The Indian, French, Tiger Mom.
When I was young, growing up in a fairly strict and regimented east indian home, I knew that I was growing up in a strict and regimented east indian home. What that means is, it was very evident from associating with my classmates and friends that I did not enjoy the same leniencies as they did. I wasn’t allowed to talk to or about boys, I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers, or even just go to a friend’s house to play. School was the most important thing, and I HAD to get good grades. I was enrolled in swimming, ballet and gymnastics at a very early age and this was pretty much the only socialization I got outside of school. Children were mostly seen and not heard, if I talked too much (I can be pretty chatty) I always got in trouble when I got home or when the guests left. We never expected adults to entertain us as children. You would never catch us demanding a friend of our parents get down at eye level and play make-believe with us.
Even in elementary school, I knew what University was, and I knew that I was expected to attend at all costs. It wasn’t an option. I knew that if I was a good, obedient indian girl, and got a good university education, I would be lucky enough to have some well-educated indian guy from a good family marry me (joy!).
As I got older, and entered junior high and eventually high school, not much changed. Once I entered University, the freedom that comes from attending such an institution was LIBERATING, but I still wasn’t allowed to date, and I still had to fight to go out with my friends. I still wasn’t allowed to talk to boys. Most kids at this age are actually thought of as adults. Not us indian girls! We are children until we get married (most likely to someone who our parents think is a good fit), then we become wives, and often, we simply gain another set of parents (our in-laws) to add to our misery (strong word, but according to EVERY indian girl I know who lives with her in-laws, misery is the right word). I will stray from this story a little bit to say that my home wasn’t a typical indian home in many ways, and therefore I was able to move out and live my own life for about 10 years before getting married, and no I didn’t end up having an arranged marriage and no, I don’t live with my in-laws.
I think I can say with confidence that this scenario is common with many kids who are born into first generation status. Their parents immigrated from another country, another culture, to give them a better life, and they brought their conservative ways with them. They just wanted the best for us, they didn’t know any better. I’ve seen similarities with other indians, as well as my chinese, italian, and polish friends (among others).
Did I rebel? A little, but nothing major. I did end up lying and sneaking around at times, but looking back, and looking at where I ended up, I think I’m fairly unscathed, other than the frequent thoughts I have of the things I WONT do with my own kids. Actually, I think the reason it bothered me AT ALL when I was young is because I mostly had caucasian friends, so the differences between me and them were as clear as day. Had I associated mostly with other indians, I probably wouldn’t have thought my life sucked so much. This is probably also the reason I grew up to be quite non-indian myself. I speak the language and make a mean butter chicken but I still don’t have many indian friends, I don’t attend 15 indian weddings every summer and I don’t enjoy indian music or movies and I HATE wearing indian outfits and jewellery.
Overall, I truly believe that growing up the way I have is the reason I have turned out to be the person I am (and to reiterate, my mom was especially NON-indian in many ways and so, I probably owe a lot of who I am, to her). Some of my upbringing was my strict culture, and the rest was just downright strict parents.
When I was growing up, I wasn’t ASKED my opinion on anything. I was told. I wasn’t given a multitude of options on what to eat. Dinner was dinner, and you sat there and ate it, even if it meant everyone else was in bed. Post Secondary Education wasn’t an option. Your parents pay for university, and you go. Period. Being able to express my thoughts and creativity was not a priority. My parents didn’t reason with me or care what I had to say. Why should they? I was a child. And they were the parents. We were taught RESPECT. It meant something. It means that you don’t argue with someone older than you, whether they are 30 years or 30 days older than you. Ever notice your indian friends have a lot of aunts and uncles? It’s because we would NEVER call an elder by their name. In my parents generation, they don’t even call their older brothers and sisters by their name. There is always some sort of prefix or other title. In fact, up until my teens, my younger brother and sister didn’t refer to me by my name, they referred to me using the more respectful label you use for “older sister”, until I got too cool in my teens and was embarrassed by them calling me that.
I look around these days and see way too many things that you would have never seen when I was growing up. For parents, a desire to be…liked??? For kids… A lack of respect. A mother at a park trying to reason with a tantrumming 2-year-old. Parents who claim that their children don’t know what the word NO means (because they don’t want to use the word NO with their kids). Parents who let their kids pick out their clothes, choose what they will eat, and decide when they want to sleep (if at all). Kids who think nothing of talking back to adults! I’m not judging. Just curious. I look at all the entitled kids I see these days. Kids with no manners. Kids who speak to me as though I am their peer. Could they be the offspring of these parents who are hesitant to use the word “NO”? I’m not sure.
All I know is that I plan on raising my children fairly similarly to the way I was raised. In this day and age it may not be easy, but I’m damn well gonna try. I have recently read several books that have me feeling hopeful for the future. You’ve all probably heard the “tiger mom” theory and, more recently, there has been a lot of chatter around the “french” parenting model. These tend to lean towards the more structured side of parenting. I haven’t read any books around the attachment parenting model, as it is not something I relate to (given my upbringing), but im not opposed to it. There are definitely downsides to being overly strict, just as too much freedom can be dangerous. I think the trick is finding the balance. More important, I think the trick is knowing what kind of kids you want to raise, what type of parent you want to be, and what the boundaries are, BEFORE you have kids (or very early in their lives). If you have a plan, you can work with it. If you wing it, I promise you’ll be scrounging. There is nothing that feels better than finding a few good books that you feel you can relate to, and learn from. In fact, reading these books has only confirmed to me that, for the type of adults my husband and I are trying to raise, we are on the right track. If you are on the same page as us, consider checking out the pages of these books;
Mean Moms Rule
Bringing up Bebe
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
I found each one of them to be easy to get into and stay with, relatable, funny, and best of all, educational. I took away more than a few great tips and ideas.
Thanks for stopping by, and I would love to hear your thoughts on parenting styles (past and present)!