Archive by Author

Are you the Puppet Master or the Puppet?

23 Feb

Sitting here in my self-initiated, self led parental psychoanalytic session I frequently find myself pondering about a very fundamental yet tough question; “why do we have children?”

Relax! I am not looking for answers and come on let’s face it, is there one? To me it begins with one very selfish act of wanting to create that perfect reflection of you and your partner and of course wanting to keep that fabulous cycle of genetics going. Why not? My genes are great, some of them I secretly wish were a little dominant have turned out to be recessive but I know they exist. Maybe they’ll be dominant in my offspring, no harm in hoping. Reasons differ, generations differ, cultures differ but we all do it anyway for whatever reasons. Artistically speaking (I sense criticism, but I bravely pursue) it feels like I have been presented with a marvelous piece of raw material to work with. It comes pre-colored, pre-textured, has a few unique traits that I have seen in nothing else before and it is all ready and willing to be molded into whatever I want it to become. Really? That might be what I am getting at.

I am beginning to get a strong sense that parenting (call it mine) is beginning to feel like running a puppet show. We are all well aware that every child is unique but we still try to mold these little ones to who they should become and training starts very early in life.  I am so bound by how they act/behave at home which translates to how they do it outside home. My feeling only validates itself when I hear praises on how well my son adapts and adjusts at school or other environments where he meets people. And do I stop there? No, I push harder. Sounds merciless I know but we all do it consciously or sub consciously. My pride and joy is at stake here; I am bearing my soul here so please bear with me. You do realize it all boils down to you as the parent, good or bad you are responsible for all of it.

I think everyone one of us has run into the soccer coach/dad/almost made it to the NFL guy who might be pushing his 4 year old just a little too much on the field, or a mother who might be working two jobs a day just to pay for the private cheerleading lessons that she believes her daughter so badly needs. Sound familiar?

It is called ambition, problem here is that it has a snowball effect to it, give or take a few personal unfulfilled aspirations and before you know your child is being shuttled between guitar lessons, ice skating, the swim team routine and of course let’s not forget he does excel at school as well (my son doesn’t know it yet but he is going to be juggling around as a full time doctor let’s make that a neurosurgeon, who is also a pro ice hockey player when he is not competing for a swimming gold medal for the US) . Why shoot for mediocrity when you have a perfectly willing candidate who is pretty open negotiations about his future with an occasional bribe. Does it begin to feel like that puppet show as yet? But wait who is the puppet here you or your child?

I think the root of my analysis began with watching a show called “Toddlers & Tiaras”. My initial reaction was disgust, come on which mother would put her 2 year old in three inch heels, make-up and pretend that the pageant was a deal breaker for her child’s future. Like I said the reaction was temporary, as a mother I came to the very harsh but true realization that I do it too; I live vicariously through my children as well. Now now, it can’t be that bad right? It starts off pretty innocent; you want to dress your infant up like the Gap commercial kid, you try pushing academics early on in life thinking your son or daughter might be that genius mind and all he or she needs is that extra nudge. At our house we make subtle references to Doogie Houser and secretly harbor the hope that one of them might pick up on it.  Lots of us do it (please back me up on this one). The intensity differs of course, some of us live and breathe vicariously through our children and it begins to take a life of its own.  I secretly want my four-year son to swim like Michael Phelps, I did not learn to swim as a child so I over exaggerate my lack of the skill to make my son a gold medalist at it, aim high why not? My daughter has temporarily been spared because she is too young right now and we tend to focus harder and better when there is one target on hand.

Let’s not forget the peer/parental pressure on how many after school classes a child can handle in any given week day. Whatever happened to just finishing school, coming back with a pile of homework that gets done on time to spare those few extra hours to actually run and play outside? Or just picking out an activity that both kids and parents enjoy once a week and do it together. I am not against keeping a child busy after school, but why decide what he might like when he is perfectly capable of telling you what he might like to do. As a child I badly wanted to learn to play the guitar but my parents thought Indian classical music was the way to go, so guess what even though I might have actually enjoyed learning it I detested going to lessons every week because I had no choice in the matter. Ok excuse the cynicism. But I am sure you are witnessing what I might be leaning towards. I pin a lot of my hopes and dreams that might have gone unfulfilled for me on my children but I am beginning to draw a line on what they might have the potential for and more importantly what they might be interested in doing. There is a vast difference between brainwashing and presenting opportunities so that children can explore their options.  Choices might be a key word here, preparing us for possible change of minds and preventing those disappointments that they are entwined with. All of us want success for our kids and we might just support them even if they do not choose the career path we have in mind for them. I have several arguments about the issue with my husband I strongly believe in children finding their own niche’. He believes in the “grooming early theory”. Which basically means if kids are told what is expected of them every so often over a period of time they get so tuned to it and the choices I was mentioning about earlier seize to exist.

