Raising children is full of challenges not least by having to deal with all the embarrassing questions they begin to ask as their curiosity about the world around them begin to grow. One of the first questions kids ask their mothers is where they came from. From trying to modestly explain to an inquisitive 4 year old how her father implanted her into the mother’s womb to to the present day phenomenon of talking her out of believing she was downloaded off the internet through a special app, parents are often caught unawares and unable to answer the endless question.
Now what if your kid is very different from the other kids around in terms of complexion and other physical features, how do go about explaining why it so. Very often, no mention is made of this until the kid gets asked that question by other playmates.
I suppose that most Africans raising their children abroad in Europe and America might be facing this identity dilemma. Do you want them to be like you or do you want them to be like the rest of people around them? Do you insist on them learning your mother tongue in addition to the language of the host country? Do you want them to identify by your native country or by the country of their birth and residence? Do you get embarrassed when they behave and dress like the other kids around?
The recent BBC article about Somalis in Norway typifies the situation. Initially, parents believe the children will naturally take up the national identity of their parents in terms of world outlook, dressing, behavior etc, only to discover that their children have grown up to become British, French, American, etc. Some parents take it lightly why others don’t. I have met a lot of parents struggling with this.
The question is: are the parents fear justified? Is there any harm from children born to African parents growing up to become Europeans? Will they become a lost generation caught up half way between being Africans and Europeans/Americans? What is the middle way?
Another important issue is making sure that these children are proud of what they are, and also proud of what their parents are. The parents would often be more closely attached to their home cultures, and may speak a different language and dress differently. Very often there is country or regional community groups where parents take their children to in order to aquatint them with their parents culture. And it could be an opportunity for the kids to bring their friends too.
Can there really be any harm in being part of two cultures. It even becomes a bit more complicated if the kids are of mixed race. In an case, do we really have to choose?