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Fear, Privilege and Parenting

Parenting while experiencing fear is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. With everything going on in the world, it’s hard not to.

A world health pandemic made no exception, and that universal fear of never wanting anything to happen to our children, affected parents of all creeds, races, ages, beliefs; a simultaneous experience of collective fear in parenting.

For some, that fear was able to be met with a solution that provided safety again. Being able to work from home to keep one’s children safe. Having a home to bring them to. Being able to afford to stop working if needed. Having access to health care should something happen.

For some, that fear simply added to the pile of other fears one already parents with, and no easy solution for them.

The differences between those two experiences of fear in parenting is privilege.

I think we all experience some sort of fear when parenting, but I am acutely aware of the huge spectrum “parenting with fear” has, and privilege in direct relation to that.

The more privilege you have, the less fear in parenting.

The less privilege you have, the more fear in parenting.

This is not new information. 

When I think about who would be more prone to chronically parent with a high level of fear, I don’t have to think about it for too long. The current affairs of the world right now will tell you who, and there are many, and it’s always those who are marginalized.

This is not new information.

The part that I especially can’t stop thinking about, is the lifelong consequences this has for both the parent and child.

That is generational trauma. And that is also not new information.

Even with all the best of my intentions, if I experience stress, I am humanly unable to parent the way I want to. And I acknowledge that the stress that I experience is few and far between. For some, parenting with chronic stress is an everyday normal, and with all the information available at one’s fingertips, a quick research on psychology will tell you the consequences that has.

That is generational trauma. This is not new information.

Generational trauma directly in relation to privilege.

I have hope in the generation of my children, hope that they are the light and the change that will make the world a better place. I have to be.

As a parent, I also know that my hope for the generation of tomorrow is supported by the parents of today, and they need support today.

How do I support the parents that are raising tomorrow’s generation -today, right now!?

That’s a question I have kept in my mind for every action I am taking on the current state of the world. How is that helping the parent that is raising my children’s future classmate? Future friends? Future life partner? Future co worker? Because to me, to care for my children, is to care for the parent, and their child.

My heart is with all parents, but especially with those who parents with love, with hope, with patience, with care, with perseverance, with pride, even while experiencing so much fear due to things they cannot change.

I want to listen to your story, please don’t stop telling it. Let me carry any weight I possibly can, even the weight of stories that are hard to tell.

I may not be able to offer many things, but I see you today, I hear you today, I act with you today, with a collective hope for our children tomorrow.

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From a First Time Mum… [Stories of Motherhood and Culture – Guest Blog]

I am a 29-year old Indian woman, born and raised in Africa, and 38 weeks pregnant with my first child.

When I found out that I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. I have been lucky enough to not have experienced many of the pregnancy woes such as morning sickness, swelling, lower back pain etc. I went the gym 3 times a week, traveled and continue to remain pretty active.

Physically I was acing this pregnancy – emotionally not so much.

From a First Time Mum Our Everydays Blog Edmonton Mommy Blogger (3)

Pregnancy is a trying time for any woman – no matter how smooth your pregnancy is going. Your body is changing in so many ways to accommodate the little miracle you are growing, and you are never more vulnerable. As a first-time mum you are already questioning yourself a hundred times – which is especially why it is not helpful when those around you begin to question you as well.

There are no fixed guidelines on pregnancy and how to raise your child. Every pregnancy is different and every child is different, and listening to your instincts becomes crucial. I do believe that sharing pregnancy experiences can be beneficial. It wasn’t until I fell pregnant that I realized there was so much I had no clue about regardless of how well read I thought I was. I am constantly asking my mum friends hundreds of questions when I am unsure. Getting advice from others can be valuable –when it’s offered in a respectful way, and when no offense is taken if the advice is not taken.

My pregnancy has been an emotional roller coaster. From the day we revealed that I was pregnant, I felt like it opened the flood gates for everyone and anyone to give me their two cents on how I needed to act and be during my pregnancy. My constant anxiety stems from having to navigate everyone else’s feelings and sense of entitlement instead of concentrating on what I need to do for myself.

I am no longer that independent, responsible, and capable 29-year-old. I have never experienced such a torrent of unsolicited advice. When I posed the question “is it worse when it comes from family or is it worse when it comes from strangers?” to a group of mum friends, one very rightly responded “family should know better and strangers have no right”.

Over the past few months my husband and I have had countless arguments about my ability to stand up for myself and put my needs first. I feel it is just as important for your support system to cultivate an environment that allows you to do so. I tried to ensure that everyone received what they needed from me to feel like they were a part of this pregnancy, rather than what I needed from them. What does my husband need from me? What do my parents need from me? What do my in-laws need from me? They needed constant updates and communication; they needed to feel needed by me; they needed me to fulfill their expectations during this pregnancy (e.g. prayers, eat what they make etc.); they needed to be involved in all the decision making. When these expectations were not met, they felt offended and hurt. As an independent and private person, I struggle with this and the times I have prioritized myself, I feel it only created more friction.  It made me want to distance myself and not reach out for help because I didn’t want to give anyone the sense of entitlement that seems to accompany it.

Currently, a lot of my energy is spent on thinking about who I am going to offend with the decisions I make and play the situations out in my head before they even happen so I can try to come up with ways to curb them. Ridiculous? Indeed.