I know parenting comes with the responsibility of leading and directing. That might be the trick to it as well, trust yourself as parents to give your kids the responsibility to make those important choices in life. My key to parenting lies in my role to channelize and be that chauffer who they so badly need to take them places. But let them pick the places and the adventures they are willing to take. I am always there to steer the wheel.

 

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And That’s How He Learned His Colors

14 Nov

You should have seen the look on my face when my four-year old walked into our house after school one afternoon and loudly exclaimed, “Mom guess what I am, I am brown!”

I was expecting him to come home and tell me what book he read at school or how many time outs he got at school but this I was not ready for. I quickly put on my curious cap on and began questioning him about what he was talking about and tried underplaying the comment by asking him if he ate chocolate, or dirt at school that probably made his mouth brown. But he quickly geared the conversation back to what he exactly meant to say which was, “Mama look at my hand and my face I am not white, I am brown.” I was surely not ready to have this conversation with him at 4. I had no fall back plans and no possible logical explanations for the future of where this conversation was heading.

In retrospect I might have overreacted a little in my head. My initial reaction was anger of course as to why and how this could have been introduced to him and who might have told him he was brown. But then of course I had to put on Mommy gear on and pretend like I was a grown up. I began doing some research on the how’s, when’s, where’s of introducing this very touchy matter of race to children. I have to admit that I went in with a lot of skepticism, but after reading a few very eye-opening articles on the matter I am happy to admit to myself and you that I am not as closed as I was when I my son accidentally forced me to visit the subject.

The crux of my initial reaction is rooted in my philosophy that children are colorblind and any initiation to the matter is environmentally derived. But you see I was wrong, there are tons and tons of research in the area, which disprove my theory. Children see differences around them from as little as six months old.  What made it take a positive spin for me was looking at it as just another social category. Imagine it just as a label to categorize people like we do with any other aspect in society. Children like to form patterns to fit into their life-learning puzzle. They see differences in hairstyles, heights, looks etc within their family members but they are all the same color, they make similar associations in other settings as well. When something does not fit the puzzle they notice the difference and move on. This is where our crucial role comes in as parents, the ability to let them move on without muddling their little heads with more differences and prejudices that we have as adults. It gives parents like me a positive spin on it. Not every aspect of race or color is negative.  Psychologically the word race prompts an immediate sense of discomfort. We as a society have dealt with so much history based on race that it only seems logical to be a little wary of it.

I grew up in a country where we were all brown and we were all Indians, but if you can imagine a whole color spectrum of shades of brown that is how many shades you had within that one country. A fairer shade of the same brown was considered supreme.  There is a whole cosmetic industry dedicated to creams that would make you fairer than the skin color you were born with. I am not condemning it.  My point of sharing this is that I am no alien to it even though I grew up in a country where everyone around me was the same race as me. An interesting incident comes to mind when I speak of India, a very close relative of ours remarked the minute she first laid eyes on our newborn son that he was not as fair-skinned as his parents were and that was alright because he had other beautiful traits in him that masked the lack of color. I was angry at that time, a mixture of new mom hormones and immaturity on my part I tried defending his color to her. But looking back I have to laugh at myself and wonder.

Why do we have such a love/hate relationship with the subject? Why do we cringe as a society every time it is brought out in the open? Why is it not polite dinner conversation? Why do we fear it so much? Is it because we harbor underlying prejudices of our own that we are too ashamed to face ourselves?

Lets be honest we all have opinions some strong some not so when it comes to this subject. I considered myself very liberal and often thought I was born in the wrong decade. I secretly live in the Hippie era and would love to have been raised a flower child but I am diverting.  As a parent you are put in very sticky circumstances that force you to reevaluate your foundations and what you stand for.

