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Our children and their heritage

My husband and I recently enjoyed a date night, compliments of a friend who graciously offered to stay with the girls.  It'd been a LONG, LONG time since we'd seen a movie (I think we've seen 2 movies at the theater in the past 6.5 years), so we opted to see Namesake at the Hollywood Theater.  A story about a family young scholar who moves from Calcutta to New York and his almost-stranger wife who journeys to join him, my husband and I are each reminded of our own parents, their immigration stories, and our experiences growing up in America but often being asked "so where are you from?", as if we couldn't be from San Francisco or New York (respectively).  My father immigrated to the states, a single man.  On a 2-week vacation in his home, the Philippines, he met my mother, fell in love, proposed, and married her.  The newlyweds spent their first 3 months of marriage across the world from each other; they conceived me immediately after my mom joined my dad in San Francisco.

My husband's parents story is that both parents came to the states single and separately.  They lived in different cities where they could work (as physician and nurse) in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ohio.  They settled in New York, where they raised their Filipino family of four children.

Growing up, he and I had different experiences, but we were both growing up as children of immigrants.  We faced challenges like parents being confused on what a "prom" was and why teenagers should be allowed to go to a dance party without parent supervision.  Our lunches were thick savory Filipino stews over rice, maybe some adobo or relleno.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were pretty foreign, but siopao (steamed adobo pork buns) were a common merienda.

Like with many cultures, Asian, European, African, Latin -- the two "f"s are what keep the heritage alive: Food and Family.  Do you feel you are able to inject your children's awareness and love of their own ethnic heritage?  How?  Do you feel you are able to raise their awareness of others' ethnic heritage?

Way back when, we had previous conversations about our children of mixed heritage or about how we were clinging to culture.  In the past, many mama groups have formed via urbanMamas, including a group of Jewish Mamas who have found cultural commonality among their families.  We recently received email from Kinnari: 

I've recently moved to Portland with our two-year-old son.  I am of Indian descent (my parents moved from India in the '60s, though I was born and raised here), and as my little one is getting older, it's important to me that he grow up with a connection to his heritage. Are there other Indian/South Asian moms in Portland who'd be interested in meeting up from time to time?  If so, please email me at kshah[at]alum [dot]berkeley[dot]edu.  Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you!


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I wanted to post here just to make the additional point that sometimes heritage is distinctly a regional thing, said the native New Yorker who married the South Carolinian... Regarding the food part of the "F" equation, we fully expect our child to eat grits, greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread - and other things that were foreign to me before I moved to the South.

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