One evening, over dinner, I spent the entire dinner time validating my role as a homemaker to my son. He simply commented that he has to get up early every morning, go to school, study there, go for tennis coaching, etc, while I can just be sitting at home. Of course I couldn’t take offence to a seven year old’s understanding of my work or my choice, but I couldn’t leave his flawed notions of a homemaker’s job unchecked. Thankfully, my father -in-law was right around and he pushed my case rightly so. This piece of writing is definitely not to glorify the role of a homemaker or prove the worth of my work to anybody. Nevertheless, I tried my best to change my son’s ideas about it.
However, after our little talk, I realized what I was trying do all along. I was desperately trying to establish “respect” for my work and myself. “Respect” is somehow an underrated value in our sensibilities; we do not fully comprehend or appreciate its dimensions in our lives. Some people earn salaries, some earn fame, some earn fortunes but every single man irrespective of his age, class, profession or job strives to earn respect, without so much as knowing it. Even a toddler demands it in our dealing with him. And the moment he perceives it, he is so much more receptive to our talking.
It’s a need which stems from the fact that while we aren’t looking for veneration or admiration all the time, we are certainly not fine with anybody disparaging, undermining or trivializing our individuality. Good attention from anyone at any age is always heartening; coming from the opposite sex is more so exciting. But at a whimsical youngish age it is somewhat self affirming and confidence boosting. Long ago when I was at that age, I told something rather sensible to my still younger cousin. I told her, “You know darling, ten guys might like you and ten guys might not like you. But what’s important is that all twenty respect you.” Years later, she still remembered it as wise words from a sister. Having grown from that juvenile self to a slightly mature self, I do feel that we reach a stage in life where we aren’t looking so much to be loved, as much to be respected; we aren’t looking for so many compliments, as much for assurance.
That night of the dialogue with my son, I didn’t get much sleep and this tangent question constantly drummed in my head, “how much we yearn to be significant in the lives of those who are significant to us and how much that relevance or influence upon them comforts us?” At first thoughts, you might really not know how to answer it in terms of your own life. But just revisiting our interactions and our emotional needs, makes it apparent. When you tell a loved one “Miss me”, you want that your absence doesn’t go unnoticed or unaffected by them; you want to be a part of their thoughts in some little way. When you tell your friend or partner over any important matter, “Call me as soon as you finish it”, you want to be the first one to partake in his joy or thrill. When your child comes home running looking around for you, it shows you have a certain comforting place in his life, when your husband wants to have a drink with you at the end of a long day, it just means he enjoys unwinding with you. There’s a need for significance and an assurance of significance in these gestures without professing love.
I know being significant and being respected are two different things and yet I am writing about it in the same breadth because in close-knit relationships they get inter-related. It isn’t enough to be significant sometimes. I knew I am important to my son, he needs me around him, and I am the one he turns to for every need. Yet I had to make sure he respected me and what I stood for. It is my need to be significant with dignity. With people close to your heart and life, you want both in reasonable measure. With my son, it was simpler to establish or almost ask for “respect” because of my age and current significance and position in his life. However, the situation is precarious when it comes to relationships of conjugal nature or between equal individuals. Even when you feel it missing or lacking from the opposite person, you are hesitant or embarrassed to ask for it lest it looks like charity or punctures your ego. Both relevance and respect are genuinely meaningful and satisfying only when they are naturally felt and expressed by the other.
We all want it, we all crave for it, we all wait for it, so it might do good if we are vocal about it, expressive about it, and cherish it. We have a thousand times told our loved ones the three beautiful words ‘I love you’, but this might be the time to say the three significant words, “I Respect You.”