Kids hate moving. They hate change in general. Or, they seem to, but once it occurs, they adjust with an uncanny ease that no adult can duplicate.
I subjected my parents to furious tantrums over a mere change of schools; occasionally, when friends’ parents decided to move elsewhere, we kids would gather to resolutely discuss ways to avert the impending departure, the lack of sanity on part of our parents an accepted, unspoken fact.
In every case, the protests were ignored, life went on, and prior fits of whining were quickly forgotten.
When new students appeared in class it was more than a novelty; it was a major disruption. We would stare at them, regardless of origin, as if they were made of wood or cheese…for ten minutes – a day at most.
The fact is that kids are much more adaptable to new places than parents. Just as children have an easier time learning new languages, so will they acquire new cultures, both much better and much faster than their parents.
The problem, if there is one, is that they adapt too well. This is convincingly portrayed in East is East, a film directed by Damien O’Donnell. It details the cultural conflict between a Pakistani father and his children, who were born and raised in 1970’s Manchester. While we’re a long way from the 70’s and Manchester (and a fair bit of the racism that was prevalent in those times), the message of the movie transcends time and place. These children are British, speaking with the local accent, interested in the same things as every other kid in the same place. Only the father, raised in a very different place, has not been completely absorbed by the culture – even after 25 years – and is deeply concerned that his offspring will grow up not understanding their own ancestral culture.
Ultimately, that’s the legitimate difficulty all parents have to deal with – their children have fit in to their new surroundings, but they have forgotten their old ones. The by-product of this is a perception by the kids that their parents are backwards, anachronistic and out of touch: in East is East, the children can’t even fathom the possibility of an arranged marriage. Their father cannot fathom their impudence.
East is East doesn’t presume to advise on resolving such cultural differences, and neither will I. Moving to a new place will necessarily create conflicting situations, and those situations will be frequently challenging by their very definition.
What parents shouldn’t forget, however, is that regardless of their own cultural background, kids will always harbour that perception – parents are backwards, anachronistic and out of touch – even if no move is involved. It’s what kids do.