Remember your childhood? Those were the times when on a cool, breezy, slightly-sunny morning, you blissfully played on freshly dewed grass. You threw your sandals away, and while your eyes darted everywhere around, you ran barefoot, feeling small yet sweet pangs of cold seeping into your body. You were so lost in your joy that you didn’t realize that all you were doing is running purposelessly in circles. You felt blessed.
As a child, infectious enthusiasm was all you had and that produced an honest reality of your own that you believed in with full conviction. You invented that reality daily, but truly lived and breathed in it, never doubting its authenticity. When you saw or heard a ghost story, you actually believed in it and felt a beautiful joy of encountering it. Myths and fantasies of distant lands (mostly from absurd TV shows for children) were real. These fables were as real as your naive belief that one lucky evening you will get stuck in a candy or chocolate shop all alone. Didn’t you believe that Superman existed, and may probably come to help if you were in trouble? Or that Teletubbies were somewhere there having fun when you were not around?
Oh, and don’t forget, you had dreams, too. At some point of your childhood, if you were a boy, most likely you wanted to become an astronaut or a fighter pilot. If you were a girl, you probably wanted to become a teacher. (No brownie points deducted if you wanted to become something else). Point is: you wanted to be someone, who in your reality had best possible life. A life which could give you immense joy, adventure and freedom.
But as you grow up, slowly your parents start chiseling your world-view. When you insist that Superman (or whoever your favorite hero was) is real, they would say: “No, child. He exists only in TV or movies”. At first, it is a shock to you, or even an abomination. You ignore your parents. But after a while, you start accepting their reality since it is coming from parents (and, that too, not from Joe’s parents but yours). As you grow up, these nitpicks transform your reality from “what you believe in” to “what you should believe in”. No longer becoming a pilot is good enough for you. Like all healthy grownups, you must aspire to become a lawyer, doctor or an engineer. You reluctantly agree because, after all, they’re your parents so they must know better.
Of course, parents’ point of view about reality helps children in many, many ways. If parents play a passive role in upbringing their children, world may be full of soon-to-be adults who actually believe in cartoonland. So, they should definitely discuss issues and topics with their children. They should encourage a healthy curiosity and a sense of wonderment. They should be proud if they are able to teach their children how to think independently and decide for themselves. Creating a man or woman who is able to think freely and stand for his beliefs should be a function of parents.
It is a disgrace, however, if parents take advantage of a child’s impressionable mind to engrave their views upon you. If they are Hindu, Muslim or Christian, why must you become the same? If you like being a rocket scientist, why must you give that up for their dreams?
Things really get complicated when you think you have grown up and suddenly find yourself disagreeing with your parents. Issue at hand could be about startups, ethics, morality, homosexuality, politics, fashion, religion or any other topic under sun. Many cultures (oriental ones like Chinese and Indian, especially) promote respecting parents and elders as de facto behavior. This cultural programming is well entrenched, so much so that people may start questioning and compromising their beliefs and aspirations, just because they may risk offending their parents.
These weaklings never give up their comfortable jobs for risky, adventurous life of an entrepreneur. They never question their faith or religion but accept it as a “given”. Or, in spite of their wishes, they impatiently marry or have kids. All this because parents (or relatives/elders/society, for that matter) say so. Worst part is that somehow they convince themselves that they’re wrong. (Maybe these self-lies are necessary to live such a fake life)
If you are not convinced of someone’s opinion, don’t you disagree with them? (Unless you are pussy who agrees with everyone lest someone gets offended). If you have no qualms about disagreeing with others, how should it make a difference if “others” in question is your parents?
As a child, you believed (or, perhaps it is wired in our genes) that parents are perfect creatures and you made heros of dad and mom. They were best ever, weren’t they? But, as you grow up, that ideal fantasy starts transforming into an imperfect reality. Much to your shock, you discover that parents are humans too. And like you, they share same psychological and sociological biases and flaws. They too have perspectives, and those perspectives may not be any better than yours.
I am no way arguing that you should (necessarily) disagree with parents (or elders). They definitely have more experience of world, so you should always give them an ear when they are telling their opinion. But unless we all live in a utopian society where everyone thinks alike, there would come a day when you may find yourself disagreeing with people older than you, people whose emotions (and reality) you don’t want to shatter, people you love. In such moments of self doubt, you can either condescend into a shameful agreement and live your life with constant reminders of self-betrayal. Or, you can stand for yourself and live a free, proud and honest life. Choice is yours.