Thanks so much for your lovely comments and emails to my last post. I was initially hesitant about getting too personal here on my blog and I don't know about you but I love hearing about people's lives. I know these are craft blogs but I like a bit of background about a person and oftentimes you get to realise that we've all had similar experiences which is strangely comforting.
So, where shall I start then? Looking at me now it's hard to believe that I had a very traditional Indian upbringing (my friends tease me about being so British). My parents and extended family spoke no English whatsoever and I vividly remember my first day at school because I couldn't communicate with anyone. My childhood was probably pretty exotic compared to most what with the delicious food we ate, the Indian weddings we went to, the clothes we wore, the festivals we celebrated but we weren't terribly well off and we never went on holiday. In fact we didn't get birthday presents either and I only got christmas presents from Dad's factory. I still remember my last present which was a compendium of games before my twelfth birthday when they deemed I was too old to get presents anymore. I was heartbroken.
In 1971 my little brother was born and my big sister had an arranged marriage. I took over looking after the baby when I was just ten. I also looked after my sisters as my parents worked odd hours. Years later I resented losing my childhood and having all that responsibility.
Life was fine until I reached puberty because the gates came down with a crash - now there were a hundred rules. You can't talk to boys, or go out with them, can't shave your legs, cut your hair, pluck your eyebrows, wear skirts outside school, go out socially and much more. And of course I just became angry at all this injustice. I found that by day (at school) I was English and at night I was Indian and it was sooo difficult. I became more and more angry as I got older and most of my teens were spent arguing with my parents, reading Jackie and dreaming of another life. Look how miserable I look in the next pic:
I did well at school and got eleven O levels but I lost the plot thereafter. Once in the sixth form I asked my Mum if I could go to parties but she said No (Indian girls didn't do that). So I decided that I would just do it all behind her back. I even had a boyfriend in the upper sixth in 'secret'. Sadly, I could not wait to leave home and I think I was depressed during those years. I flunked my A levels and just scraped into Poly and spent the first year doing all those things that I couldn't do before. Then I met Jim and his parents became surrogate parents to me and I think I would have gone off the rails if it hadn't been for them. My parents never knew about him even when we went to Japan together. I seem to have spent most of my life in secret from them.
Then in 1987 it was time to face the music and tell them that I did not ever want an arranged marriage. My parents were shocked, upset, tried emotional blackmail but then surprisingly gave up. Then my sister married a Kiwi and I decided to go for it too and told them about Tom. They were very disappointed but came to the wedding and have been amazing ever since. Now they think Tom is the bees knees and they love their grandchildren.
But there is a huge amount of sadness too. My Dad came here to improve his life and he ended up losing his family. Indians live for their families - especially that generation. My Mum expected us to marry and live in the same town or nearby. She would have looked after our children and it would have given her a new lease of life. Instead my parents feel worthless and lonely. They live in an Indian community where everyone has their extended family around them so it's in their faces all the time.
They seem to have a huge expectations of us like the arranged marriage thing - we were indoctrinated with the 'we brought you up, so you do this for us' line. It took a huge amount of strength to live our lives as we wanted to and we still feel guilty to this day. Indians also expect their family to look after them in their old age especially the oldest son but in our family he's buggered off to Canada.
Which brings me to why we're all so fed up. We're sick to death of parenting our parents. Ever since I could read I've been filling in their forms, translating their letters, going to my little brother's parents evenings (how uncool was that aged seventeen). I even filled in my own grant form. Basically anything that needs to be done in English is done by us (mind you it's been useful when translating a bad school report!) They still expect to be looked after - after all they looked after us! I used to hate this notion but it's just part of their culture really.
We also feel that we've let them down. By marrying an Indian I would have joined an extended family that would have included my parents in their circle. Somewhere along the line they would have been looked after and felt valued. But the three of us have married English families who were neving going to adopt them the Indian way. The two that did have arranged marriages live abroad.
I don't want you to think badly of them. I hated them when I was growing up but after therapy when I had post natal depression I realise that they were just doing their best for us. That's all. I'm over the anger, the blame, the wish for 'normal parents' whatever that is, the wish for a Mother that I could talk to about my life. I can appreciate that I'm who I am because of my upbringing. And they are both amazing people - they came to this country, worked their socks off and produced wonderful kids. Look how they've taken Tom and the children into their lives even when the community at large was frowning at us and them.
The problem is that they're extremely lonely and dwell on their illnesses far too much. When I'm there with the children they're different people - and bar moving in with them nothing's going to change. I feel bad that I can't make my parents happy by being around all the time and I'm just fed up of my Mum's constant moaning and lonliness. She's had a very tough life but I wish she wouldn't always tell me about it - it just makes me cry.
And this week I had enough of their dependency on all of us - physical and emotional. I spent most of my time telling her not to be so pathetic. In reality, I think I probably just need to drop the baggage and get practical about helping two old people.
Once again I'm sorry if this is dis-jointed. It took me ages to write and I wrote far too much that I then had to cut out. Forgive me for repeating myself too. I don't have the energy to re-read this for the nth time so I'm just going to go for it and press Save!