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#1 of 13 Old 04-17-2009, 02:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello everyone! I'm so glad to have found this forum, and think it'll be useful for years to come. I'm Indian-American (born here) and my husband is white American. We're expecting our first baby this fall.

Warning: I like to ramble, and I'll try not to

So my concerns are probably a little different from others here. While I respect the culture (and religion) I grew up in, and was exposed to it pretty frequently, I don't feel like it's a HUGE IMPORTANT PART of who I am, and thus don't feel like I need to make a lot of effort to impart specific language, religious traditions and cultural rituals to our future children.

I know there are people out there who think that's sad, that I've "lost" my culture, but I like to think of it more as synthesizing the Indian and American parts and taking what's important to me.

I think my husband and I work well together because our core values are the same: importance of education, treating people with respect, working hard, being financially responsible, service to others, the significance of our marriage vows, respect for other cultures, etc. Some of those obviously are common traits in Asian cultures, but my husband grew up with those as well in his midwestern family.

So to me, those values are what I think it's important to give to my children, and less so with language, cultural customs, and religion. I do want to raise my children with the awareness of race and culture and being respectful of differences in people and being open to *all* cultures, foods, customs, etc.

Where the culture clash happens is not with his family, but with my own. I am fairly certain my parents are disappointed with how "Americanized" I am, though they've never really come out and said it. They do love my husband and we don't have issues there and they're absolutely thrilled about their upcoming grandchild. But culture and religion, and the specific rituals, are really important to them.

The first issue that came up was about a religious ceremony my mom wanted to do for me while I'm pregnant. Honestly, I just don't want it. I'm not religious. We're not planning to raise our kid in that religion.

I've spent a lot of my childhood "going through the motions" and attending various religious functions. I'd like to not feel like a 12 year old who's doing something because her parents said so, and make conscious choices for myself about what customs are important to me and my new family. And I see this as the first in a long line of things like this that are going to come up with BabyX.

I've told my parents how I feel but I don't think they're really listening - they just want what they want, and keep asking. In the past we'd get into blowout fights about miscellaneous stuff like this (like wearing Indian clothes vs Western ones to family functions. etc) and I don't want to keep feeling like a rebellious teenager.

Any ideas on how to be firm and stick to my own plans without completely ruining our relationship? I'm not rejecting every single thing they might want to do (for example if they'd want my kid to wear some cute little Indian outfit to some family event, I'd probably be up for it in the name of introducing her to some of the culture), but I'd like to evaluate these things on a case-by-case basis and not have it be a huge argument each time. And on the religion question, I'm not flexible.

My husband is totally fine with however much I want to do. He feels the same way about religion, but with respect to rituals, clothing, etc, he's fine either way and will support me. (Part of why I think he's awesome.) So I'm kind of on my own in these decisions.

Thoughts? Have you had to deal with it? Am I your worst nightmare in how your own kids will end up, all assimilated and melting-pot-ified ?

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#2 of 13 Old 04-18-2009, 02:17 AM
 
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Well, no advice with regards to your parents as I do not know them and have not faced that issue, but you are not my worst nightmare (though you might be my husband's, ). I don't care what culture my kids embrace, provided it's a positive one, like, not drug culture or whatever.

As for the religion thing, do they know you are not religious already or is that something that has not really been dealt with yet?

Sorry if I do not write back immediately, feel free to PM me, because I have a newborn now... so I get distracted from these threads. Welcome to our little tribe!

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#3 of 13 Old 04-18-2009, 01:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks EdnaMarie for the welcome!

I think my parents know I'm not religious but maybe don't want to dwell on it too much. We had a discussion about it when I was still in high school, and again in college. They know for sure my husband is not. But we've never talked about it in the context of the baby. But for them, these religious ceremonies are as much cultural as they are religious, too, so that throws an extra wrench into the matter.

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#4 of 13 Old 04-18-2009, 05:32 PM
 
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Maybe if you emphasized how seriously you take these ceremonies- that they are not to be done without reverence, which you do not have and which your child does not have as a baby- and that is why you do not want to do them, but maybe that you could agree to some specific ceremonies that have a more general meaning, as a compromise? For example, if there is something welcoming the child, or whatever, you could do that, but not something dedicating the child or honoring God or a god or whatnot.

Best to have this conversation now and decide once and for all what holidays you are going to celebrate... at the same time, really consider that a lot of people do celebrate holidays for tradition only, especially Christmas (are you not going to do anything AT ALL for Christmas / Hanukkah / the whole holiday season, not with DH's family, either?), so you need not feel like you are somehow betraying your beliefs to participate in them as cultural ceremonies only. So maybe you can find some room for compromise.

Though, I understand that to your parents, any holiday or ceremony left undone may feel like a huge loss. That is very tough but you are not alone- after all, many American Christian parents have children who do not believe in their religion, either. But of course they do not have the additional cultural aspect to deal with.


