By Kanchan G
(Image by Sasank Gopinathan)
What does it mean to be an adult? This is a question my family and even I have asked myself various times throughout the recent years of my life. Does age have anything to do with one’s ability to be independent and self sufficient from their family? Or does it have to do with the fact that we are now capable of critical decision-making without our parent’s input and guidance? One thing has always been clear to me as a young adult of mixed culture: my multicultural upbringing did not prepare me for “adulthood” as well as it should have. Sure I had plenty more “culture” than most of my American companions, however I was not allowed the freedom to really explore and venture off as a teen. This prevented me from becoming more independent early on in my twenties. And coincidentally I observed similarities between my Nepali-American friends, which has brought me to the conclusion that Nepali parents and families are a tad bit overbearing and overprotective.
Throughout high-school and college I remember my parents constantly wanting to get in contact with my teachers/professors, and even guidance counselors, to be updated on what was going on with me and even to complain. During the time I found all the overprotectiveness to be embarrassing, but looking back, I find it very comical. For instance, I remember at the age of twenty one, my mother flying out to a different state just to have a talk with me and my advisor on a trivial matter, and the look of confusion on my advisor’s face trying to figure out why a twenty-one year old needed her mother to fly and be there for a meeting is too funny. And what made this even more of a comical situation was that while talking to another Nepali friend I realized she had an almost identical situation to mine. I am sure that parent’s being overbearing is prevalent in all cultures and has more to do with one’s own disposition than anything else, but its hard to miss that our culture makes parents coddle children for much longer than need be. In Nepal it is very common for people to live with their parents till the age of 30 or even after marriage, whereas in most western society it seems an adult past the age of 25 living with parents seem very sheltered and spoiled.
I think of how many Nepali-American or immigrant friends I have who have moved back in with parents after graduating from colleges and universities and the numbers are overwhelming compared to non-immigrant friends. However, this seems to come with its own plethora of awkwardness like reverting back to living under strict rules specially if you are a woman; Nepali ideologies that women shouldn’t be out late or out drinking with friends, let alone male friends and so forth. Or even trying to navigate the dating scene, which seems to still be somewhat taboo even though you are in a foreign land. Yet somehow during all this, one is to navigate transitioning into adulthood while being treated like a teenager. So does overprotective parenting lead to a lot more stress on young adults of immigrant families? In my case it did, however I am sure for some of you this was not the case at all. Nonetheless, when I reminisce about my upbringing in the States, I cannot help but laugh out loud thinking about all the funny situations that happened during my teens and young adulthood.
*What was your childhood like? What rules did you parents have when you were growing up? Please share!
And as a parent, what thoughts do you have on this issue?