Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lessons through generations

One of my favorite readings this semester was Uma Narayan’s Contesting Cultures. I enjoyed it very much because of how much it related to my own life. I especially liked her discussion about mother-daughter relationships. My mother and I get along very well; she is one of the closest friends I have. However, as I grow older I can see more contradictions in the way she raised me, as Narayan described. For instance, she is very supportive of my academic pursuits. In some ways, she has made my goal to become a lawyer hers as well, through her constant support and encouragement. She wants me to learn all I can in college, allowing me to venture to D.C. and giving me my independence instead of keeping me near home. It is as Narayan claimed, “Both our mothers and our mother-cultures give us all sorts of contradictory messages, encouraging their daughters to be confident, impudent, self-assertive, and achieving, even as they attempt to instill conformity, decorum, and silence, seemingly oblivious to these contradictions.” My mother teaches me to be strong and independent.

At the same time though, she unconsciously instills the passive characteristics of Asian culture in me. By innocently telling me how she asks my father before making any major decision, she is establishing the ideas of patriarchy in my mind. I understand and take to heart all her lessons on respect for my elders, but how to balance my quiet docility with the freethinking independence I’m supposed to live by?

These questions lead me to think about how I will raise my daughter. Will I emphasize heavier on Western ideals or refer to the Eastern principles of my parents? I have been raised with a mix of two; I can only imagine that the generation after me will receive a even more diluted upbringing. I am often confused by the two forces in my life, I’m not sure which one I’m more predisposed to and how they will carry through to my adulthood. As I mentioned in class, luckily this hypothetical daughter is a long way off.

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