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Children's milestones and parents' millstones.

There was a girl at the salon the other day. She couldn't have been older than 14. Or at least she looked very young. She was being primed for her prom later that evening. Her mother was telling all present about the tough time she had looking for the perfect dress and the expense involved.

Listening to her, I was struck by how times had changed. I don't remember any fuss being made when we finished school. There were no special rewards as we were merely doing what was expected of us. There were some parties at the end of the long haul but parents weren't asked to cough up any money. We made do with what we had or we borrowed finery from friends or older siblings.

There were no added bonuses such as a limousine service to take us to where we were going to celebrate. We arrived at the destination by squeezing into any available transport. Once there, we had a whale of a time. There were no feelings of resentment that our parents hadn't done enough for us. There were no great expectations and, therefore, no great disappointment.

Happily for us, the world we lived in wasn't so materialistic or so driven by what we saw in movies or read in books.

The craze to make a momentous occasion of every stage of one's academic life has culminated in graduation ceremonies. So, the kindergarten pupil is prepped for the big day when he or she enters grade one. There are rehearsals and parents are invited to see their tiny tots on stage as they prepare to embark on the next phase in their lives! It doesn't matter that the kids don't even know what graduation means. They enjoy being the centre of attention and, watching them on their big day, one would be forgiven for assuming they are being honoured for some great achievement.

And the parents are pleased as punch at this recognition of their child's transition.

The only pleasure of entering a new class back in the day was that of owning a new set of books, uniforms and shoes. There was great satisfaction in surveying the stack of unread tomes and setting about covering these in brown paper. There were no fancy cellophane covers back then to keep books in pristine condition. So, we had to be extra careful about how we treated them. It wasn't a disposable, throwaway society. What we were given had to last a long time and wear-and-tear had to be carefully monitored.

Of course, being the youngest, there was the terrible possibility of receiving hand-me-downs in the form of text books or even schoolbags. This was fiercely resisted, but it was a losing battle. Every move had to make economic sense. And the older siblings would make things worse by telling you that the notes that they had scribbled on every page would make learning so much easier. However, that argument didn't cut ice. I wanted to be the one to make my mark on a book, not try to decipher someone else's illegible scrawl. There was infinite pleasure to be had opening a fresh page and writing one's name in the flyleaf. Stamping possession was important, not overwriting on someone else's name. So, one could only hope for a change in syllabus, which would ensure no used books were passed on to you.

There were no back-to school promotions either, which meant that parents weren't pressured into buying you things you didn't really need. Of course, parents of those days were a completely different species. They were made of sterner stuff. And even if those sales had existed, they would have made sure that all advertising material was restricted so that the children had no idea what they were missing.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 3, 2015
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