Leanna GM shares her interview with author Homa Sabet Tavangar.
When I first heard of the book Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World by Homa Sabet Tavangar, I felt like she had written it just for me, since it addresses a question close to my heart: How can I raise my children to be world citizens, especially at times when we are not able to travel much?
I have always been inspired by Baha’u’llah’s quotation, “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” A major focus of my blog is our efforts to raise our son to be bilingual and bicultural but also, more importantly, to be a citizen of the planet.
Growing Up Global is a wonderful resource for doing just this. It is packed with ideas for everyday activities to open up the world to your child. It is organized around the idea of making a new friend, so each chapter presents a different aspect of building a new friendship, from learning about language and food to religion.
The author based the book on her time working on diversity and cross-cultural issues around the world and on her experiences raising three girls. The book and its counterpart website are full of practical advice for parents on how to bring the world into their homes through games, activities, toys, websites, and other resources. While many of the activities are for older kids, there are also lots of suggestions for young children as well.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Sabet Tavangar about her book and related work:
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.
A: I grew up a very suburban American kid, and am raising my kids in the US suburbs, too. So, when people see my name and some of the places I’ve lived, that’s always a surprise. I lived in Peru for a year when I was 20-21. Then in Kenya when I was 25-26, then in the Gambia with my kids for a term of school, and have traveled a fair amount globally – mostly as an adult. I always imagined my children would grow up living around the world, and that’s what I most wanted for them. This didn’t happen, so I tried hard to instill a sense of the world throughout their lives. It’s a big reason Growing Up Global was born. Also, because I “know” the American suburban experience, I’m able to share ideas around global citizenship with a wider audience. If everything happens for a reason, I think this is one of the benefits of where I’ve lived – I’m able to put it in terms more people can relate to.
Q: What inspired you to write Growing Up Global? How has it been received?
A: Growing Up Global is sort of the culmination of my life’s experience up to now. Though I grew up in suburbia, I always had contact with the larger world, with cousins everywhere and ideals around global citizenship, instilled from my earliest memories. I spent my career working with companies and governments around all things global – markets, development, competition, culture. Then, when I found out I was pregnant with our third child, about a year after 9/11, I started thinking really hard about what it will take to raise children in a world that’s changing so rapidly, connected but fearful. I looked all over for a book that would help raise a global citizen, at the intersection of globalization and parenting, and couldn’t find anything that was user-friendly. So, this is the book I wanted to buy (!).
I’m so grateful the book has been received so well. When Jane Goodall sent me a glowing endorsement (from a London airport terminal!), I wept. I admire her so much, and hoped that in some way my book could touch many people. I get email from readers around the world who have been touched by the book, from Alaska to Singapore to Mississippi and New York City, and each one is so precious to me. At the same time, despite the very positive reception, it is SO DIFFICULT to get the attention and traction (and sales) needed to keep the book “alive” (on shelves, in stock, on people’s radars). This is a challenge of a magnitude I never expected. Once I had a big publisher (Random House), I thought the book was all set. I was so wrong. It has felt like an uphill battle for “discoverability” every single day since it’s come out.
Q: How old are your children now? What effect has raising them with this global outlook had on them?
A: My girls are 19, 17, 9 now. Yikes. This is a fascinating question to me, since I’m discovering what that means each day. For example, my oldest earned a scholarship to study in China for two summers, can’t wait to study abroad in college, and wants to learn as many languages as she can get her hands on. This is amazing to me to watch unfold. She is naturally reserved and all of a sudden, it seems, so many qualities of curiosity, relating to many different people, exploring, trying new things, making many new friends seem to have just blossomed. She’s even excelling at a summer job that calls for direct sales, because she is interested in all the people she meets and is able to make a sincere connection with them. We never, ever thought she’d do anything with sales (and this is not her career choice) given her quiet nature, but these qualities of a global “outlook” and the virtues that go with it, have really made an impact.
[one_half][testimonial company=”” author= “”]Realizing the oneness of humanity, a core Baha’i teaching, which ultimately is the purpose of being a world citizen, is a profound and inspiring spiritual principle, not just a thing that embellishes a resume or is simply about playing nice or another parenting fad.[/testimonial][/one_half]
Q: How has the Baha’i Faith influenced your outlook and your desire to raise your children as world citizens?
