By Shalini Dewan
It seems to me that raising kids for anyone is not easy. But I thought I was doing a pretty darn good job considering I wasn’t making the same mistakes my parents who are immigrants from India had made on me. I thought I was more liberal, more understanding, had the right mixture of push and pull to bring out their best. Until I realized too late that I had ignored a critical manual my children were writing and demonstrating on what I should have and shouldn’t have done.
I am a first-born generation of South Asian immigrants. My values were a combination of what I learned from my parents, values that are oftentimes contradictory with not only the cultural standards of today’s generation but also out of step with norms across my country of origin currently.
Our children are subject to confusing signals, not because we are wishy washy but because we ourselves are in flux learning and embracing culture slowly, too slowly for our kids to notice we are changing too. What we say to them when they are very young is not our reality 15 years later when we have also grown up in the new culture. But how will they know that?
They are now off to college or out starting lives of their own and our interactions dwindle to phone calls 1 to 2 times a week, 2 to 3 visits a year. What was in the manual my kids had written? I wished I had read it then. Simply to listen more, to spend less time teaching, more time with them laughing, and always, even as teenagers, to respect their point of view.