Lessons from my mother and father
Being a stepmother in a bi-racial blended family can have its benefits. There are tremendous opportunities for learning that you might not otherwise encounter in your life as you bring together two cultures and multiple generations of a family. For example, how common is it to see a turbaned Sikh male senior citizen socializing with a young, white, female fashionista or an amritdhari Punjabi grandmother holding the hand of the same fashionista as she talks to her about the importance of getting a good education and having religion in her life? Not the kind of situation any of them expected they would ever be in, yet it works, when both generations bring each other into their lives. In the spirit of mother’s day and father’s day, I am going to share a little bit about my parents and what they have taught me through their role in my blended family.
My parents, like many other immigrants, faced numerous challenges while raising their families. When they first arrived in Canada almost 40 years ago they were not accepted graciously nor did they have the comfort of retreating to the ethnic enclaves that exist today. Instead, they had neighbours who did not talk to them, and they risked being harassed verbally, and even physically on occasion, just for the colour of their skin. As a consequence they held on tight to their culture and found solace with family and friends. They looked at mainstream white Canadian culture with distrust, and they told their children to do the same.
When I first told my mom that I was dating my soon to be husband she gasped and blurted out in Punjabi “Hai Ma Marjama!”. Although it is almost comical to write about her reaction now, at the time it was such an unexpected shock that she didn’t know how else to respond. My father on the other hand internalized his disapproval and refused to look at, or even talk to my boyfriend when I brought him home from the first time. But instead of holding on their anger, or their dissatisfaction and letting that affect their relationship with me, they did the complete opposite. They changed who they were by contemplating deeply on the values they had held on to for so many years, and choosing to expand them, rather than cling to fossilized understandings of Sikh Punjabi culture.
They embraced my blended family and made sure my stepdaughters felt welcome and valued in their home. In doing so, they showed me how much they valued their relationship with me. They also showed me that although change in tough, it is much more fulfilling to take risks and open your heart to others, than to live a life that is constricted and fears the unknown. So, to my parents, I raise a cup of chai to you, and thank you for your love and support.
Do you have a story you would like to share about how your parents interact with your blended family? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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