Tag Archives: nature

Work In Progress

10 Apr

Parenting is a forever process; ask my mom she’ll tell you. Both her children are close to their 40’s and she still continues to parent. There is a fine line between a being a parent and parenting. Me, I am trying hard to parent, being a parent comes by default.

It took me all but a bunch of great articles and a fabulous movie about a great kid to get me thinking; what makes a good parent? I set out on a journey a very conscious one and it made me hit the reset button on my life. Imagine a day in any parent’s life; you go from being good, bad and ugly not necessarily in that order several times a day. You give your children unconditional love; the right value system (one that appeals to you), protection and hopefully some great DNA and set them free to venture into this vast universe. But wait there is surely something amiss here? So I ask myself if this really enough to prepare my children for what’s out there?

The theory of nature vs. nurture works it way around us only to a certain point after which there a billion gray areas that need deeper introspection. Behaviorists and Evolution experts may have very valid arguments on the how’s and why’s of these gray areas but there are scenarios that need a little more explanation than just those two points of view.

My tone might be laced with a dash of cynicism but I must clarify that is not the case.  The environment around us today is bombarding us with a fair amount of its own challenges and very often we are left with little or no ammunition to deal with them. Let’s not forget our children are their own being as well; they have their own interpretations of situations and this is where the theory of pinning down everything on nature and nurture fails. They make their decisions on how to react to these situations in their own unique ways and sometimes sitting back and being their patient audience is all you can do as a parent. You might feel helpless but there is a big lesson to be learned from this helplessness.

My children live in this universe with all its good and bad, they see fights on streets, they accidentally catch news on the television which show stories about wars being fought around the world, they hear their parents talk about politics or about the nine year old boy in Washington who took a gun to school and accidentally shot his classmate.

How am I to shield my children from these realities of the world? Or should I be shielding them at all? After all this is their world! Am I to turn off the television that brings home news about war crimes being committed all around us, should I close my laptop every time my son hovers around me when I am trying to catch news on Syria and all the people dying there everyday? I have often wondered how parents deal with issues like teenage pregnancies, sexual preferences, addictions and other such seemingly controversial issues. I say seemingly because I have to be ready for such possibilities with my own children. The world around us is changing rapidly, we read stories in newspapers and magazines and bury them away deep in our subconscious because these are stories happening to other people and things like this happen to other people not us. Think again! These stories are happening to parents just like you and me, these regular suburban parents are not raising children to be sexually active at 14, they are not preaching prejudiced ideas about other people’s sexual preferences, they are not practicing hate crimes in the name of race and religion in their homes everyday. These are “normal” parents with “normal upbringing methods” so to speak. Then how are we as a society able to raise teenagers who have so much angst and rage in them to enter their schools and kill an entire student body?

We have become a society that shelves issues, they bother us enough that we take the time to get on the computer and tweet about them or share them on a social network but we seem to lack the courage and the time to take action. Is this a personal parenting issue or is this something we as a society need to address as a whole?

This brings me back to my point that nature and nurture can take responsibility for only so much, there are things that are beyond our control. The universe has a plan for all of us. We can protect and raise our children in a bubble for only so long. The bubble does not stretch forever. The good news is that there seems to be a solution for this lack of control that we face; being conscious, keep trying, and knowing that keeping it REAL and POSITIVE for us and for our children always works.

I have often heard a passing remark “there should be a job interview on who can be a parent and who cannot” and I have to confess it has made me laugh, but then again I was not a parent when I heard it. Now that I am, I have to retort to that by saying, who am I to judge?


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.

You Are My Sunshine

16 Jan

I sit in the darkness, my son nursing in my lap, my daughter lying beside me under a pile of warm blankets, holding my hand. The room is still as I sing the familiar lullaby lyrics I sing every night.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy, when skies are grey…

I treasure these words. How true they are, I think to myself, as I stroke my daughter’s silky cheeks and listen to my son’s soft, snurfling breathing against my sweater.

Anyone who has visited or lived in Chengdu knows that the skies here are grey—simply grey, or yellowish-grey, or grayish-grey, or whitish-grey. On a very rare occasion, they might even be described as bluish-grey, even sunny-ish-grey if you’re really, really lucky. But they are always and forever grey. It’s fog, it’s smoke, it’s coal particulate, it’s clouds…whatever the case, it’s grey.

My son has never seen his shadow, and on bright-ish days when the obscured sun “shines” in the midday sky, my daughter excitedly points and says, “Mommy, look! There’s the moon!” That’s exactly what it looks like, too.

It’s not easy living under a thick, grey sky…far from home, far from friends and family, far from like-minded mothers and parks and open spaces that stretch majestically beneath a clear blue sky. It’s not easy struggling day after day with a colossal language barrier and the constant challenges that come with living in a foreign culture. The skies can feel very grey indeed.

I hold my glass under the water dispenser and make frog sounds—gung, gung, gung, gung—to imitate the sound of the air bubbles as the water flows into my glass. My son, who is sitting on my hip, starts giggling, and before long the two of us are laughing ourselves silly.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you…

We head outside, and my son spots the gate guard at the entrance to our apartment complex. He is an older gentleman in a black police uniform, small in stature, with bright, mischievous eyes and a wide smile. His eyes twinkle when he sees us, and he growls a menacing growl; their daily game of chase begins. My son hides behind my legs, peeking out and squealing with delight. Soon all of us are laughing.

At the market, on the way home from preschool, by the fish pond, at the park, on the sidewalk, my children make friends. No matter that they speak only a handful of Chinese words. Everywhere they go people greet them, smile at them, offer them gifts, and laugh with warmth and friendliness. Barriers dissolve, hearts open. We connect with the most unlikely souls—construction workers, street sweepers, taxi drivers, fruit sellers, grandparents, noodle-makers, cashiers. The bonds are fleeting, but each is genuine and warm-hearted.

I often hear that children are the true ambassadors of peace in the world. I can completely see why. I am so grateful to tag along behind these two beautiful kids, their senses so vibrant and clear, their spirits ever buoyant, their hearts and minds so wide open. Without them, my feelings of isolation here in China would be so much more intense, and the grey skies above me would be so much more oppressive. Thanks to them, my days are flooded with the brightest, warmest sunshine.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.


For the whole song (I only ever sing the first verse), visit http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/sunshinemid.htm

Heidi Nevin, who is not normally this sentimental, resides in Chengdu, China with her Tibetan husband and two young kids, ages 4 and 1.