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Raising Kids to Say: iDon't Need iPhone

by JUSPREET KAUR

 

 

On a Sunday afternoon during langar, I heard a series of beeps and buzzes followed by a flurry of voices. The new iPhone had just come out and nearly every man, woman and child in the langar hall had one.

Really? Didn't that just come out like three days ago? Didn't those sell out on presales?

"We waited in line outside the store all night," said one fourteen year old.

"Your parents let you wait outside a store, at night, alone?" I asked, bewildered.

"Oh, no, I wasn't alone. There were three other kids with me," he responded very matter of factly.

Of course, there were four of them. That totally changes everything. That's when I realized I was getting old; that what the kids were doing these days was beyond my reach.

My mother was a poor farm girl, and her humble roots found their way into our upbringing. My mother sewed and gardened and tended to her roses, while my brother and I played dodge ball with our neighbors in the street. We were second generation Sikh-Americans and though we fared well during the Reagan years, my mother's propensity to save more than we earned meant we lived with less.

I often reflect on my childhood, thinking that my brother and I got the best years of my parents' lives - when things were in abundance and we lived modestly. There was only one political party at our gurdwara and the sangat struggled to expand from a trailer to a single building with its own kitchen.

Those early years were wonderfully black and white, what with the cold war and the Olympics. We were American, and
we were proud.

It wasn't until the awakening of my Sikh spirit as an adult that I found duality in everything, with motherhood as no exception. My frugal mother turned into a lavish grandmother, and no expense would be spared for birthdays. Didn't we want to get our five year old a Nintendo DS? Wouldn't a DVD player in the car make long road trips more enjoyable?

And my dear mom was not alone; everywhere I looked I saw second generation Sikhs living the dream, with parties at incredible inflatable Wonderlands, and the Royal Grand Banquet Hall.

If the eight-year-old me were to live this life, oh how I would feel like the luckiest girl in the world! But my children walk across the parking lot to a party and ask me what the goody bags might contain.

Now bear in mind that I begged my parents for a wooden dollhouse for my eighth, ninth and tenth birthdays. So when my oldest daughter turned three (and I turned thirty-one), I finally bought an unfinished wooden dollhouse kit. I laid the eighty-four pieces out on our dining room floor, and seeing the distressed look on my face, she put her hand on my shoulder and said: "Momma, I don't even want this tall house. I don't even have any talls."

That day I realized that I needed to give my children more by giving them less. My focus shifted from material things and action packed days at the Zoo to stories of Sikh history and opportunities to serve our community.

We tried taking our children to a homeless shelter, to show them that all people deserve to be treated with respect. This worked brilliantly, with my two-year-old son being a greeter and my four-year-old daughter serving bread during a dinner service. Then on the way home, they asked, "Momma, can we go to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate our hard work?"

We've also taken them to all night kirtan and simran programs where they fall asleep to the melodious hum of SatNam-WaheGuru.

Parenting for me is more experimental than experiential. I try things, I fail, and I try again. Some nights I climb into bed, exhausted from the trials of the day, feeling like a single mother of three, and on other days, I delight my husband with tales of toddler invention. But I keep wrestling with the idea of being a Sikh Mother, with a capital M. I yearn to raise strong, compassionate, balanced Sikhs.

This year, in a cloud of birthday party planning, my husband and I told our then three-year-old son about an orthopedic medical mission to Nepal that a neighbor was embarking on this Fall. We presented it to him as an opportunity to do some seva for Nepali mommies and sisters that needed help and couldn't walk.

"You mean like Seva like the Gurus would do for people that were poor and messy? " he asked.

"Exactly like seva the Guru and the Khalsa would do!" I responded hopefully.

"I wanna do it, I wanna help fix bones," he said.

He took ownership of the project by asking his little friends to bring donations for WOGO.org in lieu of presents to his party. It was only later that he realized that donating his birthday presents meant no new toys. Constant praise and encouragement helped him overcome a Transformers-based relapse about a week before his party.

When his friends arrived at our house, he forgot all about the "stuff" he could have been accumulating and just had fun.

We even played dodge ball.

I am far too cautious to think we have it figured out, but I have hope that we can raise a charitable child without buying an iPhone. 

 

September 8, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: K. Kaur (Herndon, U.S.A.), September 08, 2010, 6:51 PM.

You are setting a wonderful example for the next generation and I am sure it will inspire many to follow in your footsteps. Our Gurus left us so much wisdom, principles and guidance - all we have to do is adhere to their teachings.

2: Arvinder Singh Kang (MS, U.S.A.), September 08, 2010, 9:08 PM.

Kudos to you, Juspreet! What a beautiful way of raising kids!

3: Anantjot Singh  (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), September 10, 2010, 9:39 PM.

Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

4: Balbir Singh (U.S.A.), September 11, 2010, 1:22 PM.

I am one of the first generation parents, and I see the second generation parents doing equally well, and may be even better. There is hope for the third generation parents who have read this article. Well done, Juspreet!

5: Deep (Dehra Dun, India), September 13, 2010, 7:03 PM.

I don't totally agree with you on this one, Juspreet. It's good that you are bringing up your kids this way and I am sure they will be great citizens. I don't think that the kids with iPhones or any kind of latest technology will be any bad either. I think technology is bringing the kids closer to the Guru. I have seen a lot of kids and even myself using iPhone apps for gurbani and kirtan. They are absolutely brilliant; I can log on to live kirtan from Harmandar Sahib now. So it's not necessarily bad; we gotta embrace technology to move ahead with times. Seva can be done through any medium. I reckon Sikhs are the first ones to come up with these free religious apps. We give enough grief to the Gen Y and Gen Z; just because we didn't have all these facilities when we were growing up does not necessarily mean they are bad. Not all of us turned out the best anyway without them, so rather than criticizing. let's give them a chance. The kids are smarter these days and they won't necessarily misuse their freedom. Apologies for any thing that might have offended you.

6: Doc Amanda (Texas, U.S.A.), September 14, 2010, 6:16 AM.

I find this article very inspiring. I think that all parents can learn from Juspreet's comments on the importance of instilling a sense of charity in our kids. Her son's willingness to help others is derived from his parents' setting good examples. As simply a friend and neighbor not familiar with "seva" and the "Gurus", I have been amazed by the generosity of the Sikh community.

7: Darshan Singh (San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.), September 15, 2010, 5:17 PM.

Dear Jaspreet: We are proud of the fact that you are part of our sangat In San Antonio. The Number One goal of education is to prepare creative and critical thinkers. Once we begin to question the status quo, we can improve the quality of life around us by radiating realistically positive energy. This can be done by everyone, including children. You have raised good questions. Parenting is not an easy job. Let's do our best. You are setting a good example. Your leadership is much appreciated.

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