Thought for the Day - Akhandadhi Das - 10/05/2013
Good morning. Yesterday, listening to this programme one particular phrase leapt out at me. A young man named Colin explained how, at the age of sixteen, he was moved from his previous care arrangements into a hostel with no consistent support from those institutions he had come to regard as his family. “I didn’t leave care,” he said, “it left me.” Several children’s charities are suggesting that young people who have been in care – through no fault of their own – need much more help during the difficult transition into adulthood.
There’s a saying in India that you do not become a man until two years after your father dies. The idea is that we continue to regard ourselves as children as long as our parents are alive. And, it takes time to adjust to being without the physical presence of those who raised us and were, ideally, a backstop for the upsets and challenges that life throws at us.
These days, most parents expect to continue supporting their twenty and thirty-something kids – both emotionally and financially - with no clear cut-off point. I remember one eminent radio presenter telling me that he would probably be maintaining his kids when they were forty. So, the argument is that, in the same way many parents watch over their own children until they’re established, we should try to provide the same opportunities and help for Colin and others like him emerging from the care system.
But, this Hindu proverb also contains a warning; that a grown adult may fail to take proper responsibility for themselves because of over-dependence on indulgent or smothering parents. I think it cautions us about so-called “helicopter parents”: hovering, ready to dive in at the slightest hint of concern. So, both parenting and social care involve a balance of offering support and nurturing self-reliance. This is surely the hope for all young people. However and by whomever they are raised, they should experience, as that young man who’d been through care said yesterday: the stability, the help and the time to get themselves focussed.
The Vedic text, Srimad Bhagavatam, says we have no right to bring children into this world unless we can free them from suffering. This is a huge – seemingly impossible – obligation which requires, not just birth parents, but society as well, to do the best we can to raise children to be happy, healthy adults in this life. But, even that endeavour is not enough for the Bhagavatam. It asks that we also help our dependents achieve the stability and peace that comes from understanding that life extends before and beyond the limits of the cradle and the grave.
Available since: Fri 10 May 2013
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