Minus spanking

Before sending me tons of e-mail to accuse me of being a “copy cat”, allow me to refer to the last paragraph of my article in “” dated July 2003, where you will see that I had used the term “Iranican” for the first time in reference to the first generation Iranians in the United States. Not that this term is exclusive, or that it matters who copies whom, but I just wanted to clarify this small matter for all concerned.

The life of an Iranian immigrant may involve a million problems, but none comes even close to the parenthood dilemma. Somehow, we seem to adapt to our new culture while unable to fully accept it. The old rules that we manage to keep hidden and mask with commendable skill, are once more enforced when our offspring attempt to break them down the line.

For an Iranian, especially one raised with rigid standards of an old-fashioned family, parenthood in America can become a nightmare. Unfortunately, as our children grow, the problem gets more complicated.

The first shock comes in the earliest stages of the game with acceptance of shameless breastfeeding in public and it continues into the removal of parent’s right to spank one's own kid!

“What are you talking about? Spanking has been the most effective means of discipline throughout history. My father spanked me and my father’s father in fact used to flack him. This boy has shamed my entire heritage by farting in public. Spanking is the least I could do.”

“Sorry, but an innocent fart is neither shameful nor a crime in this country. Besides, spanking is a violation of children’s rights and, if reported, could make you lose custody!”

Indeed, only through studying the rights of a child do we come to know that we live in a society where belching is considered far worse than passing gas the other way.

You and I come from a place where we looked up the meaning of the word “Rights” when we were well into adulthood, and even then it was only to find out what rights we did not have. Unfortunately, today’s child is fully aware of her rights.  

“I don’t want to eat Ghormeh-sabzi. Give me a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich or I’ll report you for child abuse!”  And, this is before finishing kindergarten!

It takes a while to get used to our Iranican kids. Not only do they not learn the word “Shoma”, they follow their peers in not ever saying “hello”, “good-bye”, and you might as well forget the “please” or “thank-you.”

The first time my daughter brought a friend home to play, I thought the poor child was a homeless mute orphan. She walked into the house in torn blue jeans and without shoes, looked at me without a word, went straight to the fridge and ate for an hour without asking permission, leaving the refrigerator door open the entire time. Whenever I offered her something, her answers were “Aha,” for yes and “A,a,” for no.

I soon learned not to expect more than one syllable in reply. Of course, all this was long before I learned it was normal child behavior in my new society. Lately, I’ve noticed that some kids use the phrase “I’m good,” to mean “No, thank you!” Somehow they must have realized that most kids’ manners are bad, thus the need for such distinction.

As my children grew, the problem became more serious. If I pushed them to study hard in pursuit of better grades, the teachers told me I was causing them “stress”, if I didn’t buy them everything their friends had, I had to deal with their “depression” and if the kid didn’t listen to the teacher, I was told he suffered from Attention deficit disorder – A.D.D. I don’t know what happened to simple terms such as lazy, spoiled, and brat. Somewhere along the line, those words were switched with clinical terms that shall remain futile to me.

From what I see in our Iranican community, mothers go a little easier on their children. Whether it is our forgiving nature or the tender love in our hearts, we seem to be the mediator between our children and their strict fathers. After all, it is the man who buys the drum-set, and it is he who comes home tired just to find the entire fifth grade around the dinner table.

No, I’m not saying this just as a homemaker – I’m also a doctor – but in a true Persian home, the housekeeping rules are unchanged, and regardless of the mother’s profession, she also runs the house. She can be the president, for all her First Gentleman cares, but her place is still in the kitchen and her inclination is to cover-up her kids’ tracks:

“Oh, that? I told her she could use a little of my lipstick!”

“It was my fault, honey, I told him he could borrow your car.”

“The nose? Don't be silly, she was born with it!”

What puzzles me is that in the end, the father ends up being the one whom they adore and would rather live with if it ever came to that.

As far as education is concerned, we don’t owe the system a thing because this country is lucky to have our exceptionally bright kids in its schools. Case closed!

When it comes to the critical issues of “Namoos” even the better adapted mothers can’t help being pure Iranian. Somehow, regardless of all our differences, we manage to come to complete agreement with our men on this subject. Disregarding equal rights, we brag about the number of girlfriends our son has had while swearing that our daughter hasn’t even been on a real date and that she is saving herself for prince charming.

I told a friend about my problems with my teenage son who will not shave, won’t cut his hair, never wears shoes, and aspires to be a rock star.

“Raising a child in this country is tough,” she said. Then, leaning closer, she whispered, “Trust me, if you move to a remote farm where your child’s screams can’t be heard, you’ll find out that spanking still works best!”

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is “Sharik-e Gham” (see excerpt). Visit her site ZoesWordGarden.com

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