Kids: Cross-Cultural Parenting
By Sabine Eghoetz
Children are the most amazing teachers when it comes to observing differences but at the same time embracing oneness. They start to form social relationships around the age of three, and this is exactly the stage my twins are at the moment. While they have always had each other to play (and fight) with, they are just beginning to understand what being friends means. They’re also becoming aware of distinctions between people. Figuring out who is a boy or a girl, a man or a woman is one of our favourite pastimes right now.
Obviously it doesn’t stop with gender. I have been curious and a little nervous when they would come home from school and ask me why Tyrone has dark skin, Salome always wraps a scarf over her hair and Ezra sometimes wears a little hat on the back of his head. But those things don’t matter nearly as much as who pushed who on the playground, who brought in birthday cake or who owns a lunch bag that’s cooler than theirs.
Coming from a country where such a wide cultural variety is unusual at school, I am thrilled that those apparent differences seem to go unnoticed at my kids’ young age. Obviously, I will soon have to answer some questions – when they celebrate Chinese New Year at Montessori or learn about their friends’ Hanukkah traditions, we’ll most likely also discuss these events at home.
For now, the first sweet bonds they form are quite simple. They don’t even fully understand their own, special relationship yet, aside from recognizing they are “brothers”, “best friends” and “came out of mommy’s belly the same day”.
For them, growing up in such a multicultural environment is more than beneficial. The world is such an integrated place that nationality doesn’t really matter anymore; work is globalized and you can connect with anyone, anywhere with a simple mouse click.
I listen in amazement how my boys correctly pronounce their friends’ unfamiliar names and how they start chatting up anyone, regardless of their obviously different appearance. The other day we were walking by an elderly couple in the grocery store talking in a language that I think was Korean. My children listened intently, then one of them started telling an elaborate story about his lunch time earlier that day, of course in English. I loved that he didn’t care or hold back.
Their Oma from Germany came to visit us earlier this year, and while I was concerned they may not understand each other, this proved to be a non-issue. Five minutes after her arrival at the airport, they had figured out how to communicate with her, despite all those strange words neither of them understood. They listened, repeated, learned and even had fun at it. I’m convinced the reason for their ease was not only their age where it is easy to adapt, but also them being used to hearing different languages, experiencing cultural variety and embracing differences on a daily basis. After all, this is exactly the reason why I’m so happy for my boys to be able to grow up in Canada, a place where people come together from all over the world to share a country and call it home.