Parents - Being an adult in Armenia today is to be a busy worrier. One worries about one’s job, one’s family’s health, and whether one will be able to supply basic needs. It is very likely that both parents aspire to work outside the home, since, under the Soviet system, they would both have been required to work. In addition, Armenians are a very hard-working culture, so the wife would naturally want to contribute to her family’s standard of living. However, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, jobs have been very hard to find. Most factory work has evaporated. If the father of the family was a factory foreman or a skilled laborer in the factory, today he might be selling bananas on a street corner or driving a taxicab. Likewise, the mother, who might have been trained as an engineer, today might be working as a janitor or doing manual labor in a mine.
The parents also might be trying to start a new business in one of the many areas that are receiving financial aid from foreign countries, such as jewelry making. Most parents also have part-time jobs on the evenings and weekends. They may take in laundry, sell items on the gray or black markets, run a cafe, drive a taxi, or clean the homes of wealthier people. In other words, they will be focusing all their energies on making as much money as they can in a difficult economy. Armenians tend to wear conservative clothing. The women almost always wear skirts that cover their knees with basic blouses and sweaters. The men wear dark pants and basic cotton shirts. Shorts, tank tops, and miniskirts are almost never seen on the streets, even among adolescents.
The grandparents - in an Armenian family play a very important role. Not only do they baby-sit the young children, they also run the household. The grandmother likely does most of the housework, which is a very challenging job when there is little hot water and sometimes no electricity. If she has the money, the grandmother will do other shopping. She also will stop at the post office, where she will, hopefully, pick up some money sent to her from a relative in a foreign country. If she does receive money, she will take it to the bank to have it converted into drams, the local currency. She also might spend several hours sitting outside the family’s apartment building trying to sell her meager belongings, or she will take a part-time job cleaning others’ apartments. While the grandmother is doing these errands, the grandfather may be trying to repair items around the house, such as the stove or the radio. By now, these items are several decades old and the family almost certainly can not afford new ones yet.
The house or apartment has wood heat, so he will keep the fire stoked in the winter and possibly go out hunting for more wood to burn. He also will go to one of several spots in town that have pure water so he can fill up the family’s water jugs. If he has extra time before heading home, he might stop at the park and play a game of chess with his friends. In the evening, grandfather may teach the family’s sons metalworking or woodworking, while grandmother will pass on many of the recipes she learned to cook from her own grandmother. Although the grandmother and grandfather have important roles in the family, they do not make all the decisions. The husband and wife who bring in the majority of the income will be deferred to on most occasions. They will ask the grandparents for advice on how to spend the money but do not always follow that advice. At this point in their lives, even if the grandparents own the home that the extended family is living in, they are just happy to have family members to take care of them.
The Children - are very prized in the Armenian family, although young Armenian couples can not afford to have children yet, so there are very few babies and toddlers in Armenia. Even in rural communities, children attend school through high school. They start at age five and continue until they graduate, often not until they are 20 years old. In grade school, they study a well-rounded curriculum of science, history, math, and languages. In addition to Armenian, they learn Russian. Children in Yerevan and other large towns also will learn English. In secondary school, the students will decide where they want to focus their lives. Those chosen to go on to college will pick four to five areas they want to study and will master those before they graduate. If they decide to go to a trade school, they will attend a different high school that focuses on the trades.
The emphasis will be on having them enter the workforce as soon as they graduate. The schools also serve as a place to teach culture. High school students will learn folk dancing, classical dancing, and dining etiquette as part of their regular curriculum. However, unlike the United States, most Armenian children do not take physical education classes in school. Soccer, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, and wrestling are the most popular sports activities, but they are offered strictly through private organizations. Other activities such as band or drama club also are offered outside of school in the evenings and weekends. After school, the children come home and complete their homework as well as any family chores. They change into play clothes that are very similar to those worn in the United States. If they have a pet, the animal is very cherished and considered a status symbol, so they take very good care of it. They may take the dog for a walk or let the cat play in their bedroom. At least one day a week, the children will take piano or violin lessons if the family can afford it. They also may be on an athletic team, in which case they will go to practice after school. The oldest children might have after-school jobs doing menial work such as housecleaning.
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