Our Gathering Discussions

Gathering report:(by a madar)
1. Should we or should we not let our children to sleep over at their friends house when they reach to that age (normally 10-12yrs.)? Our experience with our daughter was that we wouldn't let her sleep over at her friends house unless they were Irannian families (Talk about discrimination!!!). Then my daughter challenges us and said why do we think all Irannian families are better than any American friends she has. We explained that because it is easier for us to know Irannians than Americans and she thought that was our problem because we could easily spend more time and know her American friends families as well. She also criticized us for letting her younger sister who is 4 years younger than her sleep over at her Irannian's friend house even though we only know that family for less than 6 months. These were all good and reasonable questions. We both (me and her dad) decided to let her stay at one of her friends house for her birthday. The friend was some one who we knew better and knew her family a little and talking to my daughter we knew they were very strict family (I don't know if being that strict this is good or bad) at least it is good for our purpose of letting her stay at this specific friends house. We thought with doing this we will let her know we accept her reasonable criticism and she needs to accept our reasonable rules. Rather than not listening to her and just telling her this is our rules and we are Irannians and you need to obey us as your parents and this is end of discussion. Now she knows we will only let her stay at her friends house if we feel comfortable with them and that is acceptable to both of us. Even though both me and her dad had a mizrable night that night and called her 3 times and almost didn't sleep the whole night, but we thought not letting her to go was the easiest way out and would not help our relation ship with our daughter. I did get lots of criticism from my mom and almost got into an argument with her for being a wimp and not standing behind my principles (which was her principles when I was growing up), but then I thought how I felt when I was being discriminated against when I was growing up. Just because I was a girl I couldn't stay at my friends house but at the same time my brothers had no problem with this issue. I will leave it to you to judge my reasoning and accept it or not.
1 (email from a madar)
sleep overs: never! i don't think my heart is strong enough for that :-). times have changed since we were kids and some really horrific stuff can happen to your kid whild (s)he is staying over at friend's house. i'm not saying that it will, but just the thought of it makes me nervous.

