by Tina Fielding
I work with our Low-German speaking families in Southern Alberta and help others to understand the culture. As I do this work, I often find myself thinking back to my childhood experiences.
Having grown up with a rather strict Mennonite upbringing, it took me many years to understand and comply with the Canadian culture that we were now being raised in.
There were many struggles within my heart as I went to school in the Canadian public school system and attended church at the Old Colony Mennonite Church on Sundays. Often the two were so very contradictory, and for a young child it was hard to navigate the two worlds.
Now, as an adult and a parent, I see just how hard it was for my parents too. So many things that Low-German Mennonite (LGM) parents do as parents is based on how they were raised and yet when they watch and adjust to Canadian culture, they are often guilt-ridden or confused.
Being a parent in any culture can be overwhelming and quite the challenge; and to add to this the pressures from both church and the world around can be terrifying at times for our LGM families. Anyone who has had children knows the incredible love that sweeps through a parent’s heart. We want the very best for their kids, but by whose standard is the ‘best’ measured?
Could it be that we too quickly judge others in their parenting styles and methods and should instead try to understand their culture and experiences first? My mom has often said that if she had known then what she knows now that she would have parented very differently. I believe that most parents feel that way now and then.
However, if I look at how I was raised and who it has made me to be, I wouldn’t want for her to have done things so very differently. Obviously I had struggles growing up, but it has made me who I am today. Now, I get to use my experiences to help others in a big way.
We grew up very differently than my school peers did, and it was often hard to explain why. Things that were normal for us – like having children work outside the home from a younger age to help support the family – can be seen as unfair in Canadian culture, but I believe it taught me that I can help take care of others around me.
As we have assimilated into Canadian culture, we have kept some of our own traditions but adopted others. For example, education wasn’t seen as a big priority in my family growing up but now we value it a lot. Changing this way of thinking was partly due to others around us helping us see the importance in a gentle, non-judgmental way – which was so appreciated and life changing.
So, what I am hoping to convey is that we all want the very best for our children but we each have a different standard by which we measure what that may be. When we see others living their lives in a way we don’t agree with, let’s find out the why instead of telling them they are wrong.
Tina Fielding is a Community Health Representative with Alberta Health Services, and a Low-German language interpreter. She can be reached by e-mail: [email protected]