Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Birthday Parties - A Different Perspective

When we first came to NZ, our kids were young. We celebrated their birthdays exactly as we did in India. A party for at least ten young kids and their families, a gourmand's experience, games and prizes and some entertainment. Face-painting was very popular. There were gifts all around - some for our kids and going-away gifts for their guests. For a couple of bithdays, just to make it different we celebrated their birthdays at MacDonald's and other kids' places. Then that was passe so we had to be inventive again. Birthdays were always made much of - in India and here. Later, our kids began developing their own tastes. My daughter wanted five special friends and a sleepover for them at our house. My son wanted games arcades and tons of friends.

And then they grew up some more. On his twenty-first, I remember my son organised his own get together. I was allowed to make a plateful of sandwiches, no more. And he made a fun cake with a decadent choc layer and bought a few packets of chippies. He'd booked a room at the pub for the evening. That was it. If his friends wanted a drink, they could go and buy one for themselves. I was scandalised but my son reassured me that was how it was done in his circle. And since many of his friends had turned twenty-one before him, I suppose he knew better.

Many of his friends were living at or close to university, studying for a degree and working at some job - a retail job as sales staff or hotel staff etc to pay for their education and day to day living. They were independent and cheerfully cash strapped. Some of them had parents helping them with college fees and the rent for their living quarters but not with their day to day living. Most of them had to manage rent, food and everything else. Why did they do it? By eighteen they felt the need to try things out for themselves. Besides, everyone else did it. (They still loved their parents and visited them as often as possible, make no mistake.)

The exceptions were our Indian kids. Almost all of them lived at home with their parents unless they'd come to study at the university from another city. Then they moved into quarters at the Uni and had their parents foot the bill for everything. This was definitely a cultural thing. We felt it was best for them to concentrate on their studies and not on money worries. That would happen once they started working full time.

What I did not realise was that our kids would want to move out and have a taste of independence too, just like their friends. I expected our son to but definitely not our daughter. She was our little girl.

When we moved to another city they did not come with us. Yes, both of them decided to stay back. Our son promised to look after our little girl. She was still in her teens. We were worried but couldn't help seeing the excitement in her eyes. We decided, with us not too far away and ready to catch them in a safety net if need be, perhaps this was the best way for her to spread her wings. Under her brother's wing! With a tight knot in our hearts we reluctantly let go.

They still did not have complete monetary independence but they learnt to pay their own electricity bills, to manage their own time, make the effort to entertain on a budget, manage their own bank accounts and do everything necessary to run a home. I am glad they gradually slipped into independence and not suddenly. Both of them took a year off studies to get work experience. (Many take a year off to travel. They call it their BIG OE or overseas experience.)

Coming back to gift giving, they've learnt to be circumspect. They feel it isn't right to be extravagant. They entertain on a budget - something simple - no five course meals. If they go out, each one pays for himself or herself. They seem to spend a bit on going for a show or a music concert or an art show. It is good to see them make these decisions for themselves.

What made me think of this today? It is my daughter's birthday.

Hope you like the gift, (dare I say it), baby.



  1. Such a sweet post. I love it in our Indian culture that we don't think of our kids as people who have to leave the home and live on their own. We shamelessly clamor to be pampered by our parents even when married and visiting them. We continue to cherish and be close to our families. We also love it that children have the freedom to find their own wings, live on their own and always wish to go back and live with their parents out of love and not compulsion. Happy Birthday to your daughter!

  2. Thanks Rachana, I'll pass on your birthday wishes to her :-). I guess the other perspective is that kids need to learn to be independent. If anything happened to their parents they should be able to survive. I remember Bill Cosby, a comedian and a very loving father, once mentioning that if you really loved your kids you'd let them go. Such culturally differing viewpoints but both stemming from love for our kids. Many Indian parents settled abroad have carved out a sort of middle ground with which they are comfortable.

  3. Loved this one Kayem. We tend to think that kids will fall apart without us being there to hold their hands and guide them. Give them wings, but definitely the roots before that. :)

  4. Thanks Zephyr. That is so true. Roots or values are all important.

  5. I would say that your kids are lucky, to have understanding parents.
    Here, such parents are not in majority, though many of the children go abroad for studies,many of those who are left here are tied and chained:-).

    1. I've found that as long as we've tried to instil our core values in our kids things generally work out between us (and I stress the "generally") Thanks Vetrimagal, for your visit and both comments

  6. Came via cybernag's.

    Lovely posts. Though many of the older ones needs to be read.

    Thanks for the Interesting Blogposts. So useful and really interesting.