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Parenting is the most important job on Earth

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(Happy marriages that bring about happy families will enhance our happiness as One National Family) (Happy marriages that bring about happy families will enhance our happiness as One National Family)

Long before birth, almost everyone is gifted with the best mother in the whole wide world. A child begins to bond with her from the moment of conception and she is inextricably linked to her child for the rest of its life even if the child has lost touch with her due to her separation by death or other circumstance. A child’s relationship to its mother and a mother’s relationship to her child is the most basic of all human relationships. And as it is the inter-personal relationships that make a human being human, the mother is the most important molder of any child. That is the most basic reason why a child should not be separated for very long periods or definitively from its biological mother or the adopting mother. At the age a child knows to recognize her and is able to identify her, unmistakably she is called ‘mother’ by her children. When a child addresses a woman and calls her ‘Mother’ there is a particular ring to the child’s voice and in the call of her children the mother’s ears hear the familiar tone of each of her children’s tongues, however many her children may be.

A mother treasures her children and their love is far more priceless to her than any other thing of estimable value.  She would never give up her children for anything in the world. When a child loses its mother at birth or at an early age or when the mother is compelled by circumstances to give her child away when she cannot look after the child adequately she gives it   only to someone who can be trusted to be a truly good mother to the child. Usually this is done through a stipulated legal procedure to secure the child’s future.   And the child grows to be thankful to the only mother the child has come to know through years of care and bonding. Mother is the person who gives her child life, nurturing and caring all through life. For a child a mother is everything.  For every child mother is love, hope, authority, security, support, trust, confidence and adequacy.

The first teacher of the child
Mother is the first teacher of her child. The more she realizes that her child is an autonomous human person with the right to its own independent life and that it is her responsibility to prepare him well for living that life responsibly, a better mother she will be. It is the mother who decides how her child is fed and looked after in every way.   It is from the mother that the child learns to lisp its first words which is usually  ‘ma’, ‘amma’, ‘mum’, ‘mama’. Thereafter the child grows to learn many other things from the mother. By the time the child is three years old and ready to play with other children, he/she has heard from the mother, a couple of millions of words. Those adequately prepared for motherhood as well as those substituting for mothers in ‘play schools’ and ‘pre-schools’, should speak only positive words – nurturing, encouraging, life-building and up-building words and above all true words – in the child’s hearing in the child’s early years.

  The first years of the child’s life and later the pre-adolescent years are very important as they are foundational for the child’s values, integrity, attitudes, choices, aspirations and development of character. It is for this reason that all adults who deal with children should be very conscious of the influence they have over children. Not only pre-schoolchildren but also students in secondary and tertiary education are positively ‘impressed’ by their good teachers and guides. 

Mothers through compulsion
There are mothers today who have taken upon themselves the burdens and responsibilities of motherhood not only without any kind of preparation but almost casually. There are mothers to whom maternity began as a submission to an irresponsible expression of lust, as an unwelcome burden and an unwelcome responsibility. As a result the child is also considered ‘unwelcome’ or as ‘an intruder’ or even ‘an aggressor’, or ‘illegitimate’, far from being ‘the bundle of joy’ of a normal mother. No child is illegitimate. It is a man and a woman who lacked the capacity to take on burdens, who acting on impulse indulged in irresponsible behavior, perhaps also due to a deficient upbringing .

  Some young men and women are compelled to marry those that parents select for them. While it may be quite proper for parents to introduce prospective partners to their children of marriageable age, it is improper to force them.  The parents could certainly advice and guide their children as to how they should make their choice, but they should be left completely free to make their own decision.  Without free consent there is no valid marriage.

Primacy of the child   
A child needs the aegis of a father and a mother, especially a mother to grow normally to adulthood. A child does not prefer to have a known mother and an unknown father. A child does not like to know that the mother is unwed or that his mother’s marriage to the father was not socially recognized. In some countries today there is the prospect of children having ‘two mothers’ or ‘two fathers’ neither of whom is the natural mother or father. Already there is the fact of children being very unhappy with their mothers who have left their fathers or fathers who have left their mothers and are cohabiting with someone else. There are also married couples living together in varying degrees of indifference to one another. Children are unhappy and feel that their lives lack an essential element when they observe that the relationship between father and mother is not what it should be. Children often sense that relationships are askew. Sons and daughters wish to see their mother and father loving each other and living united in a happy married life.

Parents sometimes punish children to correct them. Corporal punishment is not acceptable today as it could damage the child psychologically and emotionally. When punishment is meted out the child should be led to understand ultimately that it is just punishment. Punishment could take the form of deprivation of a favorite activity such as watching television or a play or an imposition to do some extra work like studying, reading or practicing a musical instrument. If on the rarest of occasions physical punishment is resorted to, to correct an early teenager,  it should never be injurious or hurtful to human dignity. Often, it is the parent ill prepared for parenthood who resorts to punishment with outbursts of anger because a child repeatedly ‘disobeys’ whereas actually the child was only thoughtless and inattentive. The patient parent could urge the child to pay attention. And parents should never act in anger. Parents need to be patient and forbearing and find ways to persuade and reason with children. Thus parents help children to be responsible and to be mature corresponding to their age.

