1. Let kids be kids.
Armenian children are able to explore, and do what they want as long as they aren’t in grave danger, with the caveat that they dress appropriately. Kids get scolded more for not wearing a hat than playing around with fire. Minor bumps and scrapes are a part of life, and teach children their boundaries. If something does happen, grandma will put toothpaste on it or grandpa will massage it with rubbing alcohol. Mom and dad may give you the talk about being safe, but grandparents will always step in and tell them to let you be.
2. Give your children alcohol.
This might be a hot button issue in America, but in Europe it isn’t. At five-years old, I was given what looked to me like cola, but in fact was a warm beer. Now, warm beer is not a favorite drink of kids; lesson learned. Recently, I let my son taste this warm fuzzy concoction and he absolutely hated it. Perfect. Not many alcoholics here.
3. Family comes first. Always.
There is nothing more important than family in Armenia. None of this American crap of ‘turn 18 and you are out on your own.’ Armenian kids live with their parents until they are prepared to be out on their own.
Children grow up close to their grandparents — in my case two blocks away. Retaining traditions is very important and when the elders are around they teach the grandkids to learn about and celebrate their culture. Who else are you going to learn to make boereg from? Also, siblings always watch out for each other. It was like my brothers and cousins were mafia members reporting back to my parents everything I did at school.
No matter how many times your brother asks you to watch his kids, or crazy Aunt Sylvia asks you to help to get customers for her window installation business, we chip in. We never say no to family unless we are in the hospital or are helping someone else. If we can’t help, we find someone who can. Armenian networking at its finest.
4. Watch out for boys.
Armenian girls have a hard time dating. These days it’s a little more lax, but Armenian parents and grandparents must still approve. If not, you get the headache of your life. Your boyfriend better be rich, handsome, the nicest guy ever, Armenian, and willing to accept your crazy family as his own. Beware they might stick around long after your relationship, because they have become family. If he doesn’t treat your daughter right, the boyfriend should consider fleeing the country.
5. Don’t bottle up emotions.
We don’t keep in our feelings and opinions. In the heat of the moment, tell it like it is, then let it go, and return to a happy family. Healing hugs and kisses are always welcome, if not required, and showing affection to kids is mandatory after an argument.
6. Don’t ever give up.
Coming from a bartering culture, our kids learn not to give up. They learn to own the situation to get what they need. My grandfather’s legendary story is rags to riches — selling lettuce in the countryside to building high-rise luxury apartments in Istanbul. When we feel defeated we can bemoan it to death, but Armenians keep on going and reach our goals regardless. Kids learn that there is always a story to be made.
7. Learn to eat.
Since many Armenians were displaced from our homeland, we learned early on to be the most gracious hosts and guests, meaning we are at home wherever we go. Being the social butterflies we are, kids watch their parents scramble to prepare food and tea when guests pop by. Even as guests, we share arm loads of sweet lokoum or baklava over chit-chat.