On Your Kid’s Culture

12 Nov

I read this article yesterday with great interest. Thanks Fluttersnipe!

I tell prospective adoptive parents to take a good, hard look at their social circles, their neighborhoods, their churches, their communities and think about how those places and spaces will look and feel to their child. I ask them what they’ll say when their kids hear slurs and taunts from bullies, and how they will answer tough questions about the persistence of racism and a playing field that is far from level. I recommend books and blogs by adoptees that don’t mince words about the fact that love has never actually been enough for anyone.  – The Toast

And this wisdom was so good that I don’t think it should be limited to adoptive parents.

My mother did all of the right things. I was born in America but have roots in Guatemala, so she sent me there on several Christmas trips with the hope that I would understand myself through the culture, the land, and my extended family. Being a first generation America kid, of course, I only felt terror.

Like Mufasa, she showed me my country of origin and said “this is all yours,” but unlike Simba I took a good long look and said “well this is shit.”

Guatemala was the home of my deadbeat father who slithered up the gate of my grandma’s sister to introduce himself. Guatemala is also remarkably poor, corrupt, and violent as all hell. There was no real queerness there, only what passed for queerness in cartoonish movie characters (lisping spanish actors accompanied by a laugh track). I did not take to this supposed culture of my own. First it repelled me, then I was disgusted at it, and my mother noticed and her offers to take me on trips became playful threats.

Don’t want to make my Mom sound like a bad guy. She was lovely. This was just one point of difference, but one that stuck and repeated over and over again. I also don’t mean to sound ungrateful of Guatemala, but I want to emphasize that I was maybe too young to properly intellectually disagree with aspects of a culture, like Central American Machismo. And disagreeing with my own culture made me feel awful until my little sister was born and she looked upon the land (like Simba) and also said “well this is shit.”

Your kid’s culture, yeah they should know it, but be prepared to not have it be this magical salve that makes him or her just make sense of their world.

I guess the other thing I’m also saying is that pretty much every situation is miserable, and as long as you’re aware of that then you’ll be a great parent.


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