Preparation for parenthood
All women and men who intend to get married are prospective mothers and fathers. And marriage between a man and a woman is not merely an individual, isolated and private partnership, it is a public and legally recognized contract with social responsibilities entered into by those legally qualified to do so. Every marriage paves the way for a family which being the nuclear unit of any society also has a certain social impact. However, though  some marriages subsist de jure, it becomes evident that the couples have never become adequately mature  mentally and psychologically, or been morally willing to assume the particular marital responsibilities. They have been forced to marry. The law stipulates that a man and woman could legally marry at a certain age when they declare their mutual consent before a legally recognized authority. But the civil law does not pay sufficient attention to the handicaps that could leave a marriage contract between unequal partners, an unjust obligation and a severe burden to one of the persons entering into marriage. Lex aliquando claudicat. The law sometimes limps. When one leg is short a limp is inevitable.  So also in marriage.  When there has been no adequate preparation of either partner and a clear understanding of responsibilities towards one another and towards the children who will be born, there cannot be a proper marriage. When one of them has merely verbally consented to marriage due to parental pressure or pressure and threats of one partner, as it often happens in our country, and is shown in some teledramas, one partner does not invest mind, heart and spirit into the marriage due to irreconcilable differences of character, views, aims and values. A true bonding does not take place.

There can be no successful married life if either the man or the woman is habitually unfaithful, a habitual drunkard, an inveterate gambler or incorrigibly deceptive and secretive in other ways. More often it is the man who fails in these ways.  Due to the man’s heavy drinking and the resultant violent behavior causing physical assaults, the mother and the children suffer incalculable harm. While women begin to feel unable to cope with life, children suffer traumas and fail to cope with their school work consequent to the psychological damage inflicted on them.  Marriage breakdown brings along with it many social problems.  The pain is long lasting and is incalculable. Invisible but indelible marks of emptiness stay on throughout lives and many endure suffering in silence.

It is due to the possible eventuality of a mismatch that the Catholic Church’s Canon Law insists on the prospective bride and groom being truly and morally free to marry, free of any pressure from anyone, that they know each other adequately to exchange mutual and free consent to marry,  that they know what needs to be known about oneself and the other and that each one is aware of the responsibilities he/she is about to undertake with its binding effects for the rest of their lives in a future in which many a thing is contingent.

State should mediate
Marriage comes about not only through a very personal commitment to love and cherish each other and be faithful in a lifelong partnership, but also through a public profession of that love before witnesses who represent the community at large. The marriage contract has been recognized as a social contract because marriage has social implications.

Over three decades ago, authoritative state representatives recognized the need to provide sufficient instructions and counsel to those intending to enter the state of matrimony. Among the recommendation of an international symposium and seminar on Marriage and Family, that at least ten to fifteen hours of pre-marital instruction be given to couples by those qualified to do so, before a marriage license was issued, was in principle accepted. The proposal to give maternal leave to women after childbirth was to some extent implemented. As for pre marriage instructions before the issuance of a license to marry nothing substantial took place. Even today one can obtain a license to marry at very short notice. In contrast, obtaining a passport, an identity card, a birth certificate or even a license to drive a three wheeler is far more laborious.  

   Two schoolchildren who run ‘three legged races’ with the right leg of one tied to the left leg of the other know very well that both of them should be fit enough to run and run fast and steadily, that they both should mutually coordinate their movement, that they both must share the same purposeful intent of a successful run to the very end, that they should synchronize their steps even though the left leg of one is not equal in every way to the right leg of the other, though their height and weight, girth and stride may not be the same as the other’s.

Though only one pair may win a medal, almost all of them have the stamina to reach the finishing line successfully and show themselves as good sportsmen. They were that successful and happy because they prepared themselves well for the race.

A similar attitude is necessary for those entering married life.  They need to learn to be firmly ‘tied’ to one another, coordinate their  heart and mind, their hopes and aspirations, their physical body and their very personal interior self and have the stamina to live together for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for better or worse, to the very end. No one promises to marry just for six months, for one year or an agreed number of years, for obvious reasons. The twos who have run three legged races and even come ‘last’ in the race know from the experience of ‘the successful run’ what a happiness and a thrill it was to have ‘run the race’ together  in spite of it being problematic and needing skills to coordinate.

  Often those who enter the state of matrimony do not address their minds to the most vital consequences of their marriage, the children they will eventually beget. However their children will also greatly contribute to their happiness, joy and fulfillment. They will begin to live not only for each other but also for their children whom they begin to treasure and protect and help towards maturity in every way.  For these responsibilities too they need to be prepared.
   Happy marriages that bring about happy families will enhance our happiness as One National Family. This is all the more reason why the State and the Government should give due consideration to policies and decisions that impact on the families in our country.

Last modified on Saturday, 28 February 2015 20:08

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