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Clinging to Culture

As Mamas (and Papas) it's our job to help our children learn about themselves and the world around them.  I've found that for our family that involves helping immerse Andrew in the cultures that we have come from.  I think some of this is bound to just occur on its own, but we also put some effort into teaching Andrew about his background cultures.

Andrew_dishdashaHere Andrew is doing a little dance as he's recently been bathed and dressed in one of his several dishdashas.  My father, being Middle Eastern, and working mostly in the Middle East, has a line on all things Middle Eastern and is happy to send an endless supply of goodies.  Not only do we have fun Middle Eastern dress for Andrew, but we have fun Middle Eastern music, and several Arabic books that are just right for his age (and I can barely read them but hey, we can learn together, right?).  Andrew's learning his counting in Arabic and knows a few words here and there, but I admit, we don't practice enough around the house.  Andrew has also tasted many middle eastern foods, and likes most of them.  Especially pita bread smeared in hummus.  His true immersion took place during trips to both Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.  As my husband and I were pretty well travelled at Andrew's age, it makes us happy that he can do the same and have those experiences, too.

Other than the Middle Eastern background, we have my mom's side which I call "Texan" and my husband's side is Dutch/German and British.  Lately, due to the many fun filled hours spent with Granny, Andrew's taken to calling tomatoes, bananas, grass, class, and bath by their British pronunciations rather than their American ones.  I don't even notice it anymore, but it catches people offguard sometimes... and always produces a giggle (which I suspect is part of the reason why he's doing it!).  Andrew also quite enjoys traditional German drinking music, played on an accordian of course.  Although, he tends to splash his milk around a bit while waving his milk stein in the air...

Besides teaching Andrew about his heritage, I also take opportunities to talk about other cultures when they arise.  I hope he can learn to appreciate all of the cultures out there, and I hope he can experience many of them throughout his youth.  We're very lucky he has such a rich cultural heritage.  Do you have a fun family cultural story to share?  Or how do you find it best to present your children's heritage to them at a young age?  I know we have a lot of cultures represented by our readers and I'd love to hear how you cling to your cultural heritage...


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My daughter is half Filipino. Her father moved to the US when he was 9. She obviously gets lots of rich heritage when she is with her paternal grandparents as they are both Filipino, but recently we found a book at the bookstore in Uwajimaya that has Filipino folk stories that we have begun to read her. Once I found this book I went online to Amazon and found several other children's books that are based on popular Filipino stories (one of which is in Tagalog and English). My daughter who is 3 loves these books and I think it is a fun way to introduce her to her Filipino heritage.

In our case, it's my husband who's doing the real culture lessons for Anders, and I'm sort of along for the ride. Our uP is Norwegian and it's a big priority for both of us that our children grow up hearing/speaking Norwegian, and learning about the Scandinavian culture.

We find that at this stage books and language are turning out to be the big ones, as Anders has not yet developed an appreciation for the Norwegian kitchen--fishballs and boiled potatoes, anyone? Trygve speaks Norwegian to Anders exclusively, and at 19 months we are convinced (and a bit amazed) that Anders understands every word out of our mouths, regardless of the language. And now that he is talking a bit more, he seems to be saying some things in English and some in Norwegian.

We have several word books in Norwegian and then Tryg also just reads our English books in Norwegian so Anders is hearing those books in two languages too.

I've taken Norwegian classes on several occasions and it's never really stuck, but since Anders was born and I'm hearing it on a daily basis and in simple conversations, I'm actually feeling more confident too, which is also nice.

The real immersion will happen this summer when we take Anders to Norway for his first visit with his Norwegian relatives. We're excited but nervous about doing so much travelling with a very busy little toddler!

My husband and I are both Irish, and are enthusiastic, perhaps ridiculously so, to share our heritage with our children. Fionn is named after a figure from Irish folklore, Fionn MacCoul, who we have been reading stories about since he was born. He was a man of the fey, who had contact with the otherworld, and was a leader and great warrior. Rowan is named after a tree in the Celtic Tree Ogham; she was born under the sign of the Rowan moon...a magical time. I hope for my children that they draw strength and meaning from their names as they get older, which I believe they helped to choose on some level. We are planning to go to Ireland when the kids are a little older, and visit the counties that are families are from, and some of the sites that correspond with their names, such as the giant's causeway, said to be built by Fionn MacCoul. Our children also have matralineal names; (my mother's maiden name, and John's mothers maiden name as their last name: Molloy Murphy) We want them to have a connection to their ancestors that they can use in their lives in a real way. Our family celebrates the sabbats, the 8 seasonal celebrations that our ancestors celebrated throughout time. The 2 solstices, 2 equinoxes, and the 4 midway points between each of these, have rich traditions that we have adapted into our lives. (Happy Litha everyone!) Our traditions and cultural heritage are really the fabric of our family identity, in which we find a lot of pride, and sense of belonging. Sorry for the long post...and thank you for the question! I would love to hear more stories from other folks.

Our daughter is half-Mexican, a quarter Cuban, and an eigth German and Irish. We're trying to raise her to be bilingual, but it's tough since dad's Spanish is shaky and mine doesn't flow quite as well as I'd like. I'm trying to make an effort to speak to her in both languages, and we read books in Spanish every night, but mostly I'm just eager for her to spend more time with her grandparents for whom speaking Spanish comes naturally!

As far as the German and Irish roots, those are further removed down the family tree so unfortunately all we can do is try and learn about relevant customs and cultures alongside our daughter.

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