Sounds like it should be pretty easy right? I mean they're only 6 years old, so how hard can it be?! The truth is, it's actually a bit of a daily struggle. Raising a child to be independent and speak a different language or participate in a specific cultural ceremony because you tell them to, doesn't exactly go hand-in-hand. The fact that the twins are in school now hasn't helped matters either. In some ways, it's made some of my goals for them even more difficult. Although, we are fortunate enough to live in a culturally diverse area, in their school there are very few students who show any level of pride in their cultural backgrounds. Some students, actually seem to get embarrassed when they have to speak to their parents in their native tongue and for the life of me, I cannot understand why this is allowed!! Yes, I know they're not my children and it shouldn't concern me, but it does. We all know how cruel kids can be and the pressure of being accepted can cause our little angels to act like demons sometimes. Well, there is a similar effect when children witness other kids being teased or embarrassed by something that makes them different - like speaking a foreign language. We should be teaching our children that the ability to speak more than one language is an exceptional quality and should be appreciated, not used to shame someone or make them feel like an outcast. We are living in an era where being bilingual is not only an advantage, but in some cases (like getting hired for certain jobs) it's a requirement. Sadly, my son is one of the children, who prefers to speak in English and will try to whine his way out of speaking Spanish. Unfortunately, for him, I am far too stubborn to let him win and I've blown his mind a couple of times by informing him that there was a time in his short, little life when all he understood and spoke was Spanish. Lucky for me, my daughter knows better than to fight this losing battle and will even sing in Spanish!
Now before some of you get your panties in a bunch and start screaming that I'm being unpatriotic, let me assure that I'm not. I'm as proud as one can be to be American and live in this great nation of ours. However, as an American, I believe we should be teaching our children to be proud of their roots and allow them to identify with all parts of their culture. For those who think that that's what things like Hispanic Heritage and Black History month are for, well, sorry but that's hardly adequate. Our nation was built on the backs of immigrants from all parts of the globe - yes, some were forced here, but many came by choice and without their sacrifice and hard work, the country we call home would be a very different place. Ironically, many of us would not be here today, if it weren't for these immigrants. Take me, for example - my roots span the globe from Africa to Scotland (possibly Ireland) and include Native American ties. While I don't know every aspect of these cultures, I'm very proud to be a product of all of them and as I learn more about them, I'll teach the twinks about each and every one!
The best part of all of this is that my husband fully supports my efforts and reinforces them by telling the twinks he's as proud of his Salvadoran roots, as he is of his ties to America. Without him being such a strong example of latin pride, I don't know that I would have as much success, specifically, with my son. We know that raising our kids to know "El Orgullo de Ser Latinoamericano" while being "Black & Proud" won't be easy, but we'll do our best to make it fun!
To all parents, PLEASE teach your children everything you can about who they are! If you have certain customs or traditions PRACTICE THEM! Different parts of this country are known for certain things, if you don't know about yours, learn it and teach it to your children! If you are a multicultural or biracial family and have a native tongue, teach your children and make them SPEAK IT! No one should dishonor their roots by allowing them to be forgotten, especially not for the sake of being accepted.
As always, be well & take care!