After several conversations with myself and reading a lot of material on it I have come to the conclusion that I will not whisk the matter under the carpet when my son wants to know more.  I will not give him reasons as to why it is OK for him to be the color he is or is not. I think we are what we are and the way we were intended to be.

Being brown or being white or being black or being yellow is all beautiful, we are just like the rainbow in all its glory, we live it and experience the beauty around us. If we were not all different imagine how dull life would be. And that, he needs to know as well.

I understand and am truly apologetic if this post caused any discomfort to any of you readers, but this is reality for me. I know we all have issues that we face as parents but I think an outside perspective on subjects like these make the job easier.

References: Children Are Not Colorblind; How Young Children Learn Race by Erin N. Winker who is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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.

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.

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.

Mama…Why, When, Who, How?

13 Mar

Ever heard “The Logical Song” by Supertramp? It takes you through an extraordinary journey of questioning the world around us. I thought of this song when my three- and- a- half year old son started bombarding me with questions, some were answerable others needed some serious soul-searching from my end.

Parenting, I tell you, isn’t easy.

I see numerous moms around me who make it look like an effortless fairy tale, but me I am constantly fumbling over issues. When I look back at the time I began this fascinating journey of motherhood, the initial few years now seem like a breeze. As my three-and-a- half year old is growing and becoming inquisitive, my job as his mother is more interesting, but challenging. The journey is hilarious, fascinating and mind-boggling all at the same time. I have to admit there are times when I have to sit back and make a serious analysis of how I need to ensue. Those first years seem like a breeze because my primary role as mother was satisfying my sons physiological needs; lack of sleep and a small level of fatigue were my biggest issues. Today, his questions that are often accompanied by that: Don’t fail me mama, I will find out, look makes it tough.

I was born in a Hindu household in India. Unlike most typical homes where god played a central role that guided the lifestyle of most Indian families, my parents were not big advocates of religion or god. We did not go on annual pilgrimages during our summer breaks, our weekends did not consist of touring nearby temples, and most importantly my parents never really forced the concept of religion or god on us. We celebrated festivals like any other Hindu family, we were told stories about magnificent god kings, but festivals meant new clothes, goodies to eat, and stories with colorful scenarios that would send any child’s imagination soaring.

In retrospect, I don’t think my parents were non-believers, they were busy with their careers, and god did not seem like something that was a significant part of their lifestyle. My husband, however, comes from a family that was different from mine. His summers consisted of touring various temples around south India; he is well-versed in all the mythological characters that exist in Hinduism, in a nutshell religion and god played a big part in his family.

So here we are, as parents with two very separate childhood experiences and different ideologies with regards to god/religion. This difference does not in any form or fashion interfere with our daily routines, but we do have healthy arguments about how things should be done or not done on the matter.

I’ve had interesting dialogues in my head about the why’s and how’s regarding this very confusing chapter on god/religion. As I mentioned earlier, my parents were neither biased in their love for god, nor did they completely shun the concept. But lately in her retired time off, my mother has taken to it very seriously, the consequence being that I was taken on a guilt-trip on how I should begin inculcating a bit of god in my children. This is very confusing to me, I do not necessarily see the point of it and I am not against it either. I am not mostly against it because of that unknown guilt that harbors in me when it comes to the mysterious religion issue.

So during my recent visit to India I decided to teach my son some Hindu prayers – just to placate my mother. My son repeated and learned them quickly. He got exposed to a lot more of it as our stay in India progressed, till one day he stood up straight and asked me, “Mama what is god?”

Whoa! This completely confounded me. I’m not ready for the question myself leave alone explaining it to a three-and-a-half year old. I managed to burble something on the lines of god loving everyone and all the good things that are associated with the concept of god that he would understand at his age. I was angry and disappointed with myself for doing so; I always prided myself on being a mother who was honest with my feelings and beliefs, particularly when it came to my children.

This was a deal breaking moment for me. It was time to catch the bull by its horns. As an adult I have had several moments where my personal version of god/religion has come to my refuge, but I have never labeled myself as religious or not. Yes, it was a convenient option for me, but children don’t need convenience, they need permanence. Until this point, it has been a very personal choice, but it seems like I cannot continue on this way.

