Parents and Children in a Cultural Pickle

April 21, 2018

Parents go through stages of worry and anxiety from the day a new baby is born. Unfortunately, although they assume that all their worries and sleepless nights will disappear after the first six months, the problem seems to never end, but continue as a life time apprehension.

Young parents, especially during early stages, get panicked and rush immediately to the first available paediatrician or their general practitioner seeking advice about the new born when they notice the young one is uncomfortable or keep on wailing continuously. My memory goes back to the days our son was born, when we were young, and how we rushed to our local G.P in London. Being away from parents and relatives in a foreign land, we had to be guided only by the American paediatrician, Dr. Benjamin McLane Spock’s book on ‘Baby and Child Care’. The stern advice my wife received from our G.P was to ‘turn herself into a cow and feed the baby properly’!

Then comes, a stage where the new baby becomes extremely adorable and loquacious and starts to pick up a word or two. At the age of two, the baby becomes overwhelming as the young one becomes very inquisitive about everything he/she observes in the house.

According to Tamar Schapiro, an ethical philosopher and author of the article “What is a Child”; she believes that one of the most important topics is protectiveness, and how parents can acknowledge that their children have wills, and how those still override them.

In developing countries, especially in Asia, children are brought up with a mixture of love and discipline according to Asian culture. In Sri Lanka, it blends with an economic value and it is accepted, as an unwritten law, for parents to expect their children to support parents in their old age. Contrary to such ideals, in developed societies in the world, children can become an economic liability.

The latter tendency is very much applicable to children born to Sri Lankan parents in foreign countries, or children taken out of Sri Lanka at tender ages and allowed to grow up in foreign cultures. The general absurdity, made by some of the affluent parents in Sri Lanka who lead relatively comfortable lives and enjoying top executive perks, is that they have migrated to foreign lands (particularly to the UK), placing emphasis on their young children’s future education.

Undoubtedly, it is the expectation and prayer of every parent to see their children doing better than what they have achieved in life! In such a backdrop, some have burnt their boats entirely and migrated officially, on work permits or permanent resident visas, pondering over their own disciplined childhood backgrounds, and with much hope of looking forward to a better life for them and children. They blindly assume that the grass is always greener on the other side!

Many such parents have come to realise their folly much later and have started to repent on what they had sacrificed for the sake of their children when things go wrong completely in foreign environments, where life styles become completely alien to their own culture, and when children turn around and treat parents in a grungy manner, especially when parents become old and their income levels dwindle. In many such cases, parents have no option but to end up in an old peoples’ home or in a geriatric ward in a hospital! This is the reality of life!

It is natural for children born out of Sri Lankan parents and grown up under the influence of foreign culture, automatically to get mixed up in a cultural pickle. Such children need to adopt to a certain standard of behaviour at home, according to their parents’ wishes and discipline, and act entirely in an opposite manner, when they intermingle with their age group in schools and socially.

Those who do well in studies end up in top executive management positions, and invariably settle down after getting married to foreign women of any nationality, although their parents might want to get them married to a local unsophisticated girl.

When “international” marriages take place, seemingly and unknowingly, couples get entrapped in a cultural gulf between the husband and wife. This leads to a confined life style of their own, by leaving parents and living separately. In such circumstances the only time they could spare, in a rat race type life style, would be to visit parents once in a blue moon only, at special times like during Christmas, for a family gathering.

In the meantime, parents who sacrificed their lavish life styles in Sri Lanka, for the sake of their children’s future, have no choice but to confine themselves into a flat and to depend on the television to kill time and their loneliness! Some young husbands, after getting married to foreign women get henpecked to such an extent that they become forced even unwillingly, to send parents to an elderly home, purely to maintain peace at home! The black sheep, out of that category of children, will end up by getting hooked on drugs and giving a gruelling time and heartbreaks for the innocent parents.

Inability to change

Sri Lankan migrant parents, always live in a world of their own, with their childhood memories and experiences of a strict disciplined background.

They expect their children, born or grown up in an entirely different culture to follow suit. However, when children reach the age of sixteen, they consider themselves as adults in Western societies, which in certain cases tend to warp their minds and affect their behaviour and act according to their own whims and fancies. The helpless parents, in such circumstances, have no option but to get used to see their children hardly at home, and adapting to a new ‘hi dad and bye mum’scenario!

This occurs especially due to culture clashes as mentioned above between their friends of their own age against the discipline orientated parents. In such a backdrop the question arises whether it is fair, or unreasonable to condemn the behavioural patterns of children (born or grown up) in different cultural backgrounds, while parents dwell in their own past childhood memories!

The irony is that the children born and bred in foreign lands or taken them at tender ages for the sake of their future education, often may not realise or admire the amount of struggle and sacrifices parents have undergone in bringing them up to a level in life, and especially when they begin to argue irrationally with parents at the drop of a hat or becoming so illogical to the extent of thinking that they have grown up overnight just by waving a magic wand by themselves! This type of behaviour naturally breaks the hearts of parents, who had done so much for the children and sacrificed a lot in bringing them up.

In such circumstances, what could the old parents do? The love between parents and children can never be compared in monetary terms, although some children when they become affluent in society may be tempted to think so, and at times even feeling shy to identify their parents in public.

By the same token, some children turn out to be better examples of ‘ideal sons and daughters’ by respecting their parents with love and care even though they grow up in completely alien culture and different surroundings.

Could this be due to the grave mistake some parents do by completely adapting to Western culture and forgetting their own?  Home is said to be the base for moulding a child and the mother gets the blame for everything when a child goes astray. Psychologists will probably call it as ‘personality clashes’, as everyone is an individual and behaves in a distinct manner.  At the end of the day, the answer to the despondent parents could be that they are unable to disassociate from their fibrous cultural patterns despite living decades in foreign lands, for which only they can be blamed for ending up marooned in a flat surrounded only by four walls.

Pic.credit: Ceylon Today

Spread the love

You Might Also Like...