Taking the advice of White Parents to deal with your immigrant parents is a bad idea. Its similar to getting advice from your White friends about how to do things. (See Russell Peters video below) I learned real quick that while I might be living in America, there is no way that my White friends behavior will fly at home. My parents would stamp that reality to smithereens. The way my parents raised me was the way they were raised, and while it may be in the context of my American upbringing, they put very little effort toward utilizing the American parenting style, if anything they spent more time laughing at some of its most basic assumptions found there. Concepts of grounding, taking away privileges, or positive reinforcement through assignment of chores and getting a weekly allowance- these gave more power to the kids in my parents eyes. That was contrary to everything that my parents believed about of what good parenting meant.
So don’t laugh at me when I say that as an adult, my relationship with my parents is still one of that between a child-parent, to a certain degree, not completely. While I may have inclinations to change my own parenting style when I have kids, my relationship with my parents is still governed by a respectable mix of fear-awe-severe deference to their opinion. Thats why when I read Huffington Posts article “6 thing you shouldnt say to your adult child” I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of how my parents would respond if I presented this advice to them. Their voice could be heard retorting to each claim made by Linda Bernstein. The following is what an amalgam of immigrant parents say, based on my observations of various friends parents, about her parenting advice for adult children.
1. Have you gained [lost] weight?
Bernstein advices that parents shouldn’t focus on their adult child’s weight no matter how glaringly obvious, instead be glad they came to visit and that parents should state how they missed them. An immigrant mother (South Asian, Desi, Pakistani in particular) would say:
Aaaaah, they look fat. There it is, its obvious, I look at my child, I see how fat they are. Seeing is believing. What they eat is my concern, I cooked and fed them for 20+ years, I am not going to just stop now. If they eat like a fat person, they will get fat, that is a fact.
If they don’t change they will not get married, because no one wants to marry a fat person. If I don’t tell my child they are fat, who else is going to tell them, let alone encourage them to make better life choices. Parents are meant for this, I am only fulfilling my role. Life is not a joke and you can not just cruise by, I must act.
They sit around and eat garbage. They start their day by sitting in the car, they get to work and sit in front of a computer, they go to a restaurant to sit and stuff their face for an hour so that they can return to their desk and sit some more, then go home and sit on the coach while they eat more nonsense and then they sleep. They do this on repeat, no wonder they are getting fat. I am the positive force that breaks a cycle, that is my role. I am telling you, until they get married and settle down, there is no fat business.
2. What’s that on your face?
Berstein advises that parents shouldn’t point out physical blemishes like zits. I think this one made me laugh the most. A immigrant mother would say:
That thing on their face, its not normal. They are adults not little kids running around in high school. Go to a doctor, get medication. See a specialist. Do something! How will they get married? Who will want to marry my child if they look like that! (Immediately proceeds to pop the pimple or touch in some weird way all while shaking her head.) Often times this would happen out in public not just in the privacy of your home.
3. How come you hardly ever call (or text) these days?
Berstein advises parents should have a mantra they repeat about how if the child doesn’t call today, its going to be alright. I guess in a way White parents are trying to exude selflessness, but a immigrant mother, she’s all self. Her response:
Its my child’s duty to call. They are responsible to tell me what is happening in their life. (God forbid a child tells their parent to make the call instead…) I put food in their mouth, I put up with their crying, I lived through 9 months of carrying them, I drove them to soccer practice. I gave and I gave, having them call me every single day at 430PM on the dot is not asking to much. Busy, what the hell are they busy with? They aren’t some CEO or President, they don’t have a life until they are married. Until then they are responsible to their mother and father only.
4. It’s all for the best; [So-and-so] was a jerk anyway.
Berstein’s relationship advice is probably up their on laughable immigrant parental advice from a white parent. She says parents should instead focus on how the child feels and let them know that they are there for them to talk, even if its not about the broken relationship. No, you see relationships, the marriage ceremony and marriage are the ultimate point of concern for immigrant parents, especially Desi ones:
They are just being picky. My husband and I were introduced three times maybe, what is this business of talking and getting to know each other, that happens after the marriage. Look at our marriage, we are happy after 30+ years. You dont see us doing what these white people do, get old and feel like its time to find someone new because of some crisis about our age. No, the tradition is best. They need to lower their standards and be realistic, if I dont help them how will they get married? If I let them have their way I will be dead and they will be on their deathbeds single and alone. All this talk about feelings, feelings wont get them married.
5. How can you live like this?
Okay, these have been funny, but I dont think I even need to write an immigrant parents response to this. Remember going off to college, living in a dorm, how all the white kids parents dumped their stuff and then went out to eat, while you and your parents moved in the mini-fridge, the rice cooker, the 50 different sheets for the bed, ironed all your clothes, went over the laundry procedures while Dad set up the computer and got all your books and school supplies…yeh, you think immigrant parents wont have an opinion about how you live as a adult. All I will say is that two weeks prior to my parents visiting my apartment, when I lived alone, I would start super deep cleaning and when they visited they would still spend a few hours “cleaning” things up. Silly Bernstein, I don’t know how you survive giving all this advice.
6. What do you expect me to do?
So this one is probably the only piece of advice where there would be no disagreement between an immigrant parent and Bernstein’s advice. So I guess there are points of similarities.
To get a sense of where I am coming from, if you can’t relate, watch comedian Russell Peters do his thing.