During our recent family trip, we started talking about whether my husband and I would let our children date. My kids are 6 and 9 so truth be told, I haven’t really thought about this just yet. But as I started to articulate my feelings on this, I realized that my answer, while seemingly a cop out, is really my stance on most issues pertaining to my children. It depends.
As a first-generation American, I watched my parents struggle with these decisions. I saw how they wrestled with these Western notions of love, dating, drinking, earning money and independence at a young age. And I remember thinking at the time that when I became a parent that I would do things differently. I wouldn’t make a production about my kids going to prom with dates, or going out on a date. I would be the mom who would be able to navigate American culture more deftly and flexibly. I would be the American mom who didn’t have the same boundaries as my Indian immigrant parents or the same needs to showcase perfection to the Indian community. In other words, I would be the cool Indian-American mom.
Starting to talk about my feelings about my own children dating, I was surprised by my answer. Mostly, because I had assumed that different meant opposite - that I would unequivocally do things radically different from my parents. What my younger self didn’t appreciate is that all of these issues are extremely complicated and not black and white. There is so much gray area and the gray area seems to expand when you throw in immigration, South Asian culture and preservation of said culture, applicability to the second generation coupled with normal teenage issues of puberty, feelings of inclusion/exclusion, and peer pressures that have been around since time immemorial.
But now as a parent, I am not sure how different I will be from my parents. I appreciate and understand where my parents were coming from when they came up with their rules. Dating could be a distraction from their teenage life- period. However, where I think I will differ from my parents will be in our approach. While the ends may be the same, the means of getting there will be radically different in that we will try our best to communicate with our children. We will make every attempt to keep channels of communication open so that they can talk to us about their feelings, anxieties, concerns, and frustrations. And we can do the same with them. Hopefully with this two-way street of dialogue, we will continue to build the foundations of trust and respect so that, when we finally make that decision of whether they are allowed to date, it won’t come as a surprise, to them or to us.
What are your thoughts?