Okay, so my daughter has had a full-on, exciting life in her two years. Born in London in a mixed heritage household that includes Iran, Montserrat, USA and UK cultures is a very unique existence for anyone. Then you throw in the fact that she is now a dual citizen of the UK and USA with a Social Security Number and two passports is beyond crazy. She’s visited New York, New Orleans and Houston as a baby bump and as a young toddler. We use mobile technology every week to talk to her grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts and she has been introduced to a lot of American family from their own visits to London. She even had the experience of being brought up around her grandparents who stayed consecutively for two months with her in London after she was born (grandma for one month, granddad for a month after that). As I said, it’s been full-on!
Our daughter had the real benefit of living with us alone as a family unit for the first year of her life – and it was a happy easy time for her to get accustomed to. Lily was with her parents and that was it. However as she grew up and started walking and getting around, our one bedroom flat just wasn’t big enough – she needed space to run around and explore in. We didn’t want to limit her or for her to feel limited. So naturally we tried to look for a two bedroom flat, but we soon realised that our income wouldn’t be able to comfortably accommodate that sort of budget. So my wife had the idea of upgrading to a three bedroom place with our friend from church who had a son 6 months younger than Lily. With our combined incomes, we found a lovely bungalow with a beautifully spacious garden. Most importantly, Lily had her own bedroom. This new living arrangement took us time to adjust to, but for Lily – it did work. She had more space to explore, a big garden to enjoy and a new playmate who she looked at as family and also tried to look after too. And for us, it worked in terms of good company, saving money on bills and rent, and enjoying more space and the garden.
Although this all sounds rosy and Lily really appreciated the benefits early on, it started to go a bit unpredictable and downhill. There was an extra flatmate for five months of this one year lease – our flatmate’s mother. This woman was someone with very traditional values and morals from her African background and thought she knew best for everyone. In the end, she and her daughter caused drama and arguments against my wife and myself and usually in front of the children. As someone who is very observant, I always made sure to take Lily out of those situations so she didn’t have to witness it. Then there was the situation of the flatmate’s husband who was forced out of the picture due to alleged domestic violence against his wife. The danger of him coming back into the picture with these kids around was a big one.
Well, the husband came back and even though they were estranged – he eventually earned trust and became the best dad he could be for his son. However, the introduction of him back in his wife’s and son’s lives brought a lot of unresolved issues in the marriage and parenthood departments and again, a lot of arguments happened as a result with copious profanities thrown about and usually in front of the children. Again, I did what any good father would do – took my daughter out of it and focused on distracting her from these events by playing with her.
My daughter also had to deal with the dynamics shift where attention on her was shared between her and another child. She couldn’t get everything she wanted and because of the differences between both families of how they parent and discipline their children (we were very stringent and strict with our rules and discipline, whilst the others were very laidback and unfocused), Lily seemed to feel like she was always getting the short straw as it seemed like she was always getting told off. Lily even started to copy us telling off the other child when he was doing wrong or comforting him when he was crying. Although it was such a big shift for Lily, she coped so well with all these challenges and testing times to come out shining brighter than ever. It gave her more character, trust, discipline and allowed her to learn more about herself and what the difference between right and wrong was. She become more enhanced in how she loved, cared and looked out for others. She played and shared food and toys with other children, because that’s what she was taught to do at home. She showed humility and positivity to everyone she knew because that’s what we tried to do as parents.
These were testing times for myself and my wife too as individuals, parents, a couple, a family and as Christians – but we came out so much stronger and appreciate because of it. We wouldn’t change having to go through that for anything in the world because it has helped us all to grow and mature in a positive way and to focus on God and not succumb to negativity and hate towards others. And now we are back living together as a family unit and I look back on this as a challenging but necessary time that we all needed. I’m truly impressed and encouraged by the way Lily handled all of this.