“So what’s it like to have your kids growing up in India?”
It’s a question I hear often from friends in the U.S. My own children were seven and ten when we arrived here, and my daughter especially remembers what it is like to be in America, since she was there until 4th grade. Having spent some of their school-age years in the U.S., the contrasts for us are fairly clear and I’m glad that God has chosen that we be here for our kids’ remaining school years.
The overarching benefit is the hard-won enjoyment of having my kids know two very different cultures well. We often talk about how all cultures have strengths and weaknesses, and how we as Christians need to evaluate any cultural attitudes or practices biblically. We hope our kids will be able to fit in anywhere, and relate to people of any culture, valuing them as precious in God’s sight. But even more important than this flexibility is the maturity to be able to discern what is good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
Our goal as a family is not to be “more Indian” or “more Western,” but “more Christ-like.” I have found that being in India as expats gives us a head start in losing some of the blind spots inherent in both cultures. Not all, certainly! But the ones we become aware of can make us open to others. We can also appreciate the strengths of each culture because we see them more clearly in the contrasts.
But what about India specifically? What do my children gain that makes it worth all the stretching and accommodating and even pain of living in two cultures? Here are some of my observations:
Welcoming of Children
I’ve noticed that in India, children are generally included in any happenings. Whole families are invited to dinner/weddings/parties, children are welcome and expected, and no one usually expects parents to get a babysitter to attend a social function. Their childishness is tolerated at these functions with much grace. I appreciate this inclusion, and I think my children benefit by watching people of all ages interact socially.
Interdependence vs. Independence
As Christians we are told both to “bear one another’s burdens” and also that “each one should carry his own load.” I think that knowing well the interdependence here, and the independence of the West, we are better able to strike a good balance of both as a family.
Humanities vs. Sciences
School in the West is strong in the humanities. School here is strong in math and sciences. Having both strengths available for my kids helps us see what their strengths really are. My daughter was an early reader and is an avid reader/writer, but I was mistaken in seeing her strengths as centered in the humanities realm. To my surprise, she excels in physics and chemistry above all else!
Pressure to Conform
My children have told me that they appreciate a certain tolerance here, a lessening of the pressure to conform to superficial external things. It’s not just the use of uniforms but a broadening of the range of what is acceptable to own/wear, etc. If a 6th grader has a pre-school themed lunch box or shirt, who cares? My kids’ friends are happy with less “stuff” here, and that takes some pressure off socially. Certainly issues of status are universal, but so far, my kids feel much less pressure here.
Knowing real people of other faiths helps our kids put faces and names to the vast peoples behind these labels. The prejudices are fewer and they can appreciate them as real people.
Benefits of Hardship
Although we still get frustrated with chaos and disorganization and pollution and the like, I have a strong suspicion that we have all become more tolerant of discomfort. I believe that will be a mark of maturity in my children in years to come.
Are there downsides to rearing kids in India? Without doubt. But I truly would be naive to think that there are not very real problems that parents face in the West also, or anywhere in this fallen world. Focusing on the strengths is a discipline in thankfulness that helps us press through the difficulties.
Oh- another obvious benefit to life here is that I get to see Downton Abbey four months ahead of my friends in the U.S…. Oh, wait- that’s a post for another time. 🙂
What have I left off of this list? Leave us a comment and continue the discussion below.
Photo Credit: Meena Kadri: Compfight
Very precise and well written. Welcoming and tolerance of Children at official functions, low peer pressure to conform to superficial standards, and acceptance of people of other faiths as real individuals are very well analysed points.
But the most important one of the 6 points mentioned is the 2nd one: Interdependence vs Independence. This is the very basis on which the Indian society values and specifically the family system exists. We have a social system where we are taught to be Interdependent. Hence, even after being parents ourselves, we still seek advice from, listen to, respect and even obey our parents.
It was interesting to see that the writer inspite of giving the thumbs up for all the other points, drew a balanced approach on this particular point! It seems that parents in the West are eager to come out of their full parental responsibilities. They would rather like to struggle it out on their own in old age, rather than have an interdependent relationship with their own kids.
The very purpose of a "family" is interdependence. It is not a training ground for Independent beings. And if the interdependence helps in the better values being followed and passed on, then why leave it after a certain age? So I would give my kids a 9:1 for Interdependence from their childhood to their marriage and a 7:3 from their marriage to them having grown up kids, and a 3:7 in my old age. ..!
This is a very interesting reply to my post. I have thought long and hard about your view on interdependence. I think where I take issue with your view is the statement, "I would give my kids a 9:1 for Interdependence from their childhood to their marriage". You may not have meant it this way, but it bears out in what I have seen in some families. Young men and women in college are not treated much differently from in their childhood. I believe that to be ready to take on the responsibility of marriage, a young person needs to grow in independence in increasing measure throughout their time in the home.
For a young man to "leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife" and for her to be ready to run a household, both need to be trusted/expected in increasing measure to make some decisions as they grow up. I tell my children often that God always sees them wherever they are, and they are responsible before Him for their actions. They may lie to me, but never can to Him. I believe in building that sense of accountability to God at a very young age. I want them to depend on HIM most of all, and His people, and family, come second.
I have seen young people who are in college and away from home whose parents text or call them almost every other hour of the day. I have heard of a young man who was not able to stay at the school he was enrolled in, because he was not used to sleeping away from his parents. Surely these are the extreme, but this is why I say balance. I think there is a resilience and leadership built in to a young person who knows he or she will be expected to take on responsibility and will be trusted to handle some of their own decisions.
Yes, even after marriage, the parents can be of help to the young couple, but again, I have seen abuses of this and more-harm-than-good situations all too often. The hard independence of the West is NOT my ideal, which is why I said "a balance". There is a tension on both sides and balance is that for which we strive.
thank you for the info, i am planing to take my kids to India but were not sure where to go as i am lonparent and not from India.