This month Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is hosting a round up of posts about honoring multiple heritages in our children, and I have decided to join with my own post since I reflect a lot lately on this topic. As a secular child with a Jewish last name raised in the former Soviet Union, I sometimes found myself wondering about my heritage, and this confusion only increased when I got older. I simply don’t feel myself fully belonging to any of my two “birth cultures” or to American culture of my new home. I am “in between”. I think this is very typical for first generation immigrants who don’t live in self-imposed “ghettos” of their own culture and marry someone from a different culture, but I wonder how my daughter, who is a dual German-American citizen, will think of herself when she is older.
Right now at 6 she says firmly that she is an American with a German father and a Belorussian mother. She doesn’t understand that I am not a Belorussian even though I was born and raised in Belarus. However, she was wildly rooting for Germany in 2012 Olympics and was interested to listen to stories about German and Russian history in the Story of the World. She is too young to understand the implications of 20th century – that her father’s grandparents were trying to exterminate her mother’s grandparents and that her father’s country was used as a barrier to separate her own homeland and her mother’s homeland during The Cold War.
I am grateful that the world is much smaller now and that our daughter is growing in Silicon Valley where she goes to a public school with kids of every possible skin color who come from so many different places. Her very best friend’s family comes from China, we hang out a lot with a group of friends who come from England, Canada, India, Germany, Austria, and Sweden. She doesn’t speak a second language, but she hears it a lot when we speak on the phone to our families. She hears me on the phone talking to business colleagues in Israel, China and France, so other countries and other languages is not something “abstract” to her. I am hoping that she will grow up with a pride in her unique heritage and without the blinders that I grew up with – believing that my country is the best in the world (yes, Soviet propaganda did work!). I want her to be an engaged citizen who is not afraid to question authority and who takes responsibility for the future of her country and her world. Only time will tell if my hopes and wishes for her come true.
Your turn: Do you educate your children about their roots and their heritage? If so, how?