2 (email from a bi-cultural daughter)
I am a child of a bi-cultural union and would like to comment on the sleep over issue. I can remember my Persian father being so upset whenever I wanted to stay the night at a friend's house. It usually turned into a major drama before anyone every calmed down. It was never a problem for them to come to OUR house..... but of course, for me, that was no fun! I knew my house inside out! :-) I think in order for a child to feel a "part" of their social group at school, they need to be allowed to participate in some of the things their peers are participating in (as long as they are potentially positive situations and as long as they are with American families who have their children's best interests at hand). Every upstanding American family I know is also very protective of their children and also scrutinizes who their children are associating with. I think there might be a misconception between some Iranians that Americans aren't protective enough over their children. The issue should be whether the "family" of your child's friend has the same principles and concerns that you do....... not whether that family is "Persian," or "American" or "Russian," for that matter.
3 (email from a madar)
I agree with the woman (#2 above). It has nothing to do with being Iranian or American has to do with the kind of people the parents are
4 (email from a mother)
I am the mother of to bicultural children. For years my husband would not allow our daughter or son to participate in sleepovers at their friends' homes. This caused great embarrassment, especially to our daughter who felt like the odd man out.
I finally decided that she would be allowed to attend sleep over, especially if I knew the family well. My husband was not thrilled, but he adjusted after I told him that is was very unfair and made our daughter be thought of as weird and coming from a weird family. Kids need to do this no matter what culture they are from. It's a very important part of learning about others and the world and social acceptance.
So to this day (she is now 13 and her brother 11-1/2) my two do spend the night at other's homes and vice versa and my husband has learned how much fun everybody can have learning about everybody's families.
5 (email from a mother)
The subject of sleepovers was an issue for us, but, is now a non-issue. It is simply not an option. Pedar feels very uncomfortable with the idea of sleepovers( a cultural judgment) and Mom, (opposed as a pro-active safety measure) as always, is the enforcer. My solution? I give my children ample time and opportunity to invite their friends to OUR home. Other children are at our home so often, that my children remain part of their peer groups without the need to be in the sleep over club. Being a 40 year old Mom of 6 children ages 2-20, I remember sleepovers as a child, and have watched the evolution of this cultural shiboleth, from my oldest to youngest. I think more parents than ever are saying no to sleep overs and it is entirely possible to compensate for one "not acceptable" with other "acceptable" manners of inter relations.
Of course, for each of us, this is a personal issue, but, as a mom who tries on a daily basis to assuage the gap between cultures and religions, I have found being pro-active the most viable means of assimilation. I have thrown "balegh" parties at my daughters' schools to allow their friends the information and celebration of what is important to us. We have invited the social studies teachers to our home for lunch to discuss the teaching of the chapters on the Middle East and Islam at different grade levels and just yesterday, I played host to a group of teen girls who all came to me "Eid-e danee", and included Christian European/Americans, Jewish Russian/Americans and Muslim and Christian Iranian /Americans. The sounds of their laughter and the sight of their bonding, gave me hope. Welcome to the new salad bowl, not the old melting pot. We can each treasure and keep our traditions and beliefs, if we do so with respect and consideration for those of others.
6 (email from a bi-racial daughter)
I am a bi-racial daughter and i have never had any iranian friends at all except daughter of my dads iranian friends. My parents have always let me spend the night at my friends house as long as they knew the kids parents. I do not think that being iranian makes oyu better becasue i was harrased at school by an iranian boy and he ended up getting suspended, so why does anyone care if their child is spending the night with an american or a russian ?iranians are not always the best people!
7 (email from a mother)
Dearest (# 6 above), Of course, you have an excellent point. There are good and bad people wherever you go. That boy was bad, but, your own Father is good and both are Iranian. I don't think anyone suggested Iranians were better, they simply suggested sleepovers are not part of Iranian tradition and culture. I think it's great you have opinions and share them. I wish you had more exposure to your father's culture so you could see more of the good, because believe me, as a non-Iranian...there is so very, very, very much good to see. Take care, and thank you.
8 (email from a mother)
This is a great topic and cheers to those folks that are being forced to think outside traditional lines. I am an American wife - husband is Iranian and we have one son who just turned 8. This summer we sent our son to an overnight camp (!) for one week - a ranch camp of sorts. He went with his best friend from school - which was the only way that we were willing to consider the idea. The other kid's mom and I took the kids to the ranch (2 hours drive) to check it out and see the camp owners and staff. The boys really wanted to go and so we signed them up. This was the first time that we had been away from us (without one of us being with him except for sleep-overs at friends homes which we've allowed him to do since he was 4). It was a difficult week for my husband and I who thought about him constantly! We were not allowed to visit or call the camp (for reasons that I agree with actually). I cheated towards the end of the week and called - requesting to speak with his cabin counselor - which I did and found great encouragement in the fact that my son was having a great time! The other mom and I received letters from the kids which we shared w/each other. The idea of summer camp - overnight - is a fairly common tradition for American families - many American kids have grown up with their "summer camp" experiences. I don't have any Iranian friends who have allowed their children to do this and I think it's unfortunate because my husband and my philosophy is that we want our son to learn how to think for himself, to be independent, make right decisions, etc. All kids are different I understand. However, for us it was a valuable learning experience both for our son (who wanted to stay another week) and for us as parents, cutting the apron strings a bit. By the way, we have only let our son sleep over at friends' homes where we know the families extremely well (American & Iranian). Having only one child - we've found it very important for him to have friends and we make sure he has opportunities to develop these friendships. We also talk to our son about how to handle himself responsibly and if he finds himself in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation - how to think his way out of it. For example, we don't have guns in our home and I choose not to assume that our friends don't have guns (you always hear about some kid shot while playing w/a gun at a friend's house) - so we talk about what he should do in this situation. (you get the idea). Cheers.
8 (email from a madar)
We do have sleepover in our culture, but it is not usually at a friend's house. We do go to our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and even our cousin cousin from our great grandfather side. In general our culture does not promote friendships outside of family (people that we really know). Sometime we end up with one or two friends outside of family circle which is usually reverse of what American families. It took me a while to get use to idea our kids spending the night somewhere else. But I got use to it our son was 8 years old before he went to his first sleepover 2 doors down from us. We knew the family and their kids.
We also have the sleepover at our house. But you can not ask other people to send their kids to your house but you don't allow your kids to go there. My girls go on sleepover too but again only to our friends ( we made good friends through Brownies camping trips). But I could not trust sending my kids on a camping trip/camp anywhere with anybody.
9 (email from a mother)
Why would you not know American families as well as your Persian one's? If you live in the U.S. you SHOULD have american friends ,or what's the point of living outside Iran.You make yourself look arragant not only to your daughter's friends and their parent's , but also to your daughter. I am an American wife of an Iranian. My children have always spent the nights with their freinds who's parents i feel have good morals no matter what their ethnicity, religion, or race. My husband doesn't always like this, but he get's over it .There's alot of things about Persian culture I have to get over!
10 (email from a madar)
It is not only the Persian culture that does not agree with sleepover, Europeans also have the same idea as most Persians. Since my daughter is 6 and it is getting closer for her time to ask for sleepovers, I am starting to get concerned about this issue also. I personally did not grow up with sleepovers and still don't agree with it. It is a matter of comfort level you have with the other parents too.

