Raising immigrant kids in America brings obvious challenges: from food, language, the role of parents, schooling, career choices and instilling cultural practices. Parenting is hard. But raising children in a different culture you didn’t grow up in is even more challenging. One that needs understanding, courage, and a lifetime of learning.
When my kids arrived here in the US four years ago, my son was twelve and my daughter was seven. Between the two, we were more worried about my son having a harder time adjusting just because he’s older and more Filipino so to speak. As a result, we were a little bit more protective of him in the beginning. I used to create horrible images in my mind, about my kids being bullied in school because of their skin color or accent. Fortunately, it never happened and I pray to God it never will. In fact, I was surprised to see that majority of the kids in school were welcoming, polite and friendly. So different from what I saw on TV growing up, where they’ve always been portrayed as bullies, wild, self entitled individuals.
Picking up new customs from our adopted home has been a highlight of moving to America. We’ve learned to put our trash away after eating in fast food restaurants, something we never do in the Philippines. We stand in line and patiently wait for our turn like everyone else. We’ve learned to shower without a pail and dipper (tabo). We learned to greet people and exchange casual pleasantries to strangers. And most importantly, my dear children have finally stopped staring at people! Oh yes! We’ve had our own share of culture shocking moments (more about our culture shocking experiences on the previous post, “The Bald Eagle vs. The Carabao”. There’s certainly a lot of polishing to do but I’m quite proud to say that we’re getting there.
The real business about integrating into one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world has not gone so smoothly for me. As someone who was born and raised in the Philippines, speaking with an American accent and understanding it have been quite a challenge and it blew my mind how quickly my kids picked it up. Two months into American school and they were prolonging vowel sounds and started glossing over t’s. Many times, I would ask them to repeat what they’re saying and to talk “properly”. I on the other hand am still struggling to pronounce hippopotamus and still can’t tell a penny from a dime.
As a parent, I’m constantly striving to instill in my children a sense of independence and responsibility. But with doting family and extra help around, this may seem a little tricky to achieve back home in the Philippines. Here in the US, it’s just us. If you want a glass of water, you go get it yourself. If you want clean clothes to wear, you do your laundry. There’s no helper at your disposal. So as soon as they arrived, I assigned them age appropriate chores and a daily schedule to keep them on track. And every now and then they would take up additional chores and get paid as an incentive. Most days I morph into a nagging old witch but given that we have a teenager, a pre-teen and a toddler in the house, I have slowly come to accept that it’s inevitable. With the help of my US raised husband, we just try to make them understand that in order for our family to function well, each one has to do their part.
Now we have a three year old, US born Filipino toddler in the mix. Although he won’t certainly face the same challenges the older kids did. One thing’s for sure though, like his two older siblings, he will learn to embrace and love both the Filipino and American cultures. As well as appreciate the beauty of being bicultural.
KC & a truckload of hugs and kisses
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