Letters to Myself: When I Have a Teenage Kid

When I was a kid, I used to write “Letters to Myself.” This may seem odd and no, I don’t have multiple personalities. I just wanted to make sure that as an adult, I didn’t forget about all the “horrible” things my parents did to to embarrass me while I lived under their roof. I figured if I could warn myself in the future and help prevent my children from suffering the same kind of embarrassment that I had been through, we could potentially break the cycle. Thus leading to less money spent on counseling sessions, which would be a win-win from any perspective, because even my parents would agree that we shouldn’t waste money. I didn’t start the letters until I was in middle school, but I think I covered my bases pretty well.

So without further ado, let me present you with the teenage Masala Chica’s list of parental “Dos” and “Don’ts.”

1)   Don’t wear saris when I pick my kids up from school. Try to be cool like the other moms and wear jeans.

Not wearing mom jeans = uncool!

These moms totally had it going on.

2)   Don’t send my kids to school with weird pickles on their sandwiches.

3)   Do learn how to make things like brownies and cupcakes. When it’s my kid’s birthday, make these things from scratch and don’t buy them in the plastic containers from Shop-Rite.

4)   Make interesting and exotic dinners, like Spaghetti and Meatballs or Fettucini Alfredo. Don’t serve rice and daal at every meal.

5)   Do not wear bindis. Do not wear anything resembling dots on my head.

6)   Do take my kids to fun places like Disneyland and Six Flags. Don’t wear saris. Wear cool jeans and shorts, like the other moms.

7)   Do let my daughter go to the mall on Friday nights to hang out with the rest of her friends.

8)   Do teach daughter about facial hair. And what to do with it. Teach her how to shave, wax, whatever. Don’t let her walk around feeling like a hairy gorilla.

9)   Do watch other movies with my kids other than Indian movies. Learn how to be comfortable with watching kissing scenes in front of my kids, like the other cool moms. Don’t make the kids leave the room if a kissing scene does take place.

10)  Don’t make my kid pray all the time. Pray less. Sometimes praying too much can give your kids a headache.

11)   Don’t yell at my kids if they say the word sex. Sex is not always dirty. Sometimes, sex is just a question on a form.

12)  Don’t take my kids out of school every year for a few weeks to see family in India.

My list of dos and don’ts was fairly black and white for me. Whatever my mother was doing was a “DON’T”. Whatever the other moms were doing was a “DO.” Apparently I had great respect for my friends’ mothers, their mom jeans and their ability to whip up a box of Duncan Hines baked goods at home.

I look back at this list and what’s clear is that I was obviously afraid of being different. I wanted, so very much, to be like the rest of my friends. I wasn’t thinking about how cool it was that my mom still embraced her culture so much. I wasn’t really thinking about how amazing it was to eat the sabzis and the curries my mother would make every night to go alongside the daal and rice.

So what if a few kids made fun of those differences? Buck up, I want to tell that kid now. Learn how to be different. Embrace those things. And for Pete’s sake, don’t worry so much about hairy legs. You will have a lifetime to worry about that.

Well, not really, if you get married.

In that case, you generally get most of the winter off.

Still, I want to tell that young girl that one day, she will be writing a post, much like this one, and will salivate at the thought of her mom’s homemade pickles on her sandwiches or eating her mother’s cooking that night. That it’s ok that her mom couldn’t shake and bake like her friends’ moms.

I will explain that she was comparing apples to oranges.

Or better yet, Apple pie to Ladoos.

My mom never had reason for me to question her cooking, especially when her samosas kick the Tri-State area’s ass.

I wish I could explain how precious it would be, that time when she is young. And how much it means to let her hold on to it for another day, another year. And if that means not letting her troll around a dingy mall so that she is less likely to get felt up by upperclassmen in the empty part of the parking lot over by J.C.Penney, so be it.

I would love to tell her how one day, those trips to India will teach her more than any textbook at home could. How those trips will inspire her to think beyond the world she lives in. To look beyond those walls and beyond the privilege she has been born into. How they will be the only way she would have had memories of her grandparents or cousins who are now gone. How maybe understanding the journey her parents took to get to the United States, might help her appreciate the ties they still cherish.

The customs they hope to keep alive.

I totally would back her up on the praying thing. Praying too much still gives me a headache.

But I would love to maybe give her a different point of view.

Maybe just a little perspective.




9 Comments on Letters to Myself: When I Have a Teenage Kid

  1. Jim
    January 27, 2013 at 8:41 am (2 years ago)

    I once hired a woman to work as a software developer who wore a sari to work every day. She looked so good in it, and I secretly looked forward to seeing a few key saris that were in her rotation!

    Don’t underestimate the power of the sari!

  2. Mary
    January 27, 2013 at 10:56 am (2 years ago)

    Oh, Kiran! These are perfection! I could have written most of them myself!! I always wanted peanut butter and jelly on white bread sandwiches in my lunch instead of the now-gourmet fried eggplant on foccacia my mom packed. Horrors!! And don’t get me started on the body hair! I love that you wrote notes to yourself and can now embrace your parents and culture so whole-heartedly. Happy! I’m off to make some fried eggplant for my daughters!
    Mary recently posted…Moms Need Play Dates TooMy Profile

  3. ilene
    January 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm (2 years ago)

    OK – so I kind of wish my mom let me shave my legs a little sooner – but everything else in my very similar letter to myself now looks a lot more like your revised version of it as well. There are the customs and the quirks and the activities we did that took me years to appreciate – hopefully one day my kids will appreciate the things that I try to give them that they complain about now. Beautifully written as always.
    ilene recently posted…Happy Endings…Kind ofMy Profile

  4. Erin Zito
    February 2, 2013 at 10:46 am (2 years ago)

    My youngest just became an official teenage girl last week! Fortunately, she’s learned to relish being “weird.” This is a good thing considering that she has a bleeding-heart-liberal family living in the red part of rural PA. She’s had to take some crap from the other kids, like the time in elementary school when she came home crying because some little shithead told her she was going to burn in hell because we don’t go to church, or the myriad of garbage she’s had to hear over the last four years because she told people we voted for Obama, but it really has made her stronger. I could not possibly be prouder of her. I just wish I had made lists like this, since it is so hard to remember how we felt during those long-gone, unreasonable, hormonal years. Being able to remember will make you an even better mom when your kids get there.

    • masalachica
      February 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm (2 years ago)

      I actually keep them about a few things to make sure I remember how I feel about things today as well. I can’t believe some of the stuff she had to go through. People actually tormented her because you guys are Democrats? Yeah, I was told about the church thing too. Kids can be cruel, but I think having been a target for some people has made me much more sensitive now and I am super inclusive and friendly to a fault – almost where some people might think its disingenuous.

      It sounds like you are doing an amazing job with her, Erin!

      • Erin Zito
        February 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm (2 years ago)

        Oh, it’s not so much that we’re Democrats, It’s that we voted for Obama. His election brought out so much hatred around here, and I have no doubt other liberals and progressives living in red areas of the country would concur. It’s sad, but the fact is, the hatred and racism that was once hidden is now kind of a point of pride with some people. I have neighbors that I was once friendly with that barely speak to me anymore. The way I look at it, I’m better off knowing their true hearts, but it makes me sad that in this day and age there are still people that don’t know any better. And what my kids have been through isn’t even as bad as some of my friends’ kids have been through in nearby school districts. One girl had to quit her senior year of high school because she was beaten up and stuffed in a trash can over who her parents voted for. Another was repeatedly called a baby killer on the bus. She was eight. I just can’t believe that shit.


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