Being from two different states of India, both my husband and I have tried really hard to walk the middle path so we do have an experience of trying to raise a ‘bi’cultural kid and the pressure that it entails. Last year we made our job a tad tougher by moving out of India. So now we not only have ours to worry about but also the culture of the country we are living in.
Bringing up children with the right mix of modernity and traditional values is every parent’s challenge. What to hold on to, how much to let go of? How much to let in and what to give up?… as parents we are all riddled with such questions. And not to mention the ever-judging eyes of the society. We try to be nonchalant about them but at some level it does affect us and makes us question our choices.
While there are no clear-cut answers to it, one thing is definite- we cannot avoid the external influences on our children. At best, we can monitor them or modulate them. Irrespective of what our parenting goals may be these influences need to be taken into account.
Hybrid parenting, or bringing up bicultural (or rather multicultural) kids, is a reality that we should embrace. As much as we may wish it away, shutting the door to the world in the name of preserving our traditions and heritage will not work. That door needs to be left ajar, maybe a little to begin with but with your hand firmly on the handle. The idea is to expose the child, under controlled conditions, and allow her to react to it. She’ll strike a balance between the two worlds. And meanwhile take it easy.
I often find parents raking up a fuss about the inability to celebrate festivals with the traditional fervor that they were used to, as a child. Or clucking their tongues when the child is all excited about celebrating Halloween and not Diwali. In both scenarios, take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture. How does either of the scenarios affect your child’s development in the long run? In my opinion, it doesn’t. I would rather invest my energy in drilling the symbolism behind Diwali as I shop for the Halloween outfit my daughter is pining for.
My daughter may not know her Ramayana yet but she is growing up into an empathetic individual is something I want to be really sure of. I don’t care if she may look out for the tooth fairy or believe in Santa but if she doesn’t share her blessings with the less privileged, then that has me all worked up.
The idea is to make the child aware of our customs, see what we can manage to pull of in terms of rituals without being harsh on ourselves. We can make our own little traditions on the way and above everything let the child choose.