This sadness and worry is compounded with guilt for not insisting that my children learn Persian, their beautiful mother language.
It is a huge task for any parent to raise a balanced, sane child with two cultures and two sets of values. We all do our best while some of us even force our way of life upon our children hoping to preserve our cultural values. Our children also do their best to make a sense of their bicultural influences. Often, they live a double life to satisfy their parents and to fit in their society. In all fairness, it is natural for them to feel at ease with the American culture, at least in their younger years when they try to belong and not feel alienated. It is not uncommon for teenagers to reject their heritage by refusing to speak their native tongue or to mingle with others in their ethnic group. This is all understandable, and yet we as parents often feel resentment and hopelessness until they delightfully surprise us.
Until one day when they demonstrate to us that — although they did not participate or show an interest fully in our affairs — they have absorbed a great deal and are proud to be a part of us and our cultural heritage.
I have two very personal experiences of my own which I would love to share with you. I have been blessed to be the grandmother of two beautiful angels within the past four years. As a liberal, open-minded mother, as my children proudly claim, I do not interfere with their decisions as much as a mother can. And I absolutely did not regarding naming their children. Instead, I waited patiently until they were ready to make their announcements. You know how it goes with our children in this day and age. Individuality and independence are sacrosanct values in American culture and are not to be crossed, and I did not. So, it was to my pleasant surprise that both of my children, my son and my daughter, chose Persian names: Darius and Persia.
My children are born and raised in America. They are not well versed in Persian, and most of their peers and classmates have been non-Iranians. Their only exposure to an Iranian environment has been within their home and with our family and friends. So, how did it happen that these children and many others like mine gravitate toward their old culture with willingness and with a certain pride?
Based on my own experience, I believe that our actions spoke far more than our preaching. By practicing our ideals, by being faithful to our traditional ethos and values, and by exposing our children to our food and music without being didactic or pressuring them had a profound effect. They simply absorbed what they saw: Celebrating our new year, Nowrooz every year, our interactions, love and care for our parents and elders, recognizing our special holidays, preparing our food and serving it proudly and tastefully to others, and following what we believe and what we truly like and value. All of this provided a basic foundation without coercion or control. All they needed was the time and maturity to absorb and to appreciate it before it became evident in the way they lived their own lives.
I am a happy mother and a happier grandmother if my children continue to pass on the glorious Iranian heritage in their own subtle way. I am very proud of them for proving to me that — although my branches have stretched far beyond the borders — the seeds are still in the soil and the roots are solid. I hope to live long enough to see that the extension of these beautiful branches exceed their current limits of knowledge and wisdom among a more sophisticated, kind and united generation, embracing both their past and their present.
This was my journey from Persia to Persia.