By Jasjit Sangha
Summer Sailing Adventures
As a stepmother in a blended family I am always trying to balance bringing Sikh Punjabi cultural values into the family with having an openness about new ideas and experiences that my husband – who is not South Asian – brings forth. I want my children, even though they are bi-racial, to feel some sense of belonging in the South Asian community.
So, when I am presented with an idea for an activity that is not going to enhance this South Asian connection for them, I am always hesitant, at first, to try it. This summer I was put to the test as I had a jammed schedule with two family weddings and a visit from my sister and two nephews who lived out of town.
I had set aside blocks of time to attend family functions in the suburbs, shop for Indian suits and catch up with my relatives over long conversations while lazing on the couch and drinking chai.
When my husband proposed the idea of sharing a used sailboat with a friend and teaching the whole family to sail I resisted the idea. Other than one cousin who sailed regularly with his family I didn’t know any other South Asian person who sailed. I was also worried that this new activity would further divide my time and make it harder for my children to connect with my family over the summer. My skepticism was validated when I spoke to my parents and they promptly replied that they were scared of boats and no interest in sailing. But my husband was determined to try it, and before I knew it we had a boat that was donated to him by a friend, docked at a marina at the Toronto Island waiting for us to board.
My husband, children and stepdaughter fell in love with sailing right away. They would come home after sailing and telling me tales about how much they enjoyed learning to be in tune the wind and not being disturbed by the roar of a motor boat. The more they shared their enthusiasm and joy of sailing, the more my cynicism melted. I also saw a confidence in my children as they mastered a new skill and got a chance to take on a leadership role. When I finally did make it on to the sailboat, my children were teaching me how to sail. The highlight for them was when they got to be the captain of the boat and issue orders that I had to follow without question – a role reversal that rarely happens in our regular lives.
The worries I had about them being disconnected from my family evaporated as they slowly came to visit us on the sailboat. The stories we shared sparked their curiosity as well. One of my nephews who had never been on a boat before, surprised me by developing an strong interest in sailing after coming on the boat with us a few times. On his third day he worked up the courage to jump off the boat and plunge into the cold water of the lake for a swim with my children (with wetsuit and life jacket on of course).
For a South Asian kid who had not been exposed to water very much, it was an incredible feat and it made me smile. I knew then that I made the right decision by willing to be open (albeit reluctantly) and try something new, expanding my personal realm of experiences as well as that of my South Asian extended family.
Being part of a bi-racial blended family means that I have a foot in two very different worlds, so those times when the two worlds I live in come together are precious to me. I am also realizing that I learn about different aspects of myself by taking a bit of a leap of faith and trying something new – even if it not something typically associated with being South Asian. Although I know sailing is not for everyone, it is just an example of an activity that may seem out of reach, and too different to try out, yet may be something you can really enjoy as a blended family. For those who do want to try sailing, many marinas offer lessons, boat rentals and children’s camps. If sailing is not for you, maybe try another outdoor activity that you have been considering doing, but were unsure about. The experience may surprise you.
If you are a stepmother in a bi-racial blended family I would love to hear more about how you navigate the two worldviews that you share in your family. For all other stepmothers, I would love to hear from you too – tell me if you have ever tried something new, that is not typically South Asian, and how your family enjoyed it (or not!). Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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