A: The Baha’i Faith has had a profound impact. Realizing the oneness of humanity, a core Baha’i teaching, which ultimately is the purpose of being a world citizen, is a profound and inspiring spiritual principle, not just a thing that embellishes a resume or is simply about playing nice or another parenting fad. I firmly believe that when this principle is incorporated in one’s heart and daily life, profound, life-long benefits are realized. As much as I am inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith around this topic – which are explicit and a core value – I also draw inspiration from many people who follow other paths which lead them to serve humanity, teach their children and live meaningful lives. There is so much we can learn from so many. So, even if you love your faith, be careful not to shut off from learning from others or find yourself thinking your team is superior. That sort of misses the whole point, I think.
Q: Did you ever meet any resistance from your kids? If so, how did you handle it?
A: Sure. It’s important not to make this your soapbox or do it with an agenda. In the chapter on foreign films I discuss how at first watching a foreign film can be exciting and like an adventure – like having ice cream. But you don’t want ice cream at every meal. You’ll get so tired of it. The summer we screened every movie recommendation in that chapter, the films started to become drudgery. You don’t want to have such an agenda around global experiences that your kids will flee to their friends’ houses for entertainment, dinner, etc. Balance and moderation in all things is an important principle! Listening to your kids, responding to their interests, and not expecting them to “get” everything we want them to is really important. I also talked about this in the book in connection with activism and passion around causes I expected them to care about. It didn’t happen, but on its own time, their awareness grew and unexpectedly they come up with comments and concerns that really surprised me – and made me happy! They are their own people, and that’s crucial to keep in mind.
Q: How can parents living abroad maintain the culture of their homeland, the culture of their current country, and still teach their kids about other world cultures?
A: That’s a great question and it’s always a struggle. Each family will handle this differently, but a few things to keep in mind: you can have family traditions that are very special to you that you practice every year (e.g., during holidays, birthdays, milestones like losing a tooth, going to school, etc). Speak your mother tongue at home, as difficult as this is to maintain. Skype with family and friends from home. Share happy and special memories from home regularly. Generally, I think exposing to the world is not an “either-or” with re-connecting with the home culture. If anything, learning about the range of cultural experiences helps develop appreciation for your “differentness.” If kids are just immersed in the dominant culture of their adopted home, that is when resistance to heritage is strongest. By gaining a sense of global context from early on, appreciation of more than one culture become a natural instinct. And the longer they have this exposure, the better they become at balancing it as they grow.
Q: Your book and website include suggestions for children of all ages. What advice do you have specifically for mothers of young children (under five)?
A: This is a great time to expose to the world – again, because it builds that natural instinct or muscle of global connection. Playgroups with friends of different backgrounds. Music from various cultures helps attune the ear to various sounds, languages, styles. Read books together from various cultures. Don’t be afraid to travel with little ones. Toys, puzzles, even room decorations all enhance the experience and sometimes it’s easier for younger children, since there is so much out there for them.
Q: What do you hope other mothers get from your book?
A: I hope they feel like raising a global citizen is very “do-able.” Not overwhelming. Not one more burden on their long to-do list. Just a natural way to tap into what’s meaningful for them and that they feel equipped to raise a child who will be ready for their future – not in fear of it. Also, I hope that other mothers will feel like they can reach out and start to build a more cohesive community wherever they live. Expand their circles of friendship, start practicing and building peace where they live. This also helps fight isolation that many mothers feel.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: I’ve got some new projects I’m working on. An e-book that’s a “How To” for elementary schools in collaboration with Becky Morales who writes the terrific Kid World Citizen blog. And another book that draws from the wisdom of the ages and sages to help equip and inspire parents. Right now I call that Parent Like a Prophet. While much parenting advice is so trendy these days, there is profound wisdom that would inspire and help many raise strong global citizens, as well as build understanding across faith lines, which I think remains the last holdout of acceptable prejudice. There is so much we can learn from this collective wisdom. In the process of writing these, I’d love to hear experiences from your readers, and also encourage them to connect with the Growing Up Global Facebook page (and Twitter). I’m amazed how social media has created so many terrific friends and real connections. So, please be in touch!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://www.enablemetogrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/34869_1372655032657_1931098_n.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Leanna GM is a stay at home mother to a sweet, funny, rambunctious two (and a half!) year old boy, with a baby on the way. She has Masters degrees in Anthropology and in Library and Information Science, with a focus on Latin America. She blogs about her adventures in parenting at “All Done Monkey,” [http://alldonemonkey.com] focusing on spiritual education, natural parenting, and raising global citizens.[/author_info] [/author]