids that this is what had happened in our childhood, and you don’t know how privileged you are. I can almost hear them say “move on :).”
Elders must be willing to listen with an open heart. Discussing something with respect with an elder is not tantamount to disrespect. Fear is not the equivalent of respect. As much as we require their love and guidance, they must not be intrusive or imposing. It takes a lot of maturity from an elder to handle dissent. Joint family system that has many advantages is slowly withering away because of lack of maturity from both sides. To maintain peace and harmony, parents are increasingly not living with their children and their families. One reason also is because they cannot evolve with the rapidly changing lifestyles of their children.
There is no right or wrong in these situations. But, these are things that all of us need to keep in mind. My biggest grouse is that many elders are dogmatic, rigid and so difficult to approach. They have this halo of self-righteousness around them and walk around with fragile egos. Every generation rues over the corruption of morals of the following generation. But, instead of generalizations, it would help a lot to try and understand what is going wrong where. And, I believe that improvement and change starts with me. Any relationship can be worked upon if the intent is there from both sides. Parents can be such a positive influence in our lives and those of our kids that it would be worth an effort to have a good relationship with them.
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