Balanced Melting Pot

Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Is there room for improvement?

In Cultural Expectations, Culture, Parenting, Questions, Thoughts on March 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

I watched Spanglish for the fifteenth time this weekend, and the end of the movie sparked a thought that I’ve been having for a while about my expectations for my children. For those of you who have not seen, the daughter, who is narrating her college admission essay, says that while acceptance to the university would mean a great deal to her it would not change who she was; her mother’s daughter. 

We often hear that we are supposed to want our children to “do better” than we did. For my mother, who had to drop out of school at 17 to support her family, I can completely understand where that desire comes from for us. However, I feel that I have been successful in both what my mother wanted for us, as well as in terms of goals that I set for myself.

So, is it fair to expect my children to do better than me? What would that entail? Getting farther in their education, making more money, etc? Can I just hope that they be happier than me?

I admit that I have worked hard for everything that I have and continue to do so. But, I also think that is why I appreciate my life so much. Without my struggles, how would I know that life could be a lot worse?

Am I making sense? What are your thoughts about the expectations of success for [your] children?

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Cultural Secrecy

In Culture, Economic Crisis, Questions, Social Norms on March 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm

For me, one of the best parts about being a first generation (1.5 by some accounts) immigrant is that I am able to objectively look at the positive and negative aspects of both my cultures. By recognizing something doesn’t work well in one, I don’t feel at all as though I am rejecting it – just making the best of it. The issue at hand: secrecy.

With all that’s going on in the global economy, my daughter’s private school has also fallen victim. As I’ve mentioned, it is a French immersion program and also teaches a bit of Spanish.

The school is run by someone I think is also a first generation Haitian immigrant. In our culture, you NEVER air your dirty laundry. However, I feel to best adapt to the American culture, you have to learn to separate family laundry and business laundry.

Basically, the school is in serious financial trouble and we, the parents, weren’t informed until quite late in the game. At that point, many parents felt that there was not enough transparency with the school’s administration and wanted a lot more information before doing anything. What we received in response was the financial projections for the next school year :-(.

So, I may be reaching, but I think that the principal considers the school’s woes to be her dirty laundry. The thought of giving its patrons, the parents, an inside look to what may be happening seems to be uncomfortable. In turn, we feel uncomfortable providing additional financial support.

Do you have similar norms in your culture and have you experienced something similar? How did you handle the situation?

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Blending Immigrant Cultures

In Article, Culture, Parenting on March 9, 2009 at 9:08 am

One of the purposes of this blog is to see how immigrant cultures blend with the American culture. It’s not often that I get to see how two different immigrant cultures blend, in addition to the assimilation to American norms.  

Stephen Talty is an author who recently wrote about his reaction to his two year-old noticing race for the first time. His perspective is interesting because he is a second generation Irish immigrant who is married to a first generation Haitian immigrant. Here’s an excerpt from his article:

I want Asher to care about his family’s story. How my father had to leave high school in Ireland, before he graduated, to go to work for his family. How, though he was as smart as any of his kids, he came to America and put in 30 years as a construction worker (which is not a job you want to have in the wintertime in Buffalo) because that’s what men without high school degrees did. How Marie’s father, a civil engineer in Haiti, had to drive a taxi in New York City because his credentials weren’t accepted here. How my mother worked as a nurse’s aide, and 400 miles away, Asher’s Haitian grandmother spent her days as a nurse. How they all saved money to send every one of their kids to college, but how my parents couldn’t justify spending money on themselves.

What I find intriguing is that the experiences of the two different cultures are so alike. So, while on the surface the two cultures are worlds apart (Mr. Talty talks more about those challenges in the article), I think there are many more similarities that promote shared values.

Do you agree?

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