Growing up, I considered parenting to be an inheritable skill. You are automatically appointed to this job when you give birth and the skills just come naturally to you. You are supposed to magically understand every single want and need of your child.
"Our parents know what's best for us" is a phrase we have become accustomed to hearing. But, as I grew older, the edges of this line seemed to blur.
When I was younger, my parents would be the first person I would go to for learning anything new. To me, they seemed to know and understand everything. This perception changed with time. I was introduced to the internet and slowly I realised there were certain topics on which other people had slightly advanced knowledge than my parents. And that is completely fine. Having this feeling is not a form of disrespect in any way. It's just that my veil lifted from the idea that my parents know everything about everything. With this, I also encountered the harsh reality that maybe our parents, even with the best of intentions, do not always know what is best for us.
Sanjana Lamia, 23, and soon-to-be graduate, resonates with this sentiment. "It is not possible for our parents to know everything. For example, they don't and cannot know what career will be best for me. I, myself, can be the best judge of what will bring me happiness in life," says Sanjana. But in a lot of cases, expression of such sentiments is not taken in a good way by our society or parents themselves.
As I started to near the parenting age myself, I looked for all the natural parenting skills I was supposed to magically acquire but they were nowhere to be found. It hit me that parenting is an art form and just like every art it requires practice and you learn through trial and error. But, you need to learn. That's the core part we seem to forget sometimes and hold this foolish idea that just by giving birth we will be indulged with the necessary skills required to raise a child and possess the skills to know what is right for that child.
"I became a mother at a very young age. At first, I was paranoid about my child getting hurt or falling sick and not being able to meet his needs. It got better gradually with time and parenthood became less intimidating after my second child was born," shares Chaman Afroz, a mother of two.
If we look at Bangladesh, from a young age, we are taught to be many things. We are taught to be good children, obedient students, and proper partners to our significant others. But, one thing we never care to learn is parenting. Movies and TV shows sometimes show us that when you hold a baby in your arms for the very first time, you magically acquire all the parental skills. This whole concept is harmful because when a lot of new parents feel helpless about parenting, they might think that there is some inherent fault within them for not naturally knowing what to do, it might even deter them from seeking help. Sure, as you see your baby for the very first time, your parental instinct to protect the child kicks in. But, in this modern and complex world, that is just not enough anymore.
Unfortunately, although parenting is one of the most important jobs in the world, most of us are thrown into parenthood without much knowledge as to what to do. A lot of the time, we can take great care of a baby by always feeding them on time and getting them all the things they want. But, more often than not, the emotional needs of the child are kept out of this equation.
"Taking care of a baby takes a great toll on your physical health. I had to stay up nights feeding and changing diapers. But, to be honest, it seemed more straightforward than raising a teenager. I never know the right thing to do. I wish there was a book with all the guidelines as to what to do," comments *Mehrin Akhter, another mother of two, with one of them being the aforementioned teenager.
Sadly, apart from the myriad of self-help books titled "Guide to Parenting", there is no one-stop solution containing all the required information to transform one into a "good parent". And, maybe it's time we steer clear from this idea of a "good" or "perfect" parent and start to see them as human beings who can make mistakes just like us. Only then can you create a room for understanding each other.
Most of the parents I spoke to for writing this article did not have much prior knowledge about raising children. It was an art that they picked up along the way and got better at it with time. They also agreed that having some prior knowledge would have been of immense help on this journey. "If I was given some guidelines as to how to take care of a child, it would have definitely helped me communicate better with my daughter and lead to fewer disagreements between us," says *Yasmin Begum, a mother of a graduating daughter.
With the increase in sexual violence towards women in Bangladesh, this issue of parenting becomes all the more important. Along with all the many important lessons our youths are provided with, they should also be made to realise the importance of being responsible for another human being so that they can also have the agency to decide if they want to take on such responsibility.
We have heard phrases such as "You will understand everything once you become a parent yourself" from our elders. But, for such an important job as parenting, can we afford to learn it on the spot?
*Names have been changed for privacy
Tasnim Odrika has only one personality trait and that is cats. Share ideas for new personality traits with her at email@example.com