“Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
According to my bond; no more nor less.”
— Cordelia, King Lear (Act I, Scene I)
We love our family without question, be it our parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. It’s a universally accepted rule that “Family comes first”. When it comes to relationships family is given the first priority in most cases or at least we’ve always been told to do so. We Indians are extremely family oriented people. From what I’ve observed and seen in my family our culture is such that we’ve been made to believe that love for family should eclipse friendships and even romantic relationships. Hell, even romance is a family affair here. My grandmother’s sisters, her third son’s wife’s brother’s dog has more of say in whom I love than I do. I’d like to explore if we’ve incessantly been romanticising the concept of family and if it’s all that it’s made up to be.
Hell, even romance is a family affair here. My grandmother’s sisters, her third son’s wife’s brother’s dog has more of say in whom I love than I do.
I find it rather awkward to tell my parents I love them. Not because I don’t love them but because it was never really a practice. Their love for me manifested in the form of remote controlled cars and Pokémon cards. Coming from a fairly well off family, I was often reminded by my parents that I had been given “everything” and therefore I had no excuse to fail in studies or in life. From being sent to arguably one of the best schools to going on exotic vacations, having the latest video games, dining at the fanciest restaurants, the whole shebang, I was constantly told how grateful I should be.
The only emotions I was allowed to have was about physics, chemistry and biology. In her head, I was only the sum of my exam marks.
I was never one to discuss my feelings and such touchy topics with my parents, but this one time in 10th grade, having had an emotionally stressful day after dealing with a friend, I thought I’d get my mom’s opinion on it. What followed, as expected of any clichéd family drama, was not good. She told me that she doesn’t care and to go suck it up and focus on my upcoming tests and that friends weren’t important and that they’re a waste of time. My mom is an extremely family oriented person, she had about one and half friends through school and college and was an A-grade introvert, so such a reaction was hardly unexpected from her, but it was still rather irritating that she didn’t even bother to give it a thought. Her stance always remained the same when it came to these sorts of topics. The only emotions I was allowed to have was about physics, chemistry and biology. In her head, I was only the sum of my exam marks. Having no inherent value of my own, the value of my achievements was only relative to what her colleagues’ or her brothers’ children had accomplished. However, living in an infamous meritocracy such as India, it’s safe to say this sort of attitude is not very uncommon.
My dad on the other hand never cared much for marks, neither did he have the ‘what would people say!?’ attitude my mom had. In 12th grade, during a usual fight with my mom regarding my scores in a mock exam, a new argument was put forth by the opposition. I was told what a financial burden I had been to the family, I was reduced to a mere bill, with my mom stating a nice, long list of things they would have saved money on if I wasn’t born. What puzzled me was the fact that I was some sort of financial transaction to her. As grateful as I am for all they’ve given me, I never really asked for any of it. I didn’t ask to be born in that particular family, I didn’t ask to be given all the luxuries they graciously bestowed upon me. Ironically enough, this is probably why I wouldn’t have any children of my own; all you get is poop stained clothes and extra bills. I started to think about the concept of family objectively.
As for the child, it doesn’t get to pick its family, you don’t have a choice as to who your father will be or mother will be. Would you befriend your parents if you met them as strangers?
It made me question what we’ve been made to believe about loving our family, the whole concept of family and whether settling down with two kids and a dog was the ultimate goal as we are made to believe. It’s safe to say almost every parent works to give their child the best they possibly can. Be it a wage labourer who can only afford to buy his kids new clothes only twice a year, or a multi billionaire tycoon who lets his kids go max out their credit cards in Louis Vuitton. I feel once you make the decision to bring a new life into existence it’s your duty to raise that child to the best of your abilities. It’s not a choice; you’re not doing the kid a favour. It’s not negotiable; it’s not a question of love. As for the child, it doesn’t get to pick its family, you don’t have a choice as to who your father will be or mother will be. Would you befriend your parents if you met them as strangers? For example, if they were students at your college or colleagues at your work place, objectively speaking, from what you know about them as a person and their personality, how likely is it that you would go and talk to them? Is love that leaves you with no choice even real love? Another question that messes with my head is whether my father is in fact, ‘The Best Daddy in The Whole Wide World’? Honestly, how many times have you heard that one before? Are we attaching meaning to something that’s merely their job as parents? Wouldn’t any parent do the same for their kids?
But I’d like to ask if this attitude is because we’ve been romanticising the concept of having a family. Is it necessary to have children at all?
A mother’s love is believed to be the most purest and unconditional. I’d like to ask if she can love a child whose blood doesn’t run in her veins with the same passion. Apart from the fraction of the population that adopts, because they most probably couldn’t conceive or because they need a token Cambodian child to parade around in their fund raising tea parties, I’m talking about the vast majority of the population. There are millions of kids orphaned for no fault of their own, with no homes, but we still prefer to make our own than adopt one. Are they any less deserving than our own children? I’m not suggesting that we stop making babies; as much as that would help curb our cancerous population, no, I’m not forcing anyone to adopt, it comes down to personal choice. But I’d like to ask if this attitude is because we’ve been romanticising the concept of having a family. Is it necessary to have children at all? Procreating was necessary in the past as it was a question of survival and perpetuating the species. Going at around 7.4 billion, I think it’s safe to assume the human race is not exactly threatened with extinction.
Why is “settling down” with a family the status quo? Why are we labeled immature if we don’t want to do so?
In India having a baby has become part of the social paradigm of things, because you’re expected to, and for the rest of us it’s for “the joy of experiencing child birth and raising a child”. I think this is not a good enough reason or justification for bringing another life into this world. Looking at the present generation I think it’s safe to say some parents weren’t the most suited for the job.
Why is “settling down” with a family the status quo? Why are we labeled immature if we don’t want to do so? Wouldn’t it be mature to first evaluate whether it’s actually necessary and whether we are really ready for such a responsibility? I think these are questions we should all be asking. I personally think humans are at the prime of our existence in the 21st century and we should try and make the most of it and reserve this time for ourselves. I guess at the end of the day, the bonds we have with family, there’s something that goes beyond the blood ties, something that we can’t explain with plain logic and science. But the aforementioned questions are worth pondering over anyway as it is so curious how everything falls in place at the end of the day.