Good Parents Must Be Brave
This story about Geeta Phogat, India’s first woman wrestler, taught me that good parents are brave. And bravery can come with loneliness.
Geeta is from a small village in Haryana, and she grew up wrestling boys.
I grew up in a thriving metropolis in the US, and I know my Indian American parents wouldn’t have been ok with me wrestling boys (even if I’d had the athletic talent–though I must admit that they supported me through bench warming seasons of girls’ volleyball, basketball, and soccer)!
In the marriage-obsessed and community-oriented Indian culture, and in a small village, I can only imagine the struggles Geeta’s family went through in taking this unconventional path.
But Geeta’s father, a wrestler, knew that wrestling boys was the only way for Geeta to train because no other village girls were allowed to wrestle. Geeta’s mother freed her of household chores so she could focus on wrestling training. Geeta’s father made his daughters wear boyish clothes and cut their hair short.
Geeta’s father was risking Geeta’s and her sisters’ economic future by making them, essentially, unmarriageable. In Geeta’s village, very few women go to college or have jobs, so I assume that most rely on their husband’s families for financial support.
It’s very easy for us to look at Geeta now and praise her parents’ choices.
|Now that Geeta has made it to the Olympic stage, India is proud. Where were they when she started her training as a child? Source: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/05/21/geeta-phogat-wrestler-haryana-olympics-idINDEE84K06620120521|
In a country that has very little representation in the Olympics, many in India are rallying around Geeta. In fact, her home state of Haryana gave her a car, even though during her early training it refused to help pay for a proper wrestling mat or offer the family any support.
But during the hard years of training, Geeta’s family had no guarantees of success.
Geeta trained in a cow pen with no shade from the brutal Indian heat and no temperature-control for the mud floor that got cold at night.
Through all of this, Geeta’s parents had to trust their parenting instincts.
They were willing to be brave and alone.
When it comes to parenting, there are no guarantees.
We may wear our backs out with babywearing, reasoning that attachment parenting helps children to build better relationships as adults. We may wear out our car tires driving our kids from lesson to lesson, hoping that these will get them into the best colleges. But our child could still grow up to have emotional and relationship problems, or decide “college isn’t for me.”
We have to admit, that despite all of our choices, there the unknown looms large in our parenting decisions, because we don’t know what the outcomes of our choices will be.
So it takes both courage and faith to make unpopular parenting choices that we know in our gut are correct.
Another Story of Bravery in Parenting
Another parenting courage story is closer to home for me. My aunt, who married into a large joint family that all lived together, decided to enroll her kids in English language schools. Everyone else in the family opposed her because no one in the family spoke English well enough to tutor the kids–and extra tutoring outside of school is crucial for academic success in India. Still, my aunt put my cousins in English language schools, and that has allowed them to enjoy professional opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.
Again, in hindsight, she did the right thing. But at the time, it took a lot of courage for her to go against the entire family in a patriarchal culture to make the parenting decision that she did.
I’d love to hear your tales of parenting bravery. For me, it has been placing Indian American Toddler in daycare so that I can work full-time.
I cannot tell you how much resistance I’ve faced from my and Indian American Dad’s families.
Sometimes the comments are “innocent,” like “How many hours a day does he go to daycare? Nine? Wow, at such a young age?”
Sometimes they are more pointed. Numerous relatives have offered for us to send Indian American Toddler to stay with them for extended periods so he does not have to stay in daycare. I’ve been very clear from the beginning. There. Is. No. Way. I understand that many other families have had to make this decision, but it is not an option for me.
Then there are the inquiries about how much daycare costs. And comments about how other moms went to part-time or stopped working while their children were young. Comments that imply I should think about that too.
The decision to trust a daycare with your child is a difficult one. Returning to work as a new mom is hard. You already have the fear and the guilt in leaving your child while you go to work. So to hear these kinds of comments from family can be very painful.
But I’ve made a network of mom friends who have their kids in daycare or paid childcare, and we confide in each other about the struggles.
Surprisingly, the most helpful advice on the subject came from my own mom. She said to stop seeking others’ approval for my parenting choices.
And brave parents do just that.
Please share your stories of parenting bravery in the comments.
Like what you see? Want to read more? Follow me on Twitter @Iammomsblog, follow me on Pinterest at Iammomsblog, or subscribe to I Am Moms to receive posts by e-mail. Follow @Iammomsblog Follow Me on Pinterest