Sunday, July 4, 2010

fireworks

I’ve been celebrating 4th of July for 18 years now, and every year my feelings are mixed. They became even more ambivalent since Anna was born. See, it’s not my holiday. I am an American citizen now, but I haven’t been brought up with this anticipation of parades, big feasts and fireworks. The closest thing we had to 4th of July was probably a WWII Victory Day that was celebrated on May 9th. I feel like an outsider during Independence Day even when I am sitting outside exchanging pleasantries with my middle class white American neighbors and watching fireworks. Speaking of pleasantries, I am really not good at American small talk. I couldn’t care less about football or baseball, I don’t watch reality TV, and I have no idea what is going on with American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. When I was working as a traveling consultant, I used to skim a newspaper in the morning, so I could appear “in the know” of what’s going on locally. I don’t think I could live anywhere except around New York or Silicon Valley – here I can find a lot of people like us with the same challenges we do. We are raising American children while debating with ourselves and our families about how “Americanized” we want them to be and knowing that the matter will be out of our hands anyway. I have no illusions – my daughter will be an American. She will probably learn her anthem, Lincoln Gettysburg Address, and her Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten without having the foggiest idea what some of the words mean. What I hope for is that she will learn eventually what it means to be a true patriot, how to stand for what she believes in and how to see beyond the relatively safe borders of America into the problems of the world.

Happy birthday, America! Many happy and peaceful returns of the day.

Question: What parts of American culture would you like your children to adopt and what parts would you like them to avoid?

15 comments:

Christy said...

Interesting. I have never lived in a country other than my own so I can't even imagine what it is like to feel like an outsider.

MommyWise said...

That's a tricky question! I think the traits that I'd like my kids to adopt are those of past days. Many things considered "American culture" ...today... are traits that I would rather my daughters not have. Above anything... the American trait that "it's all about Me ME MEEEE! OOOPs.. here I am being disloyal on July 4th! LOL

Joyful Learner said...

I always felt American even though we imigrated here. I think it's because I believe America is a hodge podge of cultures and not what's portrayed in the media. Perhaps it's because we grew up in NY and saw much diversity. There's no country like America....ring the patriotic music! ;)

Joyful Learner said...

Oh, also the wonderful fabric of community activism stems from church roots throughout the nation. I consider that the core greatness of America...its values in charity and hospitality! We're definitely raising our daughter with those American and universal values.

Debbie said...

Very good topic and question, Natalie. I often wondered what those not born here thought about how we celebrate such events well like the 4th of July. I feel many of the core values of this country have been lost. In my opinion most of our National holidays which stand for something special have lost their meaning and turned more into a time for people to party, without really giving any thought to why they are truly celebrating. I hope that Selena takes with her the true meaning of these holidays, and understands there is so much more to the meaning of being an American, then the anticipation of an excuse to celebrate half heartedly or without knowledge of why one should be celebrating this special event.

Cathy said...

Well...if it makes you feel any better, I am an American citizen, and I also struggle with small talk about reality TV, American idol, and sports. :) I am not into any of those things.

The part of the American culture that I hope that my kids enjoy fully is freedom, acceptance, and understanding. Freedom to have your own religion but also to respect the beliefs of others even if you don't agree with them. The parts that I hope they don't pick up on are the cultural violence. Also all of the other cultural laziness like video games, reality TV, crappy pop music, etc. etc.

Mom and Kiddo said...

LOL, I hope there is more to American culture than sports and reality TV. American culture is so diverse that there seems to be a place for most people. There are many things about American culture that I am uncomfortable with (I won't be too specific right now) but which a lot of Americans embrace. Those same people would probably scoff at things that I think are important.

One of the important American values that I hope Kiddo embraces is tolerance. Conversely, I think that intolerance is one of the American traditions that I hope Kiddo rejects. A bit ironic, No?

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Funny, I think the immigrant struggle to embrace the new, while still keeping some of the old, is a very American struggle, and part of what's celebrated on the 4th.

But, the whole barbeque, parade, rodeo, and gathering with neighbors to watch the fireworks on the high school football field, side of the holiday, is probably more of a small town thing.

I'm sure you're not alone in feeling that's not you're holiday. But, it's that idealized, small town, Norman Rockwell kind of America, that I think most of us are trying to save, and pass on to our children, on this day more than most.

Autumn said...

I'm with you on the small talk issue. I have no idea what's on TV, what the latest movie is, or who's winning in sports. That leaves a lot of conversations either terribly awkward or very fulfilling, depending on whether the other person is willing to ditch the small talk.

As for your question, I would like my children to adopt the parts of American culture that feed their minds and enrich their life, like *good* American literature, films, and music. I am hoping to steer them away from (but not shelter them from...a delicate balance, indeed!) mainstream pop culture (like you mentioned in your post) that is so base and simple, and which will not feed their mind with anything good.

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

I was reminded about how much I stink at small talk during a friend's pool party this afternoon! Mainly because I could care less about those things, but it is kind of fun to skim the headlines and "fake it" sometimes!

Hope you had a fun 4th of July!!

Ticia said...

I don't know how to play football.

Hmmmm...... I'll have to think on what I don't want them to learn. INteresting question.

Pathfinder Mom said...

As much as I'm glad to be an American there's a lot of things that I don't like. I wish that we had a rich history and culture like so many other countries do. I was taught such a sanitized version of our history growing up. Trying to teach Tornado Boy has been a very eye-opening experience already. I really dislike our shallow society - adopting a standard of beauty (airbrushed, photoshopped supermodels) that doesn't even exist. The idolization of sports and movie stars while all but ignoring the contributions of people who really make a difference in the world frustrates me. I really hope that I can teach Tornado Boy to appreciate the individuals and to be true to himself. It takes real guts to not just follow the crowd, to stand for what you believe and to be a leader. I really hope that I can instill those values in him.

MaryAnne said...

I'm no good at American small talk either - but of course, I spent most of my childhood outside the US.

I would like my children to adopt the American dream as I saw it growing up - a culture where people can become something through application and hard work, where we try to help others accomplish their dreams while respecting and appreciating diversity. Of course, I realized once I took a class on American culture in college that that is not what the standard American dream is at all. I guess I just took my parents' approach to life and assumed it was what all Americans believed...

Michie said...

I also stink at small talk, and I am an American. Although I do like Dancing With The Stars, I don't know much about any of those other things. I think you could always talk about blogging! :)

I agree with Mom and Kiddo - I would like my daughter to have tolerance. I am a special education teacher and typically work with students with a lot of physical and cognitive handicaps. I want my daughter to grow up to be accepting of everyone, no matter what their differences are.

The girl who painted trees said...

We moved to Costa Rica when Bear was 6 months in the hopes of her growing up knowing more of the world's problems from a viewpoint that is not American. I ended up feeling too much of an outsider there and missed the availability of things in the States (playgroups, stores where things could cost less than $5, libraries with an infinite amount of books...). One thing though, when I taught Bear (and myself - I'm actually Canadian)the Star Spangled Banner, I spent a long time reading the words first and making sure I understood what it meant, because when I sang it before, I never realized that it was saying "Hey, can you still see the flag we put up last night during the battle?" I made sure Bear understood that that was what she was saying.
I want Bear to grow up understanding that there is so much more than just the States and that depending where you are, things look and feel different. Basically, I'm talking about tolerance, but also seeing the world and other people through different lenses.

I also am horrible with small talk!