What Every Immigrant Parent Ought to Know About their Children

Hello hello hello. Today I thought I would share with you an article that I wrote a while back with the intention of getting myself featured on an African immigrant newsletter. The editor’s of the newsletter were way too slow in contacting me and I thought that this article has some insights that should be shared anyway. I know not many of you are in the situation described below (i.e. parents of immigrant kids or people here with family) BUT hopefuly you can still pick up a little something, something from it. B blesd, Mwangi

An African mother


I am truly blessed to be here with my nuclear family. I look around at a lot of my peers who didn’t have the privilege of coming with their families and am truly thankful. However, as with everything in life, my being here with my parents presents it’s own unique challenges.

Fortunately for you, the conflict that is currently taking place in my household is a great tool of education and insight into not only the differences in how the older and younger immigrants think, but also possible solutions as we move forward as a community.

So Here Goes and Notice How You React Depending on Your Age……

I am a college dropout!

I went to college twice. I first went to acquire a Bachelor of Business at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. I share my life story on my blog so I won’t go into too much depth, but needless to say I dropped out.

I dropped out because the course I had always wanted to get into since high school, Bachelor of Film and Television, finally accepted me.

I was cruising along the course and honestly enjoying it – we watch and make films all day, what’s not to love.

But I came to a point where I became very discontent and got an itch that kept urging me to stop the learning by instruction and start learning by living life, real life. And so I left.

The Universal Parental Reaction from Lagos to Nairobi

It really doesn’t matter which country they come from. If I am talking to an African immigrant mother, I have the same discussion over and over and over and over again:

“Go back to school”

“But I am leaving to start up my own Internet business!”

“That’s well and good. You can do it part time, but just go to school, get your papers and then you can do what you want.”

“But I know what I want to do with my life and the way to do it. I just want to get on with it, without wasting precious time preparing at school.”

“But what will you have to fall back on if this Internet thing doesn’t work?”

And with that question we get to one of the areas where generations of immigrants don’t see eye to eye

An African father

Young Guard vs Old Guard

You see, I see opportunity everywhere. I have come from a place where even with my endless optimism, I must admit that the opportunities are very limited. Landing in Australia, it becomes very clear to a bright-eyed fellow such as myself that this land is clearly flowing with milk and honey if you can serenade the cows or attract the bees.

So, What if the Internet Thing Doesn’t Work Out?

Then, in no apparent order I can fall back on:

“My resourcefulness, my wits, my cunning, the Dole, Centrelink, my seven years of HECS funding, my friends, my family, free education via public libraries, free Internet access, free funding for small businesses if I have a good plan, homeless shelters, the Salvation army, various Australian charities and so on and so on and so on………”

Never Forget Why You Brought Us Here

You should never forget why you brought us here. You brought us here because you wanted to leave a place where the possibilities were limited and bring us to a place where we could do, be and have so much more.

So please, allow us to do that. Don’t let your Africa-specific fears dictate the way you guide and mentor me as I navigate this broad, vast land that is Australia. Allow me to go off the beaten path, knowing that there is a chance that I may fail. However, should I succeed, I just may create a brand new path that millions of African children will one way dance through.

And So We Come Back Full Circle

I am still a college dropout. Every single day my mother still tries to implore me to go back to college and “get real papers so I can get a real job.” But, remember if I had heeded her advice, I wouldn’t have written this article where I implore you to please support your children as they experiment with paths you are too scared to venture.

Since the folks at AfricanOz (the newsletter that I still hope will publish this article) have been gracious enough to give me this platform to share with you, I feel discontent simply leaving you with an ambiguous story that has numerous interpretations. So below I share 4 concrete tips for parenting an immigrant child from someone who is currently being parented

