There is a saying that goes Sunhlu kungah thei dang a rah ngailo (Mizo proverb). Literally, it means ‘Gooseberry tree bears no other fruit than gooseberry’; basically, it means ‘Like yields like’. Parenting is one hell of a burden, I can tell. Anyway, there are two ends of every administration regarding a system where there is a leader and the subjects. Family is a system wherein parents are the leaders and the children it’s subjects. The two ends are that of the parents’ end and that of the children’s end, the Giving end and the Receiving end. Nevertheless, there is still one interesting fact that remains: Children are, in one way or the other, the mirror image of their parents.
When we were young I remember a lot of things we’d do, usually at the ends of our own emotion, and received a good scolding for it. Growing up, spending some time away from the family for educational purposes, getting a different kind of atmosphere which can sometimes be really unpleasant yet made me stronger, gives me a certain new perspective on certain things that influence upbringing in the family.
Years ago, when were quite young – me and my siblings, whenever we have some sort of argument there’s always one who’d get angry and hurt at the end. One very common action is rushing into the room and banging the door shut. BANG! The loud banging of the door is some sort of expression of anger and disgust. Poor door! And my dad would get furious over such action that a good scolding and maybe a beating or two usually follows. He’d fuss over our ‘violence’, and the long, winding speech of how-to-handle-things-gently was unavoidable. The other day, right after dinner, dad was already done when he called out to mom who was still at the dining table. He said something about having to do something and mom replied with the needlessness of her presence. Dad suddenly got irritated and went to their room and banged the door shut behind him! Ah! The good old days!
My mom often scolded my sisters for ‘man-handling’ things, by which I mean handling things, mostly utensils as they frequent the kitchen, in a rough way when they are angry over some things usually which is when she scold them or complain about them. Now, I will not forget the night I pointed something I don’t like on my mom and she got so mad she made such dreadful noise with the cooking utensils in the kitchen! And I wonder again, such similarity! I never hear mom telling my sisters to bang around things in expression of their anger; in fact, mom would be the one who gets irritated the most over such actions! I’d say it’s just plain, undistorted image of the ruling: Like mother like daughter.
Dad has probably got the worst vocabulary ever when it comes to insulting! And by ‘worst’, I’m not saying ‘poor’; in fact, his vocabulary is so good that when he really scold-cum-insults me I feel like I just want to die right there and then. You can imagine the fear of getting beheaded by the guillotine is a far more comfortable choice, and I’m slightly exaggerating. Anyway, my point is, there’s this time during a family dinner that dad complained about my sister’s words and vocabulary and stuff – that her words of anger are hurtful and insulting and so on. That was the time I felt like crying out loud to him, saying: We have always been with you and from where do you think we pick up all these you’re complaining about? But then I respect him too much to ever raise a voice but it was not without struggle that I kept my thoughts to myself.
One evening, my younger brother came home from school and immediately got into the bathroom to wash off his socks. Dad didn’t know that and thought he sat in front of the computer and playing games; and he immediately started to raise his voice and complain without proper reason. I could almost hear myself a little louder than my usual self when I explained what really happen. Sometimes, I hear myself and my siblings losing our heads over things which we thought happening but which used to be otherwise. And our parents would often scold us for unreasonable behaviour like such. Thing is, I just heard my dad lose his head for the same reason we get rebuked for. And these are a few examples I can recall momentarily.
Maybe it’s age or something that sensitizes the perception to notice all these things. Silly things they do that, lately, reminds me of my childhood emotions and reactions. Whenever I hear my dad or mom complain about things concerning our behaviour, I find myself thinking the question, but never asked it out loud: “Where do you think we learn all these from?” We have been nowhere but under our parents’ care since we can know it, we look up to them for everything tiny little thing that comes in our way. I must admit though, it sometimes is kind of funny and entertaining to see childish behaviours, which we remembered so well doing it ourselves, in our parents. Well, like yields like.
Sometimes you can see a small kid, too young to have proper judgment, enticed into imitating his or her parents. Even though people usually laugh away at such imitations, a closer look can reveal a lot about the family and the parents who head over the institution. Family, they say, is the first and foremost institution. I used to notice people evaluate growing youths like us; any kind of impression we make always leads to the same questions: Who are his/her parents? What does his/her father do? What kind of mother does he/she have? What kind of family does he/she come from? The things that we do, the vocabulary that we use, the kind of mindset we have, the character that we project, tells a story of our family background. We become our parents.
In connection to this, the burden is usually and cleverly placed upon the children. Along comes all the to-do’s and not-to-do’s as a child of your parents. Rebukes follow blunders, more rebukes follow shame, still more rebukes follow the-so-called-loose-character and it goes on and on. If there is something I learn as I start off the third decade of my life, then this is one: my mistakes doesn’t go away because I prayed that it goes away, my mistakes doesn’t go away when I blame others for it, my mistakes doesn’t go away by self-righteousness; but, I can improve myself by learning from my mistakes and making sure I don’t commit the same mistake over and over again. Family is one institution where both parties learn; it is the first educational establishment for children and a self-assessment for the parents.
We become our parents. So, in a way, we become the mirror for our parents. No one can deny the necessity of didactic parenthood for the children, but this only corroborates to the importance of each parent’s character and individuality. Has it occurred to any parent that what your child does which irritates you is the exact same thing that has been subconsciously cultivated from your own behaviour? Sometimes we forget that our actions have results and reactions that come right back at us. I often hear mothers complain about their sons’ or daughters’ temper and it usually turns out they are quite cantankerous themselves! Some parents are a little smarter; my dad used to say to me that I’m more educated than him now and that I should be able to nullify by shortcomings but never did he admit his own and at the same time didn’t either.
Nonetheless, gooseberry tree will always bear gooseberry. No matter how much you want one, you’re never going to get an apple out of a gooseberry tree. But there is an upside to that; with the proper nurturing and care, one can make a big difference between one hell of a tasty gooseberry or a bitter one, one that bears much fruit or a scanty harvest, one that provides shade for others or just another misplaced tree. My aunt’s garden has two types of star fruit (thei herhawt) – a sweet one and a sour one. Whenever it is in season we used to pluck star fruits from the sweet one, we never really eat much of the sour one. I for one never even bothered to look at the tree that bears sour fruits. And only the sweet ones give seeds for sweet star fruits, like yields like. Given the right amount of nurturing and care, the two trees will yet give their own kind of harvest; one will always be sweet, the other always sour. It is the parent seed that matters, the seed that has the quality and character to become either sweet or sour.
We of the offspring generation inherit in us the qualities that have been displayed right in front of our eyes ever since we arrived into this world. Take a long, good look at us and you will know the kind of family we come from, and you will come to know our parents – the ones who brought us up. There are a lot of new things we would want to develop and take responsibility for, but at the same time, we are the rough carbon copy of every parent that raised us. If any mother or father should complain about his or her child in any form be it moral or practical, I strongly belief it would help clear a lot of questions if the parent would take a good look into his or her own self. After all, where else do you think your kid has developed all these characters from? Family is the first institution, and I daresay the foremost.