I went to a store yesterday with a friend of mine. The sales lady there was a very nice Latina who was curious about us, asking us about ourselves with friendly interest. We ended up chatting with her in an unexpectedly deep conversation.
“Where are you guys from?” she asked us.
“I’m Egyptian,” I said.
“Colombian,” my friend said.
“I’m Mexican,” the lady said. Her name tag displayed her name, Maria.
We got to talking about different languages and how there were different dialects of Spanish across the different Spanish-speaking countries (like the differences between Colombian and Mexican Spanish). I mentioned that the same existed in Arabic; different Arabic-speaking countries had different dialects. There are even similarities between Arabic and Spanish, because of the Moorish influence.
“Did you ever learn Spanish?” Maria asked me.
“Yes, I took Spanish for four years in school and I loved it! The overlap between Spanish and Arabic made it a bit easier for me to learn, too. Spanish is a beautiful language,” I said.
“My youngest daughter doesn’t speak any Spanish at all,” said Maria. “She’s taking a Spanish class in school but she’s not doing well. Her teacher just called me yesterday to tell me that Paula is going to fail the class and that I need to help her with Spanish!”
“Do you speak Spanish at home?” I asked.
“Yes! All I speak at home is Spanish! I have an accent when I speak English and my kids are always correcting my English. I have six kids. Four of them speak Spanish, but the youngest two only speak English.”
“Is there a big age difference between the older four and the younger two?” I asked.
“Kind of. My oldest daughter is 33 years old. Then 31, 29, and 27. Then the younger two kids are 20 and 14 years old. It’s those two that don’t speak Spanish! And I still can’t believe that my 14-year-old is flunking out of Spanish in school!”
We tried to comfort her, this mother who was clearly agitated at the odd discrepancy.
“Well, it’s good that at least your older kids still speak Spanish,” we said.
“My older kids…they are driving me crazy for other reasons,” sighed Maria. “They don’t want to get married or settle down! I tell my 33-year-old daughter to get married and have a baby so I can have some grand-babies! But she refuses! She doesn’t want marriage or kids!”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because she wants to travel and see stuff. She just wants to work and then go out and have fun with her friends. Just take trips, travel, have “experiences.” She’s already done so much of that. I tell her she can still do those things after marriage. But I think she thinks she has a lot of time left.”
We talked with Maria a while longer and then we left. The conversation really made me reflect. There is something about the modern liberal culture of the West (or at least of America) that seeps into the mind and takes hold. The individualistic, hedonistic mentality of modern liberalism can easily take over and dominate a person’s mind, shoving aside other paradigms of other cultures. The parent has one culture and the children have an entirely different one. You can clearly see the liberal influence on the kids.
The most obvious influence is linguistic. The 14-year-old daughter does not speak the language of her parents, even though it’s the language most often spoken at home. Yet still, somehow English has managed to supersede and dominate. It is often the case that immigrants who come to the US will have kids who grow up speaking better English than their immigrant parents–but for the child to be actually failing Spanish class in school is another level. Many children of immigrants are bilingual, even if it’s not 50-50. But to have your child not speak even a word of your mother tongue and speak only the language which you only speak un-fluently is a sad phenomenon.
Beyond the level of language, the influence of the liberal American monoculture seeps much deeper, leaking into the understanding of and thoughts about life and view of the world. The 33-year-old daughter who does speak Spanish does not want to lead a traditional lifestyle in the way of her parents. She rejects marriage and children, instead opting for the more glamorized lifestyle of traveling and experiencing.
The chasm between mother and daughter is wide. The mother, a devout Catholic raised in Mexico, married young and had six children. The daughter, an agnostic raised in America, is unmarried and childless by choice. The communal mentality of one culture has given way to the individualistic mindset of another.
Language, religion, mindset and worldview. Everything has changed from one generation to the next.
We as Muslim parents raising our own children– in the west or outside of it– can take heed and derive lessons from the struggles of parents of other cultures like Maria.