African mother

4 Tips on Parenting….from a Child of a Parent

1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings: I think this is quite possibly the most important tip I will share. The way Western societies work, immigrant families usually spend very little time in a given day, together. During these gaps from each other, we as young, fresh minds are bombarded by the most sophisticated marketing and propaganda campaigns in human history. As a result, whatever message they chose to impart in us, by default, is much more powerful than any words of advice you may want to share with us. If they tell us that we will gain worth in society by listening and heeding the words of hardcore gangsta rap artists, then we are more likely to listen to the marketing team at Interscope records than we are to the gentle (sometimes harsh) pleas of a caring parent who we only see two hours a day. For that reason, be extremely aware of what your child allows into his mind through the media, Internet and his peer groups. Which leads me to tip number two:

2. Peer Groups: Observe your child’s peer group and you can tell what he does with majority of his time and probably what he will do in future. Do you like where his peer group is going? If not, you’d best find a way to get him into a better peer group.

3. Be Aware of the Culture of the Land: As a result of the huge propaganda campaign a lot of Western cultural norms are now ours. Gone are a lot of our traditional beliefs in favour of what a lot of us (not myself) consider to be the “more modern” Western alternatives. So that means that a lot of us have very different standards when it comes to sexuality, the relationship between adults and children, our place in society, God and pretty much everything you can think of. If you find yourself continually butting heads with your child, look across the hedge and look at how the Australian child relates to their parents, therein may be the answer.

4. We Are Young and Opportunities are Everywhere: These two are very separate points worthy of their own discussion but I will bunch them together because in my mind’s eye they’re as connected as the Siamese. The reason I did not bat an eyelash when I left school and am extremely confident in pursuing my fortune sharing knowledge on the world wide web is because in my heart of hearts I know two things.
One, I am young, full of energy and as a result of growing up in two cultures, very resourceful.
Two, even if all my ventures fail miserably, I live in a welfare society that has safety nets galore. I can simply live of the dole while I write my second business plan which I will submit to the government bureaucracies that fund and support small business and who knows maybe I might make my fortune on the second or third or fourth time that I commit to a project I am passionate about. Bottom line:failure doesn’t mean I will starve. So relax, we are here. Push comes to shove, I’ll be fine.

African father

btw: How awesome is this picture? One of the coolest pics I’ve found in a while….

And with that, allow me to sign off. Before I do, let me thank all the parents for bringing us here. But we are here now, please, allow us to do the rest.

Be blessed and bless others,

Mwangi

No Comments

  • By Evan, July 5, 2008 @ 9:01 am

    Here’s to your success in creating a new path in a new land.

    It looks like it’s happening!

  • By Julia Sanna, July 5, 2008 @ 10:00 am

    You have a great point in asking our parents to give us a chance to spread our wings. I agree with your concern that parents should not saddle us with the Africa-specific fears since we are breaking free as a globalized generation. However, I’m still old fashioned in encouraging guys to get an education whenever they have an opportunity. I know there are folks who are millionaire college drop-outs but the ratio of success is very small.

    My advice for those considering dropping out of college to start a business is to drop you hours to part-time. Consider taking only one class and start your business at a small scale, maybe switch majors to reflect your business interest but get some education. One thing I’ve learned there are those blessed with street smarts to know a good deal but some education can let you know some bad deals too.

    Back to the African-specific fears – in our circle of friends we always discuss the need to escape the African mentality that borders on inferiority and believing we have little to offer the world. When we look around, Africa is pretty attractive to investors, environmentalists, tourists, preachers, politicians, musicians, artists etc. Not bad – not bad at all. Thanks for covering this hugely important topic.

  • By mwalimu, July 5, 2008 @ 11:00 am

    Mwangi,

    if you think Oz is land of milk and honey, then,my dear, you should come to US of A, it is a land flowing with milk, honey, milk, honey, and more milk and honey.

    And if you think oz says “it can be done”, USA says “you can do it”.

    Seriously. You do have what it takes to succeed in USA

  • By Leeban, July 5, 2008 @ 11:10 am

    lol, sometimes Mwangi I think we share the same brain. I believe time is the greatest currency of all, and thus revel in my youth. While the old saying is true “youth is wasted on the young” that does not apply to me. Im on the verge of dropping out after 3 years of chemical engineering at my university. My parents have FINALLY agreed to let me off for a semester, but would have a hernia if i told them my real wish of dropping out. I live in Canada, and so too see the abundant opportunities around me. But what I really wanna do is just get out of this bloody country. Which is why im on this blog in the first place, as Australia is one of the places I was considering going to. Best part is, I wanted to know what it was like for a young black male and now i do. One idea for a post on your blog that i would love to see, is helpful tips, for students like myself that want to study and work abroad there. Keep up the great work.

