Our Discussions

We and Our Children

1 (a madar)
Sallam Doostan Aziz,
Before going further, I want to thank all of you for your informative inputs and sincere sharing, I am glad for the collective efforts and energy in taking these initial steps to share and support our parenting issues and feelings.
As for my two "rials"! I like to take a shot of seeing this issue from my child's point of view. For instance, when I was at my daughter's age (6-7), my understanding of nooroz was a break from school, getting new clothes and a pair of shoes, having a lot of eatable goodies around every where we went, and receiving lots of money for "Eidee", none of which is applicable or practiced in my daughter's experience in regard to nooroz, she goes to school during nooroz business as usual, she gets new clothing and shoes whenever is needed, there is not a lot of visiting around here just because of nooroz. Now, preaching all about nooroz and forcing her to learn and expect her to show interest in everything related to nooroz, I think will have a negative effect on her at this age. What we can do at this time is just celebrate nooroz for ourselves and have her observe our traditional practices and the happiness that doing this brings upon us. Then later, may be when she experiences other traditions too and has developed better understandings and logic, I can go into the detailed philosophy of nooroz and the uniqueness of this tradition and share my memories with her. For now, I am happy that she just helps in coloring the eggs with her artistic touch for "haftseen". I do not believe in forcing our children to do anything. I know how overwhelming parenting can get and how much anxiety we as the young immigrants (who have been influenced by host culture themselves to some extend!) can have over the parenting issues and responsibilities, but do not believe all that justify us in forcing our kids to fulfil our pre-built images of them, or relieve our conscious!
At certain age, kids do not like to be different from other kids and it is up to us to support and validate their feelings, my limited experience with the youngsters in the iranian families around us indicates that after they pass this stage, somewhere between age 10-15, when they look for uniqueness to differentiate themselves from others, they explore their iranian roots and culture. I learned from Homa to put more efforts in trying to be consistence and speak with my children in Farsi and not give in even when they answer back in English, but do not think it is healthy to force them or make them unease in expressing themselves with a language they are not fluent in or comfortable with. You see, I came to realize that it is very difficult and demanding to grow up in this society after my daughter started school, as attractive as this society seems to be in regard to children in terms of access to information, materials, and resources, they are under tremendous pressures to meet certain requirements. Our first grader has already learned to read books on her own, is required to give short speeches on weekly basis (her teacher told me that "this is what job market and work force expects from them, to be able to give presentations in front of others"! , we are talking about 1st grade here), she is required to write short paragraphs (to explain the who, what, when, why, where, how, in the story) finish reading and writing report on one book every week in addition to her homework, be active in PE, socialize in events, and ... I remember that when I was in first grade, I just knew my alphabet and read and wrote a few simple words. It was not until we were in high school that we had to speak in front of the whole class, and when we did that, we were not qualified as extensive as the kids are being qualified and challenged here. My point is that growing is demanding enough and sometimes painful in this society, and we do not need to add to it unnecessarily. The way I like to see it that they should own their own lives and we (my husband and I) should let them be whoever they are to be (independent from what we dream and want them to be). In my opinion, this does not conflict with giving them direction, and passing our values to them through our own actions and way of being. It is amazing how they learn effectively from what we do rather than what we say.
I thank you for your time and wish you a good luck in happy parenting.

2 (a madar)
Salaam doostan,
I have really enjoyed reading this discussion thread. I think it is at the core of all our questions as immigrant parents.
Here's my "two-rials" as Talieh put it:
I think there are no easy 1-2-3 answers that would apply to all of us and all our children. We probably have to be creative based on our and our kids particular situations and personalities. But there are a few facts that I have learned from my aunts and uncles who were immigrants a generation ago and their children are now parents themselves:
- Whatever we do will not be easy!!
- If our kids don't speak Farsi as kids, they will probably never speak it. Even though they might understand it, but their understanding will also get more limited as they become adults and have very little actual contact with Farsi speaking people. There will be the very few exceptions who will try to take Farsi classes as adults (in college) but we all know that learning a language as an adult is soooo much harder than as a kid. So from these few even fewer will succeed.
There are all these articles published now on the benefit of being exposed to more than one language as a child and how it helps develop your brain much better. I would love for my children to learn even a third and fourth i langauge. we have tried all kinds of ways to encourage Farsi speaking by the kids (stickers, pennies, charts on the fridge etc.) The battles still cannot be avoided. But hey, we have battles regarding many things. Just part of the parent-child relationship, in my mind. I don't try to win them all but I think this one is well worth a try!!
- If we love Norouz, it is based on our childhood memories as well as it's deep meaning. If my children don't have any childhood memories related to Norouz, then it will definately mean even less to them. I know we can not duplicate the things we did as children. But it can still be something to remember.
What I have found is that even if we get the Xmas tree (which we have) since my husband's and my hearts are not into it, Xmas is never as fun in our house than other kids. So even if we try, we can not fake it for our kids. They are different than other kids. So we try to put our effort in the pride of being different and special. I know that they will feel how special Norouz is for us and how we feel for it. Growing the greens, jumping over fire, the parties, the Eidis, the picnic at the end, etc. will be their memories. I also always go to their school and do an expose on Norouz with haftseen and other cultural things and get them involved. They love it. It is another way of feeling special. Actually all the kids have really liked the haftseen and the teachers just love it. It is easy for me to do since my heart is in it.
Ofcourse, my kids favorite holiday is Halloween!! Hard to beat that one. But Norouz is still on their list of favorites and that is all we strive for.
best wishes for all,

3 (a pedar)
And here is my do-zari :)
I beleive that we should teach Persian to our children as much as possible. This is our language, and it is the main vehicle that carries our cluture. I know that implementing this is not easy and we end up in a sort of compromise; my point is that this should be our guideline.
The fact is that we are a hanging generation; we do not belong to this land and this culture, and we do not belong to today's Iran either. We live in this place and that time; at least this is the way I feel, and I know that I am not alone. We have lost part of our idendity. Now, our children live a very different life and world than ours. Their world is not separated in time and space as ours'; nevertheless, they have one thing in common with us: the idendity problem. Ignoring everything else, the mere physical appearance means we and our children are different from Americans with European ancestory. We can either deny this differnece and the deep cultural differance with the others, totally ignore it, or as the third option try in any way that we can preserve our Iranian idendity and pass it to our children.
I agree with all of you who would say this is not easy; I personally haven't had time and energy to do it as much as I would like to, but I haven't given up either. Although my kids can't read or write Persian, they speak it with me and my wife - not with each other though.
Well, it is time to send an e-mail to my boss so he knows how late I work :)

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

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