As a parent, I have to take a stand on every issue; it is the only route to take. Children need direction and consistency; in my son’s mind he needed a reason for being asked to say the prayers everyday.

As a parent, I either had to continue with this practice when we returned home to Chengdu, or give it up completely – till he is old enough to make up his own mind about whether or not to embrace god/religion. I’ve chosen to let my son be the judge of how he wants to approach the issue when he is older and hopefully wiser.

But in the meantime I have begun to re-evaluate myself as a mother. I have begun to consciously take a stand on most issues in my life, at least the ones that I plan to expose my children to. I want to be ready when my son poses the next big question.

I am getting there slowly, but surely.

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Renuka Venkataraman is a contributing author at Multicultural Mothering.

“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.”

 

Run…I am Talking About Education

22 Feb

It is personal, very personal, not only because I am an insider in the game but because my kids will soon be venturing into the world of formal education. I am not qualified to comment on its steady state of decline in most countries of the world but I can most certainly express my individual viewpoint of how I am utterly disappointed from the little of it I have seen.

My memories of my school days are very pleasant. I have no qualms or complaints about it; but then again nothing about it stands out as exceptional. The reason I am tracing back to my roots is because things have not changed much. I have had the opportunity to work with children in whom I have seen great degrees of diversity. It made me a strong believer in the uniqueness that exists in every child. This puts parents and educators in a significant position to tap this uniqueness. But who has the time for potential? Education today is all about teaching to the test. The year begins with grand new curriculums, new technology on how to teach it; teaching methods to bring out the best in every child to ensure that every child who walks through those school doors walks out feeling successful at the end of the day. Then how come everyone feels so unmotivated and stressed out about school as the year slowly trickles by?

Kids today are taught like lambs, the idea of standing out in a crowd is not necessarily considered a positive. I shudder to think of how this would affect my kids when they make their way into this system. As parents we marvel and cherish every act that our children do, and every word they say everyday and hope that their teacher might notice at least a percentage of their uniqueness. I know this might sound like a mind-boggling task for the educator but logistically speaking it isn’t. A typical classroom consists of 20-25 students, if a teacher were to spend 2 minutes with every child that adds up to 50 minutes of her precious day. Trust me those 2 measly minutes will be cherished by that child everyday.

In my experience I have seen that children thrive when you set high expectations for them. Children want to impress their teacher, get noticed and closely tied to this is the need to succeed. Teaching to the test kills this to a large extent. Teachers today do not have the time to know their students individually, because they walk into their classroom with an agenda to finish what they need they to cover for that day.

A true story I read many years back in a newspaper often comes to mind when I think of children and schools. A teacher once gave her class a theme to draw a picture of their pet for art class. Most of the children drew pictures of dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and other common household pets. One little girl drew a dinosaur as her pet and when the teacher laid her eyes on her drawing she mocked and ridiculed the little girl in front of the entire classroom for her unrealistic picture. Imagine the plight of the little girl and more importantly imagine how it would have trampled her sense of creativity.

I have been listening to Sir Ken Robinson on TED. He talks very passionately about how education kills creativity. He explains how we are taught to be almost robotic, like workers and not encouraged to think out of the box. He says, “Creativity should be given as much importance as literacy.” I agree with him completely, we are so determined as parents and teachers to follow the rulebook on everything we do for our children.

There are nights I spend in bed thinking about why I need a book to tell me how to feed my kids, how to educate them, how to control every possible action that comes from them and redirect it to follow the rule book. Why are my motherly instincts not enough?

I am now making a conscious effort to let them breathe, be themselves. I might be dreaming the impossible because I know they have to ultimately be mainstreamed and follow rules that their formal educational system might demand of them; but for now I plan to celebrate their uniqueness.

We as parents have a huge responsibility towards our children. Brain development in human beings happens most rapidly during early childhood. Children are like little sponges, they soak up everything you offer them. It takes a lot of conscious efforts from our side to let their uniqueness grow. I think this quote from Sir Ken Robinson sums it all up for me,

“What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now, that we use this gift wisely and that we avert some of the scenarios that we’ve talked about. And the only ways we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way—we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”

Reference: Schools Kill Creativity: TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

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Renuka Venkataraman is a contributing author at Multicultural Mothering.