  • By Mwangi, July 5, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

    @Evan: Slowly but surely I am climbing the Mount, and as I climb, I thank you profusely for the good vibes you have radiated my way :)

  • By Mwangi, July 5, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    @Julia: Hello, first lady on all things wonderful in marriage :D I can only speak to what I have done with this blog, and I can assure you that if I tried to straddle the whole, half here and half there, the blog would not be at the level it’s at now, and would take much longer to get wherever its meant to go. Concentration of focus and energy is so powerful, especially when you’re a man, from what I have seen so far.

    The way I know this is because I work and talk to a lot of other folks who are also doing the online thing, “part time” and it’s amazing how so often they are unable to fulfill on promises they make to myself and to other readers, for lack of time.

    In the few months I have been running this, I think the longest it’s taken for me to respond to anything is 48 hours and all the series that I promised to write I wrote. I have right now about six or seven podcast interviews in the archives while I am able to work on monetizing this site and trying to get some joint ventures done with folks in other industries.

    Personally, I would actually recommend, if you are in my specific situation (in the West with family or here on permanent residence or citizenship while young and single) go out there and try to make it on your own immediately and skip Uni all together before responsibility and social pressure to conform becomes too strong. University will still be there in my late 20s, but the wealth of experience and knowledge I will have gained about the world, “the real world” in that decade or so of “messing up” is absolutely invaluable.
    As far as I can tell, most of the education in Universities has its roots in people who were willing to test out the limits of their human experience.

  • By Mwangi, July 5, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

    @mwalimu: Thank you very much, I am very flattered by that. At some point I hope to do some work in the States but as far as I can tell, my “Western roots” for the rest of my life will be Australia. I just can’t get over the laid back, more human culture that this place has. But I will definitely see if I can fly over and package some of that milk and some of that honey in a bottle.

  • By Mwangi, July 5, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    @Leeban: Any time I hear a major like Chem Engineering, Law or Med or anything like that, I always perk up because I know I’m in the presence of someone with an intellect that probably surpasses mine.
    As for the tips for young students, watch this space, the Capital FM thing challenged me to get more practical information on the immigration process for students and workers and so am working on that now, its yet to bear much fruit but am pressing on.
    I must say though, I have never had this urge to just travel and explore myself or this world, because I always knew at the back of my mind that I couldn’t afford it (I don’t want to have to always work boring minimum wage jobs to support this and know that I would probably not do this very well) and there is no way in hell my parents will support it.
    If I ever travel, it will be because this blog is somehow making me enough money so that I can work about 2h a day (or less) on it and not have to worry about where the dollars and cents are coming from.

  • By Carol, July 6, 2008 @ 5:03 am

    Thats cool Mwangi,go for it!Despite African stereotype mentality that getting more and more college diplomas is a direct gate to sucess, I see pple including you making it,so,whats the big deal parents?
    As Mwalimu says,US is a land of milk and honey, Kenya is a land of bees and cows, who however do not produce what they should! That is a counry where economc growth is very high,7%, but life gets harder and harder, and joblessness is shooting up!
    No wonder guys move out and no one wants to go there!

  • By Mwangi, July 6, 2008 @ 9:04 am

    @Carol: Though I am forever thankful everyday that enough people actually care about me to want to force me back into school day after day after day and I actually like the fact that old folks take it upon themselves to interfere into the lives of younger immigrants and keep them in check, it’s sad that folks are unwilling to step out of that stereotype and realize there are actually many people who have succeeded, and many times at a higher level, than those within the college system.
    Is dropping out suitable for most folks? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s sad that it’s never presented as fact that many people drop out and do well.

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