Monday, July 27, 2009

Is it worth it?

I watched yesterday's news item of a school girl's suicide over a confiscated mobile phone with shock and disbelief. I can't imagine the pain the parents are going through right now (she was their only child).

What makes a little girl take her own life when her mobile phone is found. When you know you are not allowed to bring mobile phones to school, what makes you bring it in the first place. The news item said that she was scared of the parent's finding out that she had a mobile and that after the Principal called her to the office, she wanted to go to the toilet where she hung her self with the aid of her tie.

Why is a little girl so scared of her parents finding out that she did something wrong? What's the worse that can happen? She will get a scolding, she will be grounded. Is it worse than taking your life? Is it worth taking your own life?

As a parent it scared me. It scared me because I can't understand what makes children act this way. It scared me because just a week ago 8 students took poisonous seeds because birthday cards and love letters were found by a teacher and two of those students died. They too were scared of the parents finding out.

Are parents monsters? Is loosing your life better than facing the music...

I am determined to remember that I was a teenager once when my kids reach the turbulent years.
I am determined to remember that I was curious about the opposite sex, that I was the biggest flirt around, that I had numerous crushes, that I sent millions of valentine cards every year.
I am determined to remember that I lied to my parents sometimes to get to a party, that when there were sleepovers, we spent hours looking at male genitalia because none of us had seen a real one by then.
I will remember that we were once chased out by the Vijitha Yaapa manager for browsing sex books with pictures.
Though I never smoked, drank or experimented with drugs, I will remember that teenagers are curious about these things.
I will remember that all these are normal teenage behavior when the time comes, though H1 will probably be grounded for eternity should she attempt any ;o)

Are parents too strict with kids for them to be so scared? My father was very strict with us. Heck..he didn't even allow us to watch TV after 9.00 pm as 'those Amercan bullshit' will corrupt our little minds. But my mom was sooo cool about everything. We could tell her about our heartaches and crushes. We used to even show her those valentine cards. I think that's the way to go. Be approachable.

I want H1 to know that no matter what, no matter how much trouble she is in, the safest place is in her parents arms. That though she might get a scolding, those arms will encircle her all the time.

Even now we make sure that after a scolding or a time out, we hug her, kiss her and say that it's alright. We let her know that we forgive her and love her. I hope that will let her know that no matter how much she has misbehaved or done wrong that nothing will ever change how much we love her.

I hope that no child ever takes their life in fear of facing their parents...
That no parent ever has to go through the agony of loosing their precious child...


  1. We live in an extremely puritanical society today. I'm not at all surprised that teenagers today would rather kill themselves than face disapproving adults.

    We put them under immense pressure when it comes to studies, their whole day is spent either at school or tuition classes, and they have zero freedom or entertainment.

    Natural feelings, such as being attracted to the opposite sex is treated like a case of leprosy.

    Children are taught to deny their childhood, teenagers are likewise told to deny all things natural at that age, which is simply not possible.

    When the kids are caught, they naturally assume that the worst punishment will befall them, and would do anything rather than face disappointed or angry parents - and you know our society. Imagine what the neighbours will say?!

    BTW, I'm not talking about you specifically as a parent, but what you generally find in this country.

  2. I hope your child knows that you think as such - i.e. that you will always be there to listen. i.e. you may disagree, but you will always be there.

  3. well, IMO, it really boils down to the sex education debate, doesn't it. The schools have a (unreasonable) cellphone/CD/DVD ban because they say that children use it to distribute porn. And since our brilliant sex education doesn't actually talk about sex and the fact that it's natural (maybe it does, but noone really teaches it) many kids would find pornography as a way out. I'd much rather have educated teachers teaching the subject, but since that isn't happening, kids get driven to the only means of information available...

    But I do agree that it's upto the parents to make the children feel that they're approachable... and no matter what kinda trouble they get into, their parents won't (literally) kill them! :)

  4. i will always be open with my kids and teach them that it's natural to be curious. My mum gave me a diary to write on when i was reaching puberty.. it helps writing out all the new feelings you get :)

  5. It was some shocking news we've been hearing, ne? Your post is really great Su.. an eye-opener too to all moms and dads as well as teachers. They all need to review their own actions and see if they're close to monsters or saints.

    My parents were very strict too, and not one but both. But their love was far too greater than all their scoldings put together. And luckily we already knew that.

    I just wish the adults could empathize with children before enforcing a punishment, etc which can be traumatic to the kids. It's one tiny step for putting an end to this scary trend of suicidal attempts.

  6. Having learned of this sad incident from your blog, I searched a few SL newspapers for details. Every news report and even headline included the words, "prominent Buddhist girls school."

