The other day I saw a child throwing a stone at a dog who was quietly sleeping on the corner of the street. The dog woke up frightened but still sleepy moved to another place. I asked the boy why he did that. He replied that he simply liked to scare the dog.
It’s normal, isn’t it, for someone to throw a stone at a dog that is barking, or chasing, or simply lying on the street?
Would we dare do that to a human? If someone threw a stone at a person, isn’t it going to harm them?
Why then is it normal to hurt an animal, whether to protect yourself or as the boy said, “simply”?
Not many of us even identify things that we have ‘made’ normal. Normalizing is the act of ‘making things normal’ that are actually not ‘normal’. On the other side, it’s time we make certain things normal that are yet considered a taboo.
Let’s talk about a handful of things in this post, that we shall aim not to normalize or better normalize for the younger generation.
N – Normalize: What to and what not to?
Post #14 of the series: Instilling Social Equality in Children
The taken-for-granted things that we need to wake up to and not normalize!
“Today there were no dishes for her. But why to make her go home simply. So I put all the empty dabbas from the shelves. Let her wash, it’s her duty,” yes, one of the usual neighbour aunty’s stories.
We were guests at someone’s place. We had to carry our quite-heavy luggage to the first floor. Our host instructed their maid to do that. She seemed old and I asked her how old she is. She replied that she’s 72 years old!
Just because they come from the under-served sector of the society and they cannot voice out against us, it is not okay to burden them with heavy work irrespective of how much they are getting paid. Specifically, women of our parents generation are so much used to dumping vessels and cleaning tasks upon them, being overly strict about taking leaves and worse, cutting pay for a day or two off.
Let’s change it!
Let’s make it normal in our houses to treat them as people who do respectable tasks of our homes. Let’s educate our children to call them in a respectful tone and that serving at someone’s house is their work and that their nature of work does not entitle us to mistreat them. Beyond what they do for a living, they have every right to lead a life of dignity just like any of us. Most importantly, show children that it is not alright to waste the usage of vessels or make spaces around dirty just because there’s someone we are paying to clean-up.
This can apply to our drivers, gardeners, car-wash servers, a waiter in a restaurant, people who clean the road, garbage collectors – you know the list!
Bargaining too much with the street vendors
Some people can never get back home happily if they did not bargain that Rs.5 with the flower vendor lady on the street. That gives them a huge sense of victory and gain, while they would feel absolutely great to pay Rs.5000 for a Rs.1000 worth saree in a mall.
If we remained blind to this big social inequality, let’s wake up!
Let’s make it not normal to do excessive bargaining with street vendors because first of all, that is how we can promote small businesses that need support from the consumers of the society. Second, there cannot be a price for their manual procurement of goods through public transport and their non-luxurious work life on the streets under sun and rain.
If our parents did not do that, we wouldn’t have. Let’s not do that; our children wouldn’t do tomorrow!
Discriminating the ‘girl’ things and the ‘boy’ things
One mistake I commonly do when speaking to other moms is discussing how girls are different in their habits than boys. As a mom of both, I’ve seen how my daughter and son are at the two extremes of habits. The girl needs no reminders for brushing, bathing, doing homework, or putting things back from where it were taken, while it is a real struggle with the boy for every small task of the day. It could be an inherent gender difference or it as well could be something not related to gender at all and something that’s to do with the individual nature or about who they see in the family to model. But I often quote what my girl does and the boy does to others, even worse in front of children or to children itself.
As I write this, I realize that we need to stop normalizing this gender generalizations!
The lives of both my mom and mom-in-law portray how an ideal woman should single-handedly bear the brunt of the entire home duties. So the first time I had to ask my husband to run the washing machine with his clothes or make his coffee, neither I nor he could accept it without guilt or anger – guilt in asking the male to do a ‘woman’s’ job and anger in being asked to do a ‘women’s’ job.
Here’s an audio recording from a friend who beautifully tells us how important it is for the mother at home to learn to change a car tyre as much as the father to cook and clean-up, for that’s how we can re-construct a gender-neutral society for our children.
The idealization of career and financial life as a measurement of life’s success/failure
We have made it normal that the sole purpose of a child to go to school is to make them fetch that high collar job and live a life of high financial status. While it can be a goal for our child’s future, we have come to a point where an individual’s success/failure in life is measured solely by the career and financial aspect of life.
If not for this ideology, most social inequalities we see around would not have existed. It cannot even be predicted how many millenniums it would take to wipe this out, but let’s begin somewhere!
In addition to your friend’s ability to build the 3-crore house and your uncle’s affordability for the big fat Indian wedding, talk to your children about your aunty’s awareness to keep herself fit and healthy at 60, your neighbour’s principle in regular blood donation, your cousin’s motivation to build his own company, your teacher’s passion toward education, his friend’s kindness to share his toys, that sportsman’s determination to win the race, someone’s unique profession of saving wildlife, that stranger’s concern to drive the eco-friendly campaign, the harmonious married life of the couple who lives in your layout, the knowledge the vegetable vendor carries from his village farm, the dream book that author wanted to publish, your maid’s resilience in overcoming life’s adversities, the auto driver’s honesty in returning the purse to the customer – that success need not always be around money and status!
Healthy relationships, sound physical and emotional health, passion towards a cause, character building, environmental care, values, knowledge – in reality success is being measured in different ways, but only in newspapers and TV shows.
It is in our hands to make them reach children!
Narrate them life stories of people like Dr. Abdul Kalam, Ratan Tata, or Sudha Murty for their simplicity and values.
Do not make it normal in the family to value relationships based on the gifts they give us. The difference between the one who gifted 5 sovereign gold chain and Rs.500 to your newborn could be the amount they could afford and that should not necessarily make one judge the value of the relationships. Do not normalize that the wealthy acquaintances deserve priority and respect, while those that are not have to be looked down upon.
I will have to leave this post incomplete because one cannot make a comprehensive list of to’s and not-to’s in normalizing. Let’s be aware as we run through our everyday lives on what we are emphasizing to our children in the form of conversations, attitudes and behaviour.