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The Pressure Behind Sending Your Little Ones Away
Complied from sherpakyidug.org and Migyul discussion groups

Each season, we take up a pressing issue in the community and focus the community's attention on it in our community discussion forum. This time we bring your attention to a common phenomenon in our communities. Sending our young ones back to the Himalayas. Why does this happen? What is the impact of this on the children's psyche and the family? Is there a solution or a remedy, which we as a community can focus on?

This phenomenon has been heavily discussed in "sherpakyidug.org" and it was some of the comments that were made in this discussion that caught our interest and provoked us to cover this issue further. A few months ago, as we discussed this at a small party of friends, the discussion very soon got heated with people taking sides and arguing very strongly on the issue.

The initial assumption is that we all come to the US to make money and having children here would be a deterrent to that goal as an earning member would have to devote his/ her time to take care of the child. This is not an issue for a month or a year – but much more. So the easy solution would be sending the child back to the Himalayas so that their cousins and grandparents could take of them. There they would be raised with an appreciation for Himalayan culture but without parental love and care.

We wanted to know if this was the case with most of the children being sent back or whether there were other reasons that we are failing to read. While it is beyond our capacity to do an investigative piece on the pros and cons, we will try to get together a range of people with a range of ideas to let the readers decide on their own.

Here are some views of writers in the sherpakyidug.org forum that we thought were interesting.

Writer "kings"

In my experience there is definitely more joy seeing your child grow up under your supervision, the worries that haunt you when your child is sent away is not worth the saving of money for which you kept your child away from you I would not know if I could proudly answer my sent-away child as to why he/she was deprived from receiving childhood love.

Writer "c77ok"

When I came back my child would sit with me and look at me with strangely because she knew I was related to her but did not know exactly who I was. I too used to miss her when I saw small kids. Then I thought what am I doing? Who is this all for? We both work very hard for whom? What is this all for if we can't be good parents.

When I came back my child would sit with me and look at me with strangely because she knew I was related to her but did not know exactly who I was. I too used to miss her when I saw small kids. Then I thought what am I doing? Who is this all for? We both work very hard for whom? What is this all for if we can't be good parents.

I had the same experience, regarding leaving a child behind in Nepal. In fact my story doesn't suit the topic as my child was not born in America. Still I would like to write something because it's about leaving your child with relatives back in Nepal. I am a working mother and I had to leave my child with my mother whenever I went to work. No doubt my mum looked after my child better than me as my child never called me mum instead call me by my name as my mum and my sister used to call me. Due to work I had to go abroad once or twice a year. I got golden chance to settle abroad. At that time all my family sat down and told me not to take my child with me. I thought where there is will there is a way. Money is not everything. My mum still calls me and asks me to send my child back but now I don't want to repeat the mistake again. It's very good to see her growing, all the new things she talks everyday like for toileting she says mamma I want kyaking. At first it was bit hard but we came through the entire barrier, now it's getting better as my hubby works on weekday and me on weekends. Lastly I must say that money is nothing in front of all those happiness and love from my child. (For more please check the discussion forum at sherpakyidug.org)

Migyul Discussion Forum. Upon asking some of our readers of what they thought of this phenomenon, they answered.

Choying

After reading your questionnaire, I tried scanning the Tibetan families here in Los Angeles with young kids and none of them had sent their kids back home or were planning to do so. Well in LA we do not have as many families as in the East Coast so I guess it's a different issue here. But I do know a man who when his wife was pregnant sent his three year old to his cousins in the Midwest and I have to admit that being away from his parents this child when he came back was a handful and he still is.

...kids who are born here and live with their parents turn out much better than the ones who either come here when they are in their teens or ones who stay with their grand parents/cousins while their parents are working hard here in America.

As far as I have noticed kids who are born here and live with their parents turn out much better than the ones who either come here when they are in their teens or ones who stay with their grand parents/cousins while their parents are working hard here in America. Firstly the kids always resent being away from their parents and secondly parents to cover their guilt for staying away from them send them money and gifts which normally kids their age if living here with their parents do not receive and in that process spoil them because they do not have a sense of money value and they get things way too easily. All they have to do is wait for their parents to call and tell them what they want.

I know parents who sent their kids away have strong reasons of their own and not all kids are as I have mentioned above but I'm just saying as far as I have seen kids living with their parents do much better. Like here most of the families have brought their grand parents over and so that works too. The kids have their parents around as well as their grand parents.

Tashi D. Shakya

Personally, as I am not a parent I would unlikely be one to comment on this issue that has gripped (or toppled?) our society. But this is something that we all are concerned about and I feel each views shared will contribute little something to ease the problem. After all, children are our future. As we see that parents have alternate opinions to this issue though they are all whoring on the same problem. Some parents send their children from the US back to their homes while some leave their children back home to work in US. As much as we feel for the children, only a parent knows the pain in sending away or leaving behind their child thousand miles apart. And then only a parent can decide what is good for their child and apparently their future. Some parents are financially constrained and they have to leave their children to grand/foster parents so they can work more hours and save more money, all for a better future. This option at a glance sounds understandable and a safe option but when you meet these kids back home, you can see their expectations soaring high. Kids who are left behind and who know that someday they are going to the US don't focus on their studies in the high schools. They tell friends and teachers they will be going to America soon, citing "studying hard here [India and Nepal] is meaningless". They then spend a lot of money that their parents send them having no idea what their parents go through in saving all that money.

