Tag Archives: children

Adopting Holidays

1 Dec

Last week, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, nominally a holiday commemorating the partnership between newly arrived Europeans in North America and their Native American neighbours. In practice, Thanksgiving is an exercise in community, rich foods like turkey and pie, and American football.

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK or Bangladesh, for obvious reasons. Despite my having lived in the US my entire adult life, 16 years now, Thanksgiving still feels like an artificial holiday to me. Perhaps it’s because so many wonderful friends have hosted me over the years that I haven’t absorbed any one set of traditions as my own.

Even though I was part of my ex-husband’s family for 9 years, I didn’t quite internalize his family’s traditions, mostly because between his job as a soldier and his father’s as a firefighter, we rarely celebrated holidays together. Instead, we used the cold weather season as an excuse to visit Washington and Oregon and made the most of visiting as many relatives as we could fit into a trip.

Last year, my daughters spent Thanksgiving with their father and I was alone. I elected to volunteer at Operation Turkey, an Austin opportunity to share the food of the season with the less fortunate. There was little point in roasting a turkey for one, so I made turkey cutlets, took a long bath and folded laundry after I was done volunteering.

This year was be different. Not only do I have the children, but this is my first Thanksgiving since I became a US citizen. We volunteered together to feed the homeless, cooked together and ate together. I’m trying to create traditions for my daughters, foreign though they may feel to me. When they are grown, I want J and M to have warm feelings of safety and comfort when they smell turkey and taste pumpkin pie. I want them to know viscerally how much they are loved and have the language, in words, deeds and foods, to pass that love on to the people they love.

My mother prided herself on being an iconoclast, and one of the ways in which she did this was to avoid all traditional modes of celebration. When my extended family gathered to celebrate the Muslim holidays of Eid, my nuclear family rented movies and stayed home. She wasn’t a total Grinch. Instead of family members getting new clothes on Eid, we gave clothing to the poor. We donated the money to purchase a cow for sacrifice to my aunt, and she’d arrange for the meat to be distributed among the hungry. Having no Eid traditions I could realistically exercise–we donate year-round–I confess that I’m rarely aware of Eid until I see greetings pop up on Facebook. I want my kids to have traditions.

Part of me expected this Thanksgiving to feel different, for my certificate of citizenship to have bestowed upon me a feeling of belonging in this all-American holiday. That’s not how it works, though.

My job as a parent, immigrant or otherwise, is to give my children a sense of place within their family, regardless of where we live. I do it by celebrating the holidays of my host country, as did my parents before me. My other immigrant cousins do it by celebrating the traditions of the old country of Bangladesh. Our goals are the same, though, to anchor our children in a sense of family and belonging.

The “Grand” Magic

25 Aug

There is much to be said about raising kids these days in our nuclear set ups. We are so wound up in the rights and wrongs of our parenting styles. But take a look back at just one generation before us and see how much help our parents had raising us. They did not refer to forums, blogs, manuals, educational toys and billions of other resources that we have at our disposal today. They did have one very important tool though their parents. Yes our “grand”parents. Would it sound very presumptuous of me to make an observation that we had many more interactions with our grandparents than our children today do? Well if so then speaking strictly about myself, I had the rare opportunity to be primarily raised by my maternal grandmother. Both my parents had full-time jobs and my grandmother spent most of our waking hours caring for us.

Grandparents have an insight about child rearing that we as parents do not. I see my parents reacting so differently to the same temper tantrums that my children have than they did when we were younger. Their patience levels are higher, they are keen observers of every little aspect of my children’s development, and they point out qualities about my children that I overlook. I love watching them interact with my kids….it is pure magic.

Why is this so magical you may wonder? We as parents are so caught up in the moment, we are rarely are able to take a step back and wonder at the marvels we created. But our parents are able to do this, they have the time the patience and most of all the experience to watch and enjoy. This might be the key to why raising kids around grandparents is crucial. Keeping them involved and close is essential. I see so much positive in my kids around my parents, I take more pride in my kids when I see them around my parents. There is of course one down side to this in my case especially, my mother cannot hide her joy seeing me lose my cool around my kids, she secretly chuckles to herself thinking of the hard times I gave her when I was their age. But all that is in good humor.

I know now why I am here in China so close to home in India. A year ago I might not have believed the theory that everything that happens has a solid reason behind it. I have had days and days of pondering, brooding and sulking about being away from home in Dallas and stuck here in China. I have had depressing days about my stay at home status but slowly and surely I have come to one conclusion. I am here because it is close to where my parents are, my kids have spent quality time with their grandparents and their great-grandmother (who is still creating her magic at almost 90) l. Together they are creating their own magic much like I did with my grandmother.

So this one goes out to all those grandparents and their magic. Keep doing what you do because it works.

 

Renu Venkataraman: I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I lived in Dallas, Texas for almost 15 years and worked as teacher for special needs kids for 10 of those years. I moved to Chengdu in September 2011 with my husband, two kids and our miniature dachshund Zen. I’m looking at motherhood under a very different light here in Chengdu. It has brought a sense of positivity and purpose to my life in many ways I can’t wait to experience and share with all you other Multicultural Moms.

Wemember Me

29 May

Our first day back in Chengdu after a month away.

Leila hesitates before descending a slope.

Leila: Mum. [Re] Member me, I fall down here?

Me: How the hell did you remember that? I remember Leila!  A few months ago, you fell down this steep slope.

Leila: I cry mummy.

Me: You’re bigger now. You can do it this time.

————————————-

Maher buys bread at a bakery / café. We wait outside, with Rahul asleep in the stroller.

Leila: [Re] Member me, yesterday, I eat cake with you here. Inside.

Me: Oh yes now I remember! You and I came here one afternoon.  Many months ago.  We shared a piece of cake.  You chose it.  We sat there. (I point at the corner table.)

Leila: Big cushion, mama.

Me: Yes that’s right! We put a big cushion on the chair so you could reach the plate.

Leila: No Wrahul, No papa.

Me: That’s right, it was just the two of us.  You and I, together.  Rahul was at home with papa.  And before we left, you chose a cake for them.  And the ayi
(aunt – woman behind the counter), packed it in a box.

————————————-

As we walk by our favorite Japanese restaurant.

Leila: Hey mum!  Wemember me, Wrahul, you, papa, Imad, Pascaline, Liu Yan, Marwan go here to eat.  We sit down. We eat a lot.

Me: Yes my love, we ate here many times.  We sat together and ate lots of noodles, fish, and spinach.

Leila: Many times.

—————————————

Leila looks at the weighing scale.

Leila: Wemember me, I baby, I lie down here.  And Rahul also.

Maher: Oui, bien sur mon bebe, je me rapelle!

Leila: Wrahul cwy, Leila cwy.

Maher: Oui c’est vrai, quand vous etiez tout petits vous pleuriez quand on vous pesait.

—————————————-

At a fountain in our housing complex.

Leila: You wemember me, Leila and Wrahul sitting here, on the step.  Wrahul stick. Leila eating.

Me: Yes I remember baby girl. You were sitting next to each other.  Rahul was playing with a stick.

 

 

Maher and I live in Chengdu with our two-year-old twins Leila and Rahul.   I was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until Our Little Yogis became the teachers.