By Arathi Devandran
Culture has been always a bit of a befuddling topic for me, throughout my younger days in Singapore, and over the recent years as I moved to the UK to pursue my undergrad degree. Singapore has always prided itself in being a multicultural society, and the amalgamation of so many different ethnicities in one tiny island could get a little overwhelming sometimes. I come from your average, middle-class South Asian family, a small nuclear unit made up of my parents and myself. Maybe it’s because there was only me in the family, or maybe because my parents had a firm set of values and beliefs that they began instilling in me since I was a child, but I grew up with a set of principles that was very tied together with my identity as a South Asian. There was a strong sense of family and filialness that has followed me throughout my life; this sense of community and togetherness has grounded me in my life and has provided the emotional and physical support whenever I have needed it. Yet, for all the emphasis that my parents did place on values and ideals, they have always allowed me to pursue my interests and chase a life the way I want to (for which I’m eternally thankful for).
A lot of this has to do with the fact that though my parents wanted me to have a good sense of what was “right” and what was “wrong”, they allowed me to make my own mistakes, and subsequently learn from them. This may seem slightly paradoxical, but what this meant was that they gave me structured guidance when I was very young and impressionable, while slowly giving me the freedom to explore life as I grew older. I may be a little biased in saying this, but this was probably the best way of bringing up a child as adventurous and curious as I was. It didn’t help that I went to an all-girls school for a large part of my life, and I had an educational background that inspired young girls to be as independent and fearless as they come. My personal belief is that parents have to create an environment in their families where there is a clear channel of communication between them and their children. Although my parents weren’t from my generation, nor were they fully aware of what exactly were the contributing factors that made up my generation and its many woes, they were always around to hear me out. They were always there to provide whatever advice they could, and they were always there to support me through many of my ambitions.
Although all of the decisions concerning my life were ultimately left to me, I feel I always made the better decision because of my parents’ input. Personally, it is difficult for me to ascertain how big a role culture should play in today’s parenting. My parents were able to toe a fine line between using our cultural values as a foundation while giving me the freedom to function as I deemed right. In this time and age, children and youngsters are exposed to many more things than I was when I was younger. This might mean that there is a greater need for parents to quality control what their children read, watch and learn via the various telecommunicative means that exist. As such, it is important for parents to exercise their discretion when inculcating values to their children.
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