Raising a mixed-culture child is unique, there’s no doubt about it. There’s a lot of mix-and-match of parenting techniques until we finally find our own little blend of both cultures that works for my son and me.
Besides the obvious ability of him to speak bilingual, Indonesian and English, we have a lot of aspects that we assimilate and incorporate from both cultures.
It all started even before he was born. My dotting mother, a.k.a. the first-time-grandma, bombarded me with advice from the moment she found out I was expecting her first grandbaby.
Now that we have moved back from the United States and live in Jakarta permanently, there are still times where I have to put my foot down and butt-heads with my mother, who has turned into my son’s lawyer. My father, on the other hand, has been more laid back and he usually agrees with a lot of my reasoning.
There’s a lot of arguments and sometimes I just have to be quiet as not to offend my mother, letting go of the little things but there are times when I also have to stand my ground. This is usually when the boy is in time out and my mother tries to defend him. My son knows by now that his grandma cannot rescue him all the time.
From the time out method, which my mother hates—since I was spanked and worse when I was little if I misbehaved, you know the whole corporal punishments back then—to my desire to have my son feed himself, rather than being spoon fed by the nanny, there are a lot of frictions in raising a bi-culture kid. To balance it out, I focus on the good and combine it to fit us better.
I still remember the horror-striken look on my mother’s face when I started giving my son regular milk after he turned one instead of one of the famous brands of formula bombarded to Indonesian parents. Or how I swear by cajuput oil and how he was never a gassy baby because those traditional Indonesian oil ‘rescued’ us.
There are a lot of traditional Indonesian remedies that I do use and it does works as it’s better than relying on medications all the time for common toddler ailments.
Most Indonesians are not familiar with “sugar rush,” to them kids acting all crazy after too much chocolate or candy is normal kid behavior. It took me awhile to get my family to understand this and to gently make them stop giving my son too many sweets. This is one thing that made my son sneak behind me and beg for more sweets from his grandmother.
One thing I taught him is our custom of never addressing older people by their first name. My boy would call you Tante (Aunty) or Oom (Uncle) or even Bapak (Sir) which is a custom here in Indonesia. It is considered rude to call someone other than your friends/peers by their first name.
Maybe it was similar to what I experienced living in Alabama. I looked away when people called me “Ma’am” Or even “Mrs…”. It’s a different story in Guangzhou, China where people call me “Madame” which makes me feel so old, but it’s their custom, and I’m a firm believer that no matter where you are you have to respect the local cultures.
It’s not always easy to blend two cultures but it’s been very rewarding as I get to see my boy talk in Indonesian with my family and talk in English with his father. At the end, raising a happy healthy kid matters most, don’t you think?
Do you have mixed race kids? How do you combine the cultures? Or if you are living in another country, do you pick up bits and pieces of the local cultures in your parenting style?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our single-mother of one, Tatter Scoops of Indonesia.
The image used in this post is credited to Stevegatto. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.