It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#5 of 13 Old 04-19-2009, 07:38 AM
 
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urgh! So I wrote all this good stuff but then lost it when i tried to post cause i got logged out this site! :

anyway, I'll do an edited version from what I can recall. first welcome

second be true to yourself. i follow a different religions then my family and even though i try to compromise it rings false when i let them talk me into doing anything i no longer support spiritually.

that's all i an recall about what i wrote. sorry but i hope it's helpful
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#6 of 13 Old 04-19-2009, 01:50 PM
 
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Thoughts? Have you had to deal with it? Am I your worst nightmare in how your own kids will end up, all assimilated and melting-pot-ified ?
A little bit, actually. It's good to assimilate, but, I feel it's also important to acknowledge your roots and know where you came from. Traditions and rituals are part of keeping that knowledge alive. This does not mean you *have* to do it as a matter of course. Growing up, young folks feel irked by what they think they don't identify with...but, these things slowly become a part of you. And, if and when you want to share this with the next generation, it will be there within you to pass on.

The pregnancy ceremony, I think, is part of many old cultures. I would approach it from the perspective of giving my mother the joy and satisfaction of doing something for her daughter and would be grandchild that is important to her. Is there something negative involved here that I am missing?

As long as it comes from a place of love, has no adverse implications, I would not be overly concerned about their desire to include aspects of your culture vis-a- vis traditions/religious rituals. These things don't have to happen exclusive of the values you hope to impart to your child. They can go together.
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#7 of 13 Old 04-19-2009, 06:38 PM
 
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I personally would consider promising or dedicating something to a god/God you do not believe in, to be damaging to the person doing it (in this case, the mother). Well, it depends on the person but for me that would be pretty traumatic. So I do understand the feeling that it just rips you apart. I am married to a man of a different religion and I let him do that stuff as he pleases but I do not promote his religion to my daughter.

Of course- that is not to say that there can be NO positive experiences with a religion that you do not accept as your own. Just to say, I do not think that all rituals are benign.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#8 of 13 Old 04-19-2009, 07:52 PM
 
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I personally would consider promising or dedicating something to a god/God you do not believe in, to be damaging to the person doing it (in this case, the mother). Well, it depends on the person but for me that would be pretty traumatic. So I do understand the feeling that it just rips you apart. I am married to a man of a different religion and I let him do that stuff as he pleases but I do not promote his religion to my daughter.

Of course- that is not to say that there can be NO positive experiences with a religion that you do not accept as your own. Just to say, I do not think that all rituals are benign.
Could you please highlight where in her post the OP mentioned the part in bold above? Many traditions carry within it, nuances that people outside that culture miss completely. And yes, it is common sense that not ALL rituals are benign. A lot is lost in translation is what I feel.
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#9 of 13 Old 04-19-2009, 11:29 PM
 
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Not going to highlight while naking, but bref- that is a part of many rituals and it would be remarkable if none of the OP's parents' traditions included that.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#10 of 13 Old 04-20-2009, 12:12 AM
 
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I've told my parents how I feel but I don't think they're really listening - they just want what they want, and keep asking. In the past we'd get into blowout fights about miscellaneous stuff like this (like wearing Indian clothes vs Western ones to family functions. etc) and I don't want to keep feeling like a rebellious teenager.
Is there any compromise possible? Such as a party baby-shower that you might feel comfortable with instead of the pregnancy ritual that you don't want to do?

Is it possible for you to work w/ your mother to "edit" the ceremony to express something you feel comfortable with?

I hope you can work something out to everyone's satisfaction.
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#11 of 13 Old 04-20-2009, 04:47 PM
 
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Hi and congrats on your pregnancy!

My dh was born in India and raised there, and I was born/raised here and am light skinned. We have two daughters. Although dh and I went through a religious phase early in our marriage, I would say that we are not that religious now. Dh and I still will do an occasional puja in our home but we don't go to temple very often at all-- maybe twice a year he will take them. I feel that my kids are a good mix of both of us. They do not speak his native Tamil.

I am sorry you feel resentment about your parent pushing you so much. I have seen this in friends who were born here, parents from India, who were raised with Hindu culture kinda shoved down their throats but little explanation into the meanings of things. Or they have converted from Hinduism to Christianity, or are just searching but they know they are not Hindu like their parents. You don't necessarily have to be settled on what you believe or don't believe to raise a child who can be open-minded about both sides of their heritage.

Maybe for the baby ceremony, ask your mom what elements are the most important for her as the future grandmother. You can pick and choose a couple of things-- like wear clothing that is comfortable to you, but maybe a dupatta wrapped around a nice dress or blouse instead of the full sari (I don't feel comfortable in saris either). Is there a special piece of jewelry you can wear? If you don't want it to be religious then just have your mom pass the flame over you or whatever, but don't do a full puja.