For the children, the thought that their parents are in US makes them feel powerful and eventually either rebellious with the ones who take care of them or they lose their self-confidence and come out as an introvert. They don't listen to foster parents and they don't share their concerns with them and forget having them share such things over the long distance call with the parents. In their innocent minds, kids think their parents in the US live in places like the Trump Tower. Their expectations are high. And in that expectation, many children lose the grip necessary in his/her sensitive teen age.

... along the way while he is growing up, a child will see first-hand the problems that his parents are facing. The child will see the realities in life through the difficulties faced by his parents.

Likewise, some parents send their children back home from the US. Some send them back for the [parent's] convenience while some send them back so the child molds himself to the good things in Himalayan culture. Either ways, I think whatever the reasons, a parent should always keep the children with themselves. That way, the child will be under constant observation, will get parental love and along the way while he is growing up, a child will see first-hand the problems that his parents are facing. The child will see the realities in life through the difficulties faced by his parents.

If we want our children to be stronger, have a strong bonding with them, the child should see and know everything. Sending a lot of money to your kids back home is not love. That is convenience, a compensation that you are giving your child for not being with him. Such things will just spoil your kids in ways unimaginable in the long run. Hold on to your kids while you can!

Mamta

Had I been asked this question about four months back, my response would have been a quick `for convenience', but now, as a new parent, my perspectives have changed. To be honest, it is difficult to present any one reason. Though most people tend to believe that reasons are mainly financial, I have discovered, after talking to other parents that their choices are also based on moral, cultural, educational and other such issues. My only concern is that if, and when parents choose to send their children away, they have, or at least I hope, weighed the possibilities and the consequences.

As per the popular adage – where there is a will, there is a way – one can definitely find options or create them, if need be. For example, when I look at my little girl, I long for her to experience the sense of belonging in extended families that we’re all part of. In other words, I feel that she is missing out all the love and affection that she'd otherwise receive were we back `home'. Of course, sending her away would also mean that her father and I'd be missing critical time together.

How can this void be filled? Some possibilities that I can think of are networking with other parents in our community or forming a support group with other friends and families in similar situation. From here, I expect my daughter to learn and appreciate the values of belonging to a family beyond her own. Parents can also benefit from such groups from information that would obviously get exchanged. Things like recommendations for babysitters, doctors and schools, to tips on bargain diapers (trust me, it becomes an endless necessity) helps. I don't think options are being explored properly.

The key is to find a means to bridge the distance barrier. I find communication to be an important element to help and possibly eliminate some, if not all, child rearing and parenting difficulties.

No doubt raising a child is a full time and a very critical responsibility, but it is not fair either, both for parents and their children, to pass this responsibility to someone else. Instead many choose the easy path. This is where communities will have a role to play, like providing its members with alternatives and support network. At the very least, parents can make informed choices. A correct response is difficult to sum up particularly in situations like these, when at most times the effect is only determined in the long run. A relation between parents and their children is a continuously evolving period. Often despite the best nurture that parents give, children turn out to be very difficult. Similarly there is no given that simply by sending children `away', he or she will not respect or love their parents.

Let's face it, many of us were sent to boarding schools and might have not spent more than three months in a year at home, and we seemed to have turned out fine. The key is to find a means to bridge the distance barrier. I find communication to be an important element to help and possibly eliminate some, if not all, child rearing and parenting difficulties. I think it is harder on parents than on the child. Children are happy; at least till they are of certain age, as long as there are people to love and give them the attention they need, and rightfully deserve. Here, I am assuming that children being sent back `home' will be received in a welcoming environment.

Time is another deciding factor in evaluating the impact. If a child has to be sent away, let it be for a reasonable period, with visits in between if possible. I cannot really define what the time frame ought to be. However, let it not be a situation where a child has been sent when he/she was less than a year and suddenly after ten years of separation be expected to embrace his/her parents like they never parted. Although not impossible, it seems impractical. Sadly it does happen.

Fostering the very spirit of community helps strengthen the sense of belonging in a foreign land. Through the communities established here, and New York has an amazing representation of the ethnically diverse Himalayan communities, we can, to a certain extent, reproduce what most of us left `back home'. Communities can also become vital resource guides to inform and assist its members to optimize on the opportunities that this place has to offer. Whether it is financial or cultural or simply day to day living, there is much that we can do help each other in our communities.

We have always had difficulty in these past issues where we find a definite reluctance in all our communities to discuss issues. This reluctance is there at various levels. At an organizational level where our community leaders don't want to discuss issues or even at individual levels where families don't want to be in the spotlight or put another in one. They love to read, comment privately and sometimes in an event they come up to us and say what they disapprove of in the community forums we have had or sometimes say something they liked. But, they do not want to write or express their views aloud.

While most of our writers are unanimous about the negativity of this phenomenon, this continues. At a recent occasion I sat with a young man who worked as a sales person at a store. He and his wife has a four year old and while he wants his son to be sent to school in India and for that matter in a nice English school in one of the Himalayan towns, his wife is opposed to the idea. He wanted his son to study at a nice private boarding school there, something he felt he could afford rather than the public school here, which he wasn't too happy with. His wife could not bear to be without her son. She goes to work now after a four-year interval and keeps the son at a day care center that is an expensive thing to do for the amount of money they make. But they are committed and want to see how long they can do this but trying they are. Was it an issue of head over heart? Or was it something more? Do our parents here feel that the education system here is lacking or they feel that they do not know enough about it to cope with the system and adequately cope with their children and their issue?

On numerous occasions nowadays, mothers with strollers and toddlers and four and five year olds can be seen – a positive sign that some parents are willing to take up the challenge.