“A father and mother are always affectionate to their children. When the children are disobedient the parents chastise them, not due to enmity but only for the child’s instruction and welfare. How did Hiranyakashipu, the father of Prahlada Maharaja, chastise such a noble son? This is what I am eager to know.” (Yudhishthira speaking to Narada Muni, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.45)
पुत्रान् विप्रतिकूलान् स्वान्
नैवाघम् अपरो यथा
putrān vipratikūlān svān
naivāgham aparo yathā
Even the most brutal dictator, the one who has killed scores of people in a quest for power, tends to have some sympathy and affection for their family. This is especially true with respect to the children. There is a closeness automatically established, through nature. No need for a shared interest. No need for reciprocation, either, as the parent tends to forgive all kinds of behavioral transgressions from their children.
1. Waking them up unexpectedly
It was one of those days. Too many things to do and not enough time to accomplish everything. This adds to the pressure, since there is carryover to the next day. Sleeping would be a lot easier if responsibilities didn’t weigh on the mind.
Nevertheless, you were able to get to bed on time. The issue is that you feel this buzzing sensation every few minutes right after falling asleep. At least you think that it’s occurring in those intervals; you can’t be sure since you haven’t fully awoken yet. Finally, the next sound does the trick. You are now awake.
You come to learn that it is the smartphone which has been buzzing. Text messages from one of your friends. It must be an emergency, you think. You open the messages app only to see that the information was trivial. Talk of sports, during the time of night when most people are sleeping. You are so angry to have been awoken for such nonsense that you fire back an angry response.
On another day, with perhaps the same tension relating to daily responsibilities, you get awoken early in the morning by a strong physical movement. You learn that it is your child. They have decided to jump on top of you in bed. They are awake and desirous to play. They are wondering why you are still sleeping. It is something like a move seen in professional wrestling, yet you are not upset at all. The behavior is endearing.
2. Spilling food and drink
A guest is at the house for dinner tonight. Afterwards, they take their beverage to the living room, where they sit on the sofa. A few minutes later the drink accidentally falls out of their hand. The sofa looks like it is ruined. The stain is on the carpet, as well. Though it is a guest and also an accident, you are not too pleased.
Yet with children the same happens on a routine basis. The furniture goes into the “write-off” category. You don’t expect anything to remain intact, since children learning to crawl and walk are essentially moving disaster areas. In fact, if there is a little collateral damage to further the mission of reaching life’s critical milestones, there is no issue for you.
3. Chastising for being late
It was a rough commute home. You thought you learned your lesson many years back, when you drove home during a snowstorm. But this time it is November. There is no serious snowfall in this month, you tell yourself. The forecast said only a dusting.
Wow, was everyone wrong. The commute that normally takes thirty minutes took three hours. Somehow you remained calm throughout, but sitting in the car for that long sure made you tired. Upon arriving home you see your child waiting for you. They have recently learned how to walk and it is so nice that as soon as they hear the front door open, they head for the safety gate by the stairs. They are anticipating your arrival.
On this day they are not happy. Though they can’t speak yet, they voice their frustration. It is almost like getting a scolding from your wife. “Where were you,” is the message. Normally, you would snap back. After getting stuck in the worst traffic the last thing you want to hear from someone else is complaints. Yet from your child the behavior is endearing.
4. Disobeying orders
You tell the person at the office to work on something for you. They don’t get the job done. They didn’t even try. Now the client is upset with you since the company didn’t deliver for them. This is actually grounds for termination, on top of the chastisement that is deserved.
With young children it is like a miracle if they listen to any of your instructions. “Don’t go there.” “Don’t touch that.” “It is time to sleep now.” Rather, they are in it for the fun. They only listen if compelled to, and their resistance is not taken as a serious offense.
This review provides a backdrop to a question posed by Maharaja Yudhishthira. The person of authority was Narada Muni, who was referred to as devarsha. He is a rishi amongst the devas, a saintly man within the collective of demigods. If anyone can answer the question, it will be Narada.
Yudhishthira wants to know how the father Hiranyakashipu could stoop so low as to harass his innocent son Prahlada. The boy was young, and parents are known to have a soft spot for their children. Not only was Hiranyakashipu mean, but he escalated the anger to the greatest degree, doing unspeakable things.
Prahlada’s only crime was devotion to Vishnu. Though born in a family of Daityas, who are typically demoniac in nature, Prahlada was just like Narada. This is not surprising since Narada provided the necessary instruction while the boy was still in the womb. The transcendental sounds describing the Supreme Lord and devotion to Him are powerful enough to break through barriers, physical as well as age-related.
That sound to break through barrier,
From saintly Narada the carrier.
So much that Prahlada like him so,
With devotional spirit to go.
Whereas parents punishment exempting,
Father with lethal force attempting.
Young child but well beyond his years,
Through vicious attacks perseveres.