“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.”

Values Made Easy

5 Feb

Multicultural or Multiconfused? Speaking for myself of course, I’ve never had to pause so long or think this hard about a simple question. “So where are you from?”

My response, “Ummm well, I’m Indian but have lived in the United States for most of my adult life, and I’m here now in China”.

My confusion does trickle down to my children A & A who are three and a half, and nine months old, respectively.  I find myself at crossroads several times a day about simplest of mothering issues. I was raised a certain way, I believe, think, and act differently from that, and my style of parenting is still being defined as the needs of my kids change.

I used to be a strong propagator of creative parenting, which spurred from the techniques I would use as a teacher for children with special needs. I would cater my teaching style to individual children and their ways of learning, which involved tons of creativity from me as their teacher. Before I became a mother I often wondered about how fabulous it would be if I had kids of my own. I imagined spontaneously taking my kids to the zoo,  or to museums to teach them about animals, or taking long walks during the fall and collecting leaves of different colors, then going home to make a scrapbook out of them, and a billion other ideas.

But reality sinks in and those ideas remained just ideas. Lunch at 12 every day, and three-hour afternoon naps become the biggest priority of my role as their mother and those spontaneous visits to the zoo and walks become short little trips that were pre-planned and orchestrated for months before they actually took shape.

I have to confess that I am grateful to my state of confusion now because it is that which has introduced them to 3 cultures. And I have to thank my husband’s constant curiosity for change and his power to convince us that this global diversity is very essential in defining and molding our kids’ lives. I love mothering the multicultural way. It has opened a window for me to bring back the creativity I thought was lost.

My children will be different everywhere they go. They’ll have experiences to share that very few kids their age would have had. They will learn languages, see and experience life in a new light.

China and its proximity to India, both physically and culturally has helped me teach values such as sharing and curbing the need for over indulgence in my 3 year old son. We now take those walks more out of necessity than for leisure, and they give me the time and patience to talk to my kids like I have wanted to. I am learning from mothers from all over the world here in Chengdu and it has opened my mind to a large extent.

My recent trip to India allowed me to teach my son the need to give and share.  He, like a typical American born child didn’t grasp the concept of what it feels to not have or to go without.  The concept of sharing was a very abstract one for my son.  I seized the opportunity to help him understand this concept during one of our many cab, auto, and train rides in Mumbai.

For those of you who might be wondering what I am talking about, little kids are often used as tools to bring money to impoverished homes. It is a common sight at almost every traffic light or crowded train compartment across Mumbai. A little child not more than 2 or 3 years old stretches her arms out for money or food or anything that you are willing to share.

When my son saw this for the first time, he looked at me questioningly – a hard situation for me as a parent to explain poverty to him. I told him these kids didn’t have a toy or candy, and they were wondering if he would share his with them.

So at his request we decided that we’d carry a little something with us the next time we traveled. I was taken aback at his gesture of kindness; he picked out his favorite candy and put it in my purse.  He was enthusiastic to pass it out and see how it lit up the little boy’s face at our first traffic light. He was willing to bring his favorite dinosaur toy as we were stepping out to run an errand.

This was the beginning of a big learning experience for him, and me.  He would leave a little bit of his pasta or a few slices of his pizza when we went out to eat at a restaurant just so that he could share it with some little boy or girl he might run into.

Surprisingly, he was more willing to share his favorite toys with his little sister. That was unimaginable just a few weeks prior. I had to step back and watch my son grow up right in front of my own eyes; it was a heart wrenching moment for me.

Different cultures bring diversity to us in amazing ways. My trip to India was life altering. I didn’t anticipate a big life lesson that he’d be learning during this trip. I was hoping for him to get some exposure to his mother tongue and meet family that he’d never met. We won’t forget the looks on the little children’s faces when he handed out those treats to them.

There was no difference between him and those kids; in his mind he was just sharing his stuff with them. He didn’t have a clue about the social or economic differences that existed between them.

I cherish my life here in Chengdu everyday; I am no longer scared about how my kids will adjust to the new place, new environment, and everything else around them that is new. I know they will be just fine and because they will be fine, so will I.

By Renuka Venkataraman – contributing author here at MM.

“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 Daschund 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.”

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