"Honour thy father and thy mother, in order that thy days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee." Hebrew version of the fourth commandment.
Since we know the other commandments, we cannot but notice that only the fourth carries a promise. The others just state the commandment. Would that be persuasion enough for children to treat parents with love and respect? Would our children learn from our example and care for us, when we become old and feeble?
Going by reports in the Newspapers, children have not got the message. The Straits Times, Singapore, on June 29,2009, carried a shocking article titled: 'When children hit their parents'. Some of the cases reported were: A son, angry over his father's
refusal to give him money for some of his bad habits, smashed a flower pot on his father's head. Seeing his father bleed, he smashed another flower pot on his head. The 67 year old man needed 7 stitches to close the wounds. On another occasion, the same boy slashed his father with a knife. The Paper reported other cases of children throwing furniture at their old parents and whacking them on their heads with metal hammers. On another date, the same Paper reported a daughter's threat to the care-givers in an old age home, where her old mother was lodged: "I will throw my mother out on the streets, if you discharge her". Perhaps the worst case was reported on another date: In Hyderabad(India), a rich family dispatched their 75 year old mother, suffering from Cancer, but still alive, to the crematorium. Fortunately, the staff at the crematorium noticed the body stir and took action.
Why do grown children, who have their own growing children, turn bitter, hostile and merciless in relating with old parents? Why do they forget the years when parents did not avoid broken glass? Instead, with bleeding feet, they made more sacrifices.
(Barefoot, a frail mother carried her ailing 10 year old son on her back over a five
mile trek across hill and valley to a Medical Centre, and carried him back, to reach home before sunset. Ten years down the line, as a strong young man would he carry his
sick feeble mother? One wonders.) Don't they realize that in time, Wrinkled Age with her gnarled fingers will touch them? And that a time would come when they would be physically and perhaps financially dependent on their children? Then, could they expect kindness from children who saw their grandparents mistreated?
Some children exploit old parents because they are feeble and defenseless, taking away even the little money they have, like a son in China, who depriving his mother of 2,70,000 yuan, dumped her. Retribution caught up with him when he was jailed for 18 months for his heinous crime. Other children derive sadistic pleasure in reducing
parents to their second childhood, before they turn senile, denying them the right to
make decisions for themselves. By doing that, children take away the residual dignity
and self-respect, parents once had. A few children are amused at the foibles of old parents and make jokes at their expense. They try to outsmart parents, scoring points
through one-upmanship. Children fail to understand that parents pass through different stages in their long parenting journey - from rigid stances and harsh measures in their youth, to being understanding, compassionate and mellow, with increasing age. Children form impressions and will not change those, even though parents have changed in many ways, through reflection and reform. Parents are put to tasks they loathe and feel unwanted - "a withered branch and a useless trunk, fit only to be cast away". In short, many old parents receive a raw deal from their grown
children, when the cold steel of unkindness is plunged into their hearts. And they bleed in silence.
Of course, there is the flip side of coping with demanding old parents, who are critical, petty and irritable. There is also the real threat that they will not let go of their children. Like the monkeys in the Amazon who put their limbs into narrow-necked bottles, with peanuts in them, and not let go of the nuts, only to be trapped,
so do possessive parents refuse to give up control of their children, only to their detriment. Because of the usurped parental attachment, children and their spouses confront serious problems. When parents accept girls and boys coming into the family through marriage, as daughters and sons, ridding the family of the in-law thinking and expression, much better relationships are fostered, because those entering the family will not feel estranged. But most find the idea distasteful and tension in the family continues. Even such parents who deserve love the least, need it the most. In dealing with them, difficult truth should be wrapped in love. Blessed are the children who understand and live this love.
The Quran exhorts Muslims to respect and honour their parents; so does the Ramayana,
urge Hindus. Rama's words should be etched in the hearts of children: "I would yield
my life and future ere I wound my father's heart". Children have much to learn from these Holy Books, as they have to learn from Jesus' example, in being caring and obedient to his mother right through his short life on earth.
What do old parents expect of their grown children? Not expensive gifts, exotic food, luxuries or big sums of money to spend; but caring, expressed through empathy and protection; not ascribing motives to what they say and do; and acknowledging the treasure of experience they have gathered. If only children listened with their hearts and lifted old parents out of their sadness, on wings of love!
A small segment of children do exactly that - caring for parents with deep respect and love. The gratitude of some of these children is worth recording. Thiery Henry,
French Football Striker, says: "I am who I am, thanks to my father. I saw very hard times in my childhood, but fortunately I had parents that were straight. Almost all
of my friends of that time are now in prison". Jason Araghi, son of Iranian parents
who escaped to the USA during the Revolution, and Founder of Araghi Green Bean Coffee WorldCafe company, when asked who his heroes were, answered: "My parents. Their story is about being good role models". A special tribute should be paid to
Tan Chin Hock,a young Singapore Executive, who quit his regular, well-paid job, to take up 'love your parents' crusade. "People are so caught up earning money and getting their dream cars, that they miss out on time with their parents. Parents matter when they are alive and not when only memories are left". Will we and our children learn from him?