I recently wrote an article for ABCDlady Magazine entitled “Fitting In.” It touches on an aspect of immigration that does not get much attention. I’m certain there are many people that upon moving to another country, particularly the US, have seen dynamics in their family change. Some children may have experienced their formative years in their originating country (India in my case), whereas the younger siblings experience their formative years in the new country. This can contribute to a divide between the siblings down the road, particularly if not managed well by the parents.
I was encouraged to speak English at home, rather than my native Rajasthani dialect. As would be expected, I was eventually not able to effectively speak the dialect, although I can still understand it. Eventually, that contributed in creating a divide as I was the only one speaking in English. I’ve learned about languages that not all words and concepts can be easily translated. There are emotionally-evocative Hindi songs that would lose much in an attempt to translate the words and meaning. From this perspective, I want my children to know Hindi at least. Expecting it of my white spouse is probably a tall order.
It can be alienating and isolating for second-generation South Asians who manage to find some integration in their new country, but are not able to connect with their family of origin anymore. Their family can feel like a club they are not welcome in. As we age and are not able to have the ideal family dynamics we imagined, all is not lost. Rather than focusing on what we have missed out on and do not have, we can create the relationships we seek with others. There are people in the world that want to be paternal or like siblings. We can create our own families biologically and through the formation of our own community.
I intend to be the mother I wanted to have. I’ve thought specifically of the maternal characteristics I would have wanted to see and experience in my life and plan to give that to my children. I can be someone who is engaged, present, nurturing, and involved. I can be the type of sibling I would have liked to have with friends: supportive, caring, interesting, and funny. We don’t control others and their choices; we can only try to control ourselves.