When I was pregnant my dh wanted to do the hair parting ceremony. It was more of an act of love than any religious obligation. He lovingly parted my hair, and promised to be a good daddy, and that was all there was to it. No big ceremony (and I'm sure we did it all wrong anyway) but lots of meaning.

My oldest is 8 and she identifies herself as an Indian, I think in part because she looks a lot more like my dh than she does like me. She is very comfortable in Hindu/Indian settings, although she's not fully been raised that way. She loves Indian food. I don't look it very well so when we visit with dh's family she just eats it all up until she's stuffed. When we go to temple on festival days she offers to serve food and then eats a big plate herself. It's her favorite part of going to the temple. She finds the rest a bit boring.

When she was 6 we all traveled to India to see dh's family. None of them live here in the US. It was a very, very important trip for my daughter. Her sister was too young to remember, but my oldest remembers it quite well and wants very badly to go again. She felt that for once she was not a minority, she felt very loved and very much at home. She enjoyed the adventure of traveling, seeing new things, eating new foods. She is proud of that part of her heritage. She was thrilled to see her name used several times as the names of a pharmacy, a hotel, and a goddess at a temple.

Although she's very much an all American girl (into the typical things that an 8 year old is into), has lots of friends, looks forward to American holidays, I am so, so glad that we have exposed her to cultural things. On the other hand she looks forward to visits from the Easter Bunny (non-religious), Santa, the tooth fairy, and loves making Valentines for her friends. It's a good mix that we have going on.

When she was a year old we took her to India and had the traditional head-shaving and ear piercing. She loves to hear the story of how we carried her up the temple path to Tirupati and gave her hair to God like her mother and father before her, and generations before that. It makes her feel very special and important, that we took the time to do that. We had an informal naming ceremony at our home when she was about a month old. Her daddy traced her name in a plate of rice, and then whispered her name into her ear three times. We have photos and she treasures hearing about that.

Whether you are Indian, German, or whatever, rituals are very important. It doesn't have to be about religion necessarily, or about language. It's okay if you don't agree with Hinduism, but the rituals are part of your family's past. If you don't want to be religious, at least share your favorite parts about the holidays, or teach the greater meaning. For Diwali you can celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. You can keep it that general, but still have fun lighting up your home and cooking a meal to celebrate.

For spring time, maybe incorporate Holi into Easter and celebrate the spring with colors of paint and colored eggs, too. Celebrate Pongal as a harvest festival and invite your friends over for a feast. It doesn't have to be totally authentic.

Your children may or may not want to identify with your culture. At least give them the option. Good luck!

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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#12 of 13 Old 04-24-2009, 11:55 PM
 
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Whether you are Indian, German, or whatever, rituals are very important. It doesn't have to be about religion necessarily, or about language. It's okay if you don't agree with Hinduism, but the rituals are part of your family's past. If you don't want to be religious, at least share your favorite parts about the holidays, or teach the greater meaning. For Diwali you can celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. You can keep it that general, but still have fun lighting up your home and cooking a meal to celebrate.

This was so eloquent and perfectly said. So many cultures intertwine religion with culture that sometimes the two are almost inseparable, and one without the other seems diminished sometimes. I'm Indian and DH is Japanese, and we hear our now-5 yr old kindergardener ask deep, penetrating questions about culture and where she belongs, especially as she's a minority in her school with 99% Chinese immigrants. She asked - very disappointed - why we weren't celebrating Chinese New Year, and I explained that we weren't Chinese, but we celebrate Japanese and Indian new year (ok, Diwali), and she was thrilled with that. Cultural reference is such an important aspect of her building a sense of self, given that she is bicultural, that I go out of my way to ensure that she has balanced input from our 3 cultures...Indian, Japanese AND Canadian. She goes to Japanese language school, Indian and Buddhist temples, eats Indian food at Ajee's and participates in pujas, celebrating the cherry blossom festival. It's enriching. I can't see how it would harm her.

A melting pot culture is essentially a culture of assimilation, the culture of the dominant hegemony. In essence, 'American' culture is a Christian one, and by rejecting your family's Indo/Hindu roots in preference to a culture of assimilation is basically substitution IMO.

This wasn't a light matter for us. Dh and I had many long discussions before we had kids around culture in our marriage for our kids, with the pros and cons. Your priorities do change somewhat when you have kids. And choose your battles.

I wish you luck on your journey.
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#13 of 13 Old 04-27-2009, 12:20 PM
 
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Dh is indian and I am white american and DS looks alot like me. We had his 1st birthday in India when he was 15 months. Although it was much like a traditional cermony would go only difference is I refused to allow them to peirce his ears {liken it to circ and I just can't violate my son that way}. Sure I stepped on a few toes that day but my oppinion should be respected just as much as theirs. Pick and choose what you think is important and let everything else slide. I'm sure your child will have fond memories of all the traditions you and your little family create.

Catherine & Baby Vee
Mama to Vinayak {8/2007} & Married to Sridhar {11/2001}
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