I also have American and Canadian friends who in their adult years have talked about the stuff that had happened to them at sleepovers at close family friend's houses or close relatives and I don't wish them on anyone. Even though you personally know that friend's parents, there is no guaranty that nothing will happen to your child, every family has their own problems that are not advertised publicly. So what is the point of risking, even that remote chance that something might happen to them when it really wasn't necessary, they can play for few hours and then come home for sleep.

I also have a lot of non Persian friends that don't allow their kids to go for sleepovers. So, I can tell you that this issue is not only an issue for Persians.

11 (email from a madar)
I used to have sleepovers in my cousin's house when I was a kid . My best memory from my childhood is those nights that I could play with my cousin and sleep in her room . I would not take that away from my child specially in a society that sleeping over is very common . My daughter is 5 years old and so far she had her cousin and her close friend over couple of times and she slept in their house also . going to her grandma's house and spending the night with her grand mother and aunt is very usual in our house also .

I would not let her to go to the house of some friends that I don't have full knowledge of . But close relatives and family friends that I can leave my child with for having fun and play during the day without my present will be OK for a wished sleepover .

I think she will understand/accept better why I disagree with some places when she can have sleepovers for safe and close friends .

a madar

12 (email from madar#10)

I used to stay at my grandparents house too with my other cousins or stay at my cousin's house once in a blue moon, but we don't have that set up here, and I don't feel that close family friends can replace that just because we had it when we were growing up back in Iran.

13 (email from a madar)

I agree with Madar#11. I had sleep overs at my cousins house when I was growing up and enjoyed it so much. I don't think being Iranian or American has any thing to do with this, as long as you feel comfortable with the family and you know them well enough to let your child spend the night there. I wouldn't let my child to have sleep over at friends house until they are old enough to understand, may be 9 years old. 5 or 6 is too early even with American culture. I have a teen age girl and a 10 years old girl and they both started to have sleep over parties when they were 9. I feel if they are too young then it would be overwhelming to them also. Sleeping over at grandma's is different, I am talking about friends and other relatives. Also, I think this is a very personal issue and if you don't feel comfortable with your child spending the night then don't let her and explain it to her, why you don't feel comfortable. Kids are very smart and can easily understand logical explanation. Keep in mind that we can't live in a bubble and have to accept some cultural differences and adopt to the culture here and combine it with our moral values otherwise we will have to deal with very unhappy and morally mixed up children. I feel you have to draw the line when it is your principles and do not bend your rules if they are your principals, but we all live in this country and believe in this society (more or less) and need to accept some cultural differences and try to be flexible.

Please send your replies and/or opinions regarding this subject to madar-pedar@surya.eecs.berkeley.edu.

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