    Sri Lanka's unreasonable and false definition of Buddhism was the biggest problem I faced as a girl in Colombo. Seems that is still the case. We have created a Sinhala-Buddhist culture mostly taking cues from the 17th 18th 19h century European cultures that invaded SL. Those cultures had nothing to do with Buddhism. Now while Europe has moved on to the 21st century, we in Sri Lanka are still stuck with those values because we have termed these values "Sinhala-Buddhist" and then treat them as if they are actual Buddhist values.

    My sister went to Musaeus, which it sounds like the school in question in this sad incident; she hated it. I went to Devi Balika. I hated it too. We both agree that we want to throw up when we think about those schools. The prefects were ridiculous, the rules were over the top and unreasonable, kids got bad reputations just for being seen with any boy, even their own brother! But none of this stopped many girls from having boyfriends, and even having sex. It just puts SL girls in a disadvantageous position in relationships, that's all. In a lose-lose situation. If you are not coming to a relationship, even a teenage puppy love or crush, from a point of equality and power, you are going to lose in many ways. Our girls are set up to lose by our society.

    Parents are only worried about, "What will people say." Even my kids-psychology-book-reading, ahead-of-the-times mom changed when I hit puberty. There was no more child psychology anymore, she buckled under the societal pressure and joined the what-will-people-say bandwagon.

    I can totally understand and see why these girls wanted to commit suicide. It is not a surprise to me at all. If you get caught with say, text messages to a boy, when having a boyfriend is looked upon as a crime worse than capital murder, yes girls would want to kill themselves when found out. The prospect of facing parents, the school, society when you are worse than a murderer is too much.

    Things would be different if we had similar conservative expectations of boys too. Then there would be a balance. Girls would be having crushes on and having relationships with boys who were also under the same pressures. This might lead to more conservative relationships then and a true conservative society. What we have now is a system that is set up for our girl children to fail.

    If we embraced true Buddhist values, which are realistic, and always with the times, we might not be in such a sad state as a society. Certainly our girls would be better off. For example, where in Buddhism does it promote all the conservative clothes our culture promotes?? Women went even to meet the Buddha in a thana-pata (tiny tube top). The bikkunis also wore a thana pata under the robes. Even the Bhikkuni who brought the bodhi tree sapling to SL is wearing a thana pata in the paintings! Now we insist that bikkunis wear long sleaves in sweltering heat, why?? Why won't short sleeves do? As for having boyfriends and such, Buddhim actually doesn't regulate any of that. Buddha advocated whatever was current at the time, but he always did so, outside the Dhamma teachings. But the actual Dhamma contains none of that. So really we can embrace a more modern lifestyle, have boyfriends etc and still be good Buddhists.

    The sooner we separate the Victorian values from Buddhist values, the better off our girls, and hence the whole society would be.

  7. Queen and Jeev - I do agree with you. That's why parents need to remember that these are natural feelings and curiosity about the opposite sex shouldn't be regarded as taboo. I totally agree with Jeev about this whole singhala-buddhist culture as I too went to a so called popular singhala-buddist school in Kandy and have seen the attitudes of the teachers. That's why I think the parents need to be open about these things at least.

    Mutt and MummytheChef- I hope so too and I hope I have the strength and insight to act as I preach when the time does come.

    Chavie - Yes. It is part of the problem. This whole thing about parents pretending that sex is a bad thing while from the media the kids get a different message. No wonder they are confused. I'd rather my kid learns about the birds and the bees from me than a teacher though, because I'd know my child best and I'll be able to explain it to her in a way that does not scare her. I'd rather let her know that her choices will have consequences like an unwanted pregnancy or venereal diseases. I'd rather let her know about contraception so that she can make an informed choice should she feel she needs to.

    Dee - yep..good idea. I too kept a diary and boy do I giggle when I read it now. I sound pathetic ;o)

    Thanks Harumi. Yeah being parents can be tough, sometimes you think you are doing the best for your kids but you might be harming them actually.

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  9. yeah Kulendra i did it had to be something like this. Hence ,y whole post. Parents need to have an open relationship with their kids built on trust. That does not mean I will not have a netnanny installed in our computer or do a little spying into my kids activities when the time deems it necessary. We are living in scary times. I am well aware of it. We'll just have to remember that kids today have easy access to all these technology that can lead them to all sorts of trouble and make sure they know about these.

    Even at this tender age I have talked to my daughter about her private parts and how no matter what she needs to come and let ammi know if someone tires to make her uncomfortable. As she grows up I will continue this dialog and keep my fingers crossed!

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