I am taking a class called “Introduction to World Cultures and Social Environments.” So far, I am a week into it and it has been a great class; I feel that I am going to really enjoy it. In my assigned reading I came across a paragraph that is asking us to develop a personal feeling for the term culture. Easy right? Well, the interesting part of this reading really describes me and what is happening every day in my world. It asks the reader to remember a sibling or friend that you grew up with, our worlds of experiences are similar, we have fought, shared problems and pleasures. Even though you fought, you could put that behind you because you both knew in some way that you belonged together. Then you are asked to imagine that friend or sibling goes away for a time period. Time brought you back together and even though we shared similar experiences growing up, the time apart has changed our relationship (forever) because of the separation.
This is exactly what is happening to me. My relationships with my family and friends from home has changed completely. Forever. Putting this perspective into words and seeing it on paper has completely depressed me. (sigh) While my family members are continuing in their relationships with one another – my relationship to them (and with them) has changed. I am no longer able to drop in on my parents or go see my grandparents. I am not included in birthday invitations or gift exchanges at Christmas. I have a hard time remembering the names of my cousins’ children. My family members don’t really know my children and vice versa. Heck, my kids don’t even know my own brother. They don’t know how funny and smart their Uncle Bob is; that he could fix just about anything. They don’t know how much he loves them, because we see him for such a short period of time I am constantly having to reintroduce everyone. Then my kids spend some time being shy and warming up to their own family members, which cuts in on enjoying their family.
I have to fight for my children to know what it is like to be Canadian. They aren’t. They are American and that’s ok. But I need for them to understand some parts of being Canadian. I need for them to know what a touque is, that Canadians call it “Jam” not “Jelly.” I have made my husband stop calling it jelly – because damnit my kids will call it jam. It’s what I call it, my parents, my brother, my grandparents, and aunts and uncles all call it jam!! Ridiculous? Maybe.
I am having more issues with the small nuances that make up the Canadian culture – rather than the obvious parts of being Canadian (like having snow for 9 months out of the year). I want my kids to know who Mr. Dressup is, to listen to and appreciate Canadian music, and to know what hockey night in Canada feels like. I don’t want it to be a fight, but I am the minority in my house – and while the other family members may not agree that it’s an actual fight – I need for it to be a fight. I am struggling and fighting against another culture so that I can retain my culture; passing it down little by little to my children. Do you know how hard it is to retain your own culture while living away from it?
No matter how badly I want my children to be a part of both cultures, it will never happen. They’ll understand that mommy says things differently (yes, supper is the meal we have in the evening) or does things a certain way because she is from another culture. That she will fight to protect that culture in her life and may even argue and defend her culture to American friends (I just did this on Friday evening). They’ll learn that sometimes Mommy is so homesick for her culture and country that she retreats to her room to sob in her pillow quietly so that she doesn’t disturb or upset Daddy. They’ll maybe even learn to love her culture because they love her.
For me, it’s a shame that they’ll never understand what it means to be Canadian. Right now, I know they don’t even realize what it is like to be American. They are just kids. Kids who, for better or worse – in sickness and in health, come from parents that are from two disctinctly different cultures.