“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy’s immortal classic Anna Karenina begins with these unforgettable words – words which ricochet in my mind whenever anyone talks of happy or unhappy families.
So, what makes a happy family? A number of aspects but one feature that is common to all families which are happy and hence effective is the bonding between the parents. If the mother and father share a relationship of love, respect, trust and concern, the family unit is sure to be a contented one. One the other hand if the home is a battle ground of egos and mistrust you can be certain that the family is going to be unhappy and the children emotionally bruised.
I speak from personal experience. My parents were very good looking (the ideal made for each other types), highly educated and with a liberal outlook. My father was a professor and my mother a talented writer. On the outside ours was a ‘happy family’. But in actuality it was anything but that. Every few days there were skirmishes and every few months a full-scale war.
My sister and I would be either reading or chatting in our room at night when suddenly we would hear raised voices.
“I think they have started again,” my sister, who was older, would mumble. The slanging match would morph into screaming and yelling and breaking of stuff. This would continue late in the night as the two of us would sit huddled together, hoping and praying for a truce – since peace was an outlandish fantasy. These battles would be followed by a long period of silence and our house (I could never dare call it a home) would resemble a mausoleum. The eerie calm before the next storm was as agonising as the full scale war itself.
One evening I returned home and found my parents and my sister sitting in the garden joking and laughing, like ‘normal families’ – I just stood there, soaking in the scene, imploring almighty to freeze time. This scene remained etched in my memory for a long, long time and I would often revisit it in my reveries.
I remember my sister once telling my parents, “Both of you are charismatic and brilliant – My friend Beena envies me so much. Her father is a pot-bellied business man who is not even a graduate and her mother is a house-wife who can’t speak a word of English. Beena is even ashamed to call them for PTA meetings. But I would any day exchange them for you two. At least they love and respect each other. Their house is like a home unlike our place which resembles a battle field.”
The impact of her words lasted a few days and then it was back to the basics. This went on till I was 14 and then my parents separated.
The wound is still festering and I know that for as long as live the scars will not heal.
If you want to raise positive kids give them a positive environment at home. This fact simply is not negotiable. Whatever may be your differences – try to talk it over and sort them out. I know it is not easy – specially in the present times with both parents in high pressure jobs, myriad responsibilities at home and hardly any help available. You will have to swallow your ego, make a lot of compromises and learn to make adjustments by the hour. But when you see your kids growing up as healthy and balanced children, believe me it will all be worth it.
The key word here is communication. The parents have to keep talking to each other – any breakdown in communication is a sure shot recipe for disaster. My wife Madhavi and I used to work for Rourkela Steel Plant. Our offices were in the same complex and we went to work and came back together. Our visits to the club for swimming or socialising were also in each other’s company. Sometimes people asked us that don’t we get bored living in each other’s pockets 24 x 7. Well, we never felt it. One reason being we have always lived like friends. Yes, we have had our scuffles, clashes, combats and conflicts. But we have followed one cardinal principle – never, ever to stop communicating with each other – never to allow the violence of silence to blow the marriage apart.
As Zig Ziglar, best selling author and motivational speaker says in his book, Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, “There is no way I can oversell the importance of husbands and wives talking to each other….There are many opportunities, even when both husbands and wives work, for them to engage in small talk, which is so important to the health of the relationship and extremely important to the growth and stability of the child. The evening paper, the nightly news, the daily or nightly soap opera – you name it. None of them holds a candle to the importance of the husband and wife communicating with each other, especially in the presence of the child. When the child hears the happy, informed, loving chatter of husband and wife, he has a sense of security. He feels a part of a caring family.”
So dear mum and dear dad, what are you waiting for: drop that ego, smother that pride, smudge that conceit and reach out to each other with cheer and camaraderie, trust and togetherness, care and concern, love and respect and watch your little ones morph into happy adults.
Finally, I would like to end with this brilliant quote which says it all, “Lucky parents who have fine children usually have lucky children who have fine parents,” – James A. Brewer.
- Ramendra Kumar
P.S. Ramendra is a Peer at SoulUp. He is a cancer warrior, a suicide survivor and comes from a childhood with a broken home. If any part of your journey is the same as his, you can book a 1-on-1 online conversation with Ramendra here.