Why We Shouldn’t “Teach” Our Kids About Diwali (but Show Them)

Edit – I’ve updated the title and also added some notes at the bottom of this post.

It’s early Saturday morning. Mr. T is still sleeping, Z is watching a Minecraft video, and Armaan and I just finished our Diwali dinner shopping list. After me he’s the most interested in Indian food in our house, so he usually helps me with the Diwali dinner menu. From our conversation this morning I’m sure he learned something, but my intention was not to teach. In our house, we try to live the culture and teach our kids through example. We are far from perfect (my kids still don’t speak fluent Punjabi), but we are authentic. It’s important to us that we don’t “teach” them about culture and festivals in a way that we don’t celebrate them.teach your kids about Diwali

I’m not sure if I should be writing this post, because it has the potential to offend some people, but it’s been weighing on my heart lately so here it goes…

When I started blogging about South Asian culture and lifestyle three years ago, there were just a handful of voices in the blogosphere talking about kids, parenting, and culture; now there are many more writers who have joined the movement.  I love seeing all these new voices, but somewhere along the way I feel like it’s become a “teaching contest” not a lifestyle.  There are apps, books, craft kits, and videos – all of which have their place, but don’t replace real life experiences.

I’m not a parenting blogger, and I’m not trying to “win Diwali”. My kids have a basic understanding that Diwali is a festival of light, and good always prevails over evil. Zara even told a little girl in her class once that Robin kidnapped Sita so Ram saved her like Batman (true story). Obviously my kids wouldn’t pass a test on the meaning of Diwali, but I don’t intend to test them.

There are all these blog/FB/Instagram posts popping up on my feed talking about the deep meaning and religious significance of Diwali, but it’s also a fun festival! I feel somewhere in the madness of impressing our readers, looking like the expert, and getting pageviews we’ve lost the spirit and essence of the festival. 

When I was a kid no one quizzed me on the meaning of Diwali. Every year my mom would tell the story of ‘Bandhi Chod Diwas’ (the reason Sikhs celebrate Diwali), and she would also tag on the story of Ram saving Sita to the best of her knowledge. Then we would eat sweets and light sparklers. No apps, books, or pre-made craft kits can replace stories from your parents. (Again, I’m not trying to say those things don’t have a place).

I guess what I’m trying to say and hopefully I’ve articulated is; celebrate the festival with your kids, don’t just teach it to them. Get them involved in the prep work, take them shopping for new clothes, and just be with them on the big night. Let them enjoy the festival, and they’ll want to celebrate it next year. 

And finally, I take responsibility for possibly being part of the problem. It’s hard not to feel an urge to do more when you look at social media and blogs and people like me are sort of showing off their Diwali decor and plans. Here’s the thing, everything I show you on my social media feeds and in my blog posts about celebrations with my family is real life. However, on the flip side, what I don’t show is; I suck at Halloween (my kids buy costumes the night before), my house is never clean on weekdays, and I always forget my friend’s birthdays. Festival season is just a slice of my life. 

So go on, celebrate with your kids and family however it works for you! {One of our family friend’s have a tradition of going to the Gurudwara, ordering take-out Greek food on the way home, and then sitting on the living room floor with a few candles and enjoying dinner together. I love it!}

Since this post caused some controversy and hit a soft spot for some readers this morning I felt the need to say – I fully support introducing kids to culture and teaching them about our heritage, but in my opinion that should come from personal experiences and conversations with their parents first, and educational tools second. This is my opinion and what works for my family, I think everyone should do what works best for their family!

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. November 9, 2015 / 12:08 pm

    Right off the bat, I was super offended. Then I thought about it and I understood where you were coming from. Like you mentioned in your post every family doesn’t things differently. The reason I personally think children should be taught, is because there is so much more available on other cultures and religions.

    Just yesterday, I went to my local library and I disappointed that they didn’t have the Diwali books on display. They already had out the Thanksgiving books out, I can’t imagine how many Hindu, Sikh, Jain children walked through the children’s section at my library and noticed that there were NO Diwali books on display. Needless to say, I called the library this morning and demanded that books be put out for the Hindu, Sikh and Jain children and for the other children who need to be exposed to the holidays they don;t celebrate.

    • November 11, 2015 / 8:26 am

      Hi Pooja,

      I’m not sure why a few people interpreted my post as saying that you shouldn’t read books about culture to your kids, because that absolutely not what I meant. My whole point with this piece was to point out that we as parents can teach our kids without those tools – they should supplement us, not replace us. I am going to re-visit this topic again next week and maybe clarify further. I think perhaps my writing and explanation left some questions I need to answer in a further post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

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