Do you ever feel afraid you might hurt a child or get in trouble for treating a child badly when you’re around one? Because that’s how I felt today at a party where 3 generations were present: grandmothers, new moms, and children under 8 years.
The people at the party were all Filipinos. They were celebrating the lives of their relatives who had passed away. You could tell with one mother, who came from the Philippines, that she knew what she was doing: she asserted a firm yet loving grip on her 2 year old’s misbehaviour. Her actions put everyone at ease.
But another mother, who had Filipino parents but who was born and raised in Canada, had little control over her child. But it’s not exactly control. It’s more accurate to describe her behaviour as someone who was afraid to be judged by others for not treating her child correctly, or for hurting the child. When her child annoyed all of the adults in the room and pushed away the other children, she didn’t say a thing.
I think it’s because her solution to this problem of social judgement was probably to just be as laissez faire as possible; for if you do not parent, then how can others say you do a bad thing? I have a feeling that it’s because she, like me, grew up in Canada.
Growing up it felt like my parents were much more strict and much more stubborn than the parents of white people. I am 100% sure that this is the experience of all immigrant children. Russell Peters, the funny comedian, describes this experience well in a show. Now, immigrant children always want to fit in with their peers, and their peers (or at least mine and Russsel’s) were used to tyrannizing their parents, because their parents were afraid to discipline them because Social Services would come and gobble their children up.
Ironically, my mom would actually say that if I didn’t behave, Social Services would come and gobble me up. This was her attempt to scare me into good behaviour, and it worked. I fear social services.
Anyways, I guess the corollary to the point that white parents are afraid of disciplining their children (and it’s not because they are white skinned – it’s because they are North American, or even more specifically, Canadian (or even more specifically, the protestant type?)) is that if you want to join your dominant culture, then you have to start acting like them, even if you don’t like it, as nobody like being dominated by a 2 year old, nor to see their child annoy others.
And that’s what I think I saw at the party today with that mother. She experienced that white parents are not of the disciplining type, and therefore if she was to fit in with the majority’s culture, then she could not discipline her child or treat them with authority like the Filipino mom did. And this is sad because the part she didn’t want to identify with was the selfsame part which would’ve helped her.