Moving to the US eight years back with two little kids, was a big change for us. Knowingly or unknowingly we kept comparing things about India and the US and still do.
One big difference is that US has migrants from all parts of the world, which exposes kids to different cultures in a far more significant manner vs more ethno-centric places like India. This is in no way a blog to pit one way of life against another, but just my perspective about the educational systems as well as the differences in the parenting that I have observed.
Here in the West, there is a lot of emphasis given to appreciating things that children do. We Asian parents, fail to match the manner and frequency of acknowledgement that the teachers and coaches provide our children. It’s actually quite an effort and I feel like we have to constantly keep reminding ourselves to appreciate our own kids!
Secondly, children are taught about law from a very young age. They are taught about their rights too. I remember one incident when we had taken our kids to Chuck-e-cheese, an arcade game and entertainment place. A favourite among children aged between 2-10. With both my kids in that bracket, they had a blast of a time. At the exit, Chuck-e-cheese has this system wherein you can redeem the tickets that you have collected by winning games. For 1000 tickets, you get something like a pencil or an eraser. My little one spent hours calculating what she could buy with her treasured possession of 1000+ tickets. This was taking time and their Dad was getting impatient. Finally, he raised his voice and was beginning to admonish her, when he invited trouble for himself: an American guy walked up to my husband, and said, “Hey-hey, I know she is your daughter, but you can’t treat her this way. Do you want me to call the cops?”. (I was playing very safe, looking the other side, giving no clues that I belonged to this family :D). To this day, I feel I should have captured my husband’s emotions on camera! I have never seen that look on his face again. He drove back home at breakneck speed and even asked us several times to check if that guy was following us.
Subconsciously kids register a lot of things — my daughter was enrolled in a play-school at that time where she was taught about 911 dialling. It took only a few months from thereon and my little birdie knew how to make us dance to her tunes. We dare not upset her or moments later, we would find her running towards the landline and calling out, “I am dialling 911…”. We were at her mercy! My older kid became extremely worried about this, imagining that if both his parents were taken away, he would be sent off to foster care.
Laws are good, but there are two sides to every coin. Sometimes you feel like a prisoner instead of feeling liberated and especially for people like us on a visa, that feeling is manifold.
Which brings me to the need for striking a balance — between the cultural nuances of this country and my own Indian roots. To understand and appreciate the value-system in which I was brought up vs the one I am raising my children in. We, as parents are only striving to offer the best of both worlds. It might take more efforts, more time and a little more patience, but it can be done!