I recently had a conversation with a friend about how lovely it is to come from one little town, with most of your family within close proximity. To have one shared culture and be content. It sounded pretty idillic.
I am Malian - Gambian - French, currently living in Stockholm. My husband is Gambian. We speak three languages at home and now swedish words have creaped into our daily vocabulary, making our total home languages to four!
Although i know my daughters' nationality , I wonder how she will feel ethnically and culturally. She is born in Sweden, will go to a regular swedish school and more often than not be the only brown person in her group ( lets leave that for another blog post).
The idea of identity is pretty fluid for me at least.. from what I've read, people of mixed ethnicity, often belong to neither, the studies show that instead, they merge parts of their culture transferred by their parents and create a totally new cultural identity.
I have three ethnicities and i certainly don't feel like one overpowered the other, neither do i feel like a Malian, or Gambian or french person will ever look at me and say "hey, you are one of us" lol :D It is , what it is but its come to mind more through pregnancy and having a baby, cultural norms and values come to the fore.. In Gambia and Mali there are many to-dos and not-to dos around children and I feel like i'm constantly in a balancing act , managing my cultural heritage, plus my husbands and our western notions.
When something happens, i call mum, midwife,google, online mum forums and then decide :p
Here is one example.. When my little one started teething my mum gave is a beaded necklace that is traditionally supposed to soothe the baby and aid the teething transition. I cannot even begin to tell you how many questions i've had to answer around why she has it..some people worry she will choke herself, others worry about the germs it will gather, others think its a fashion statement etc etc etc...
I personally don't believe in it but i believe in my mum , so she wears it.. (try explaining that to the hubby ..totally logical :) ) funnily enough i googled teething beads and it seems , in some parts of Europe there is a tradition of giving babies a very similar necklace , only the beads are made of amber and this mystically supposedly soothes babys teething periods! HA!
The necklace is just one example, theres feeding styles, weaning,when baby should stand,, how to massage the baby, what to do when baby is sick! aie ..cultural parenthood is a minefield..
My little girl got her ears pierced at 4 weeks old, i know thats early for Europe ( the norm being 18yrs) but in Africa thats late ! its generally done at birth!! She also has beads around her teeny tiny waist just like many little african babies ,just because its pretty :p
I suppose what I'm getting at is, I'm increasingly aware of the value of what my parents handed me as culture , which I want to hand down to my child, as soon as I've learnt how to blend it evenly with hubbys too :)