Culture plays an important role here. As a woman, as a daughter, and as a daughter-in-law, there are different expectations of me. I feel as though I am expected to adhere to all the advice that is given to me, and when I have expressed my disagreement or questioned the logic behind it, I am being careless and disobedient. All the responsibility is usually placed on mothers; a father’s responsibility traditionally begins after the birth of the baby and is usually in the form of financial contributions. As a result of this framing, the impactful contributions men can have during pregnancy are greatly overlooked. They can provide emotional support to their spouses by being their voice when they are not heard, and by standing up for their needs when they are not being met.

The reality is that my husband can get away with saying and doing things that I can’t, and I unashamedly use him to get my way, not just during this pregnancy, but throughout our marriage.

From a First Time Mum Our Everydays Blog Edmonton Mommy Blogger (1)

Some of the ways that we were able to deal with these expectations was by starting a dialogue early on about how we, as a couple, would handle it. I am lucky that my husband believes that I should have the final say on all decisions when it comes to the baby, and he will help ensure that my wishes are not compromised due to pressure from others. Our understanding is that if there was something he does not agree with, that we would discuss it in private and hold a united front in public. This is easier said than done of course, but setting that boundary as a couple was a very important first step.

This sounds like the ideal scenario but it has also put a lot of pressure on me because I didn’t always know what I needed – I have never been pregnant before. Often times I was the reason my husband couldn’t help me, because accommodating others was so much easier than accommodating my own needs. I was more concerned about how he would handle it, about how his bluntness might upset others – this unjustly put him in a precarious position. Slowly, I am also learning to be more vocal about what I need and letting him handle the rest.

What has been difficult for me to understand is that these cultural expectations are perpetuated by women across generations; women who have been through similar experiences themselves – if not worse.

Women who did not have much say in how their kids should be raised because of a lot of familial interference. Many that I know have had to fight harder battles than the ones I am fighting. I always thought they would be my biggest supporters, but they have ended up being my strongest critics. I guess in a way I felt a little betrayed by this. Have they rationalized these experiences as a necessary and natural progression, and so believe it should be continued? Whatever the reasons, I don’t think it is a justification and this perpetual cycle needs to end – for some it may have already ended, some may be the generation to end it, and unfortunately for some, this may still continue for some generations to come.

Sometimes advice intended to be helpful can instead be detrimental. I believe the best way to support someone is to respect their space, their choices and their boundaries – let new mothers trust their instincts when it comes to their bodies and their babies and create an environment which allows them to reach out when they need help.

“In a world where you can be anything – Be Kind.”

Dhrutika became a mother to a beautiful little boy on November 7th 2018, born on Diwali Day.

“The light at the threshold of the home of the night of Diwali is there to remind us that our awakening to the light of God in our hearts is incomplete if it does not radiate from within us to the darkness of the world outside”.

She named her son Ayaan, translating to ray of the rising sun in Hindu.

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Love of Books, Love of Story, Love of Language [Raising Bilingual Children]

For the past few nights, when I check on the kids before I go to bed, I have noticed that my daughter has fallen asleep with a blanket of books around her. After we leave the room, she climbs out of her bed, grabs 2 or 3 books, climbs back in, and quietly reads until she falls asleep. It’s a heartwarming picture.

After I gather the books, I give her one more kiss before I leave the room, and in a half asleep voice, she says “Te quiero”, I love you in Spanish. My heart warms again.

My little bilingual bookworm.

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It has always been important to me that my children grow up bilingual. Being bilingual myself, I had a second language I could offer them, and not only did I feel it was my responsibility to do so, for many bilingual families, that second language is a huge part of our children’s cultural identity.

The task of teaching my children Spanish seemed a little intimidating at first. Would having two languages confuse them? Would their speech be delayed? Will they be able to communicate with their little friends? It felt like the odds were against me.

I am happy to say that the reality has been far from that. The experience of simultaneously introducing two languages to our children has not only been easy, it has been so much fun, and incredibly rewarding.

In simple every day activities, we have introduced two languages to our children from the moment they were born, and their love for books and stories has been our greatest tool to achieve that.

 

One Parent, One Language

We adopted the OPOL (One Parent, One Language) system in our home. It was an easy but clear way to distinguish the two languages; Mom speaks in Spanish, and Dad speaks in English. It took a little getting used to at first, because it meant I was speaking to my children and my husband in different languages. Like many things in life though, consistency is key, and I switch between languages without even thinking about it now.

Tell Stories in your native tongue

Story telling is something that comes naturally to many of us, and we don’t even realize it. We tell stories about our work days, what we had for lunch, who we saw in the day; we narrate what we have lived, it’s second nature. When we become parents, this daily narrative continues with our children, and it’s the easiest way to introduce speech to them. As we narrate our days, our children become exposed to a wide range of vocabulary, and by simple osmosis, they are learning narrative skills which will be beneficial for them in future.

Reading books (in both languages) during bed time routine

From the time our children were 2 months old, we have read two books before bed, every night. Sometimes the books are in English, sometimes they books are in Spanish. In addition to providing another opportunity to expose both languages to our children, it’s also a wonderful family activity, and lovely way to end the day.

Listen to Music or Sing Songs in Spanish (or respective second language)

When we associate a word to music, it’s easier to remember. It just is. I still know the lyrics to songs I listened to when I was a kid because the melody was so catchy. Nowadays, almost all of the most common children’s songs have been translated into every language, so children can join in to “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” even if they sing it in a different language…the body parts are all the same, haha! Music in foreign languages also lets our children hear different sounds and phonetics, which is an important of speech, but they are also hearing different rhythms and beats, and who knows, they may be dancing salsa in no time!

It Takes a Village

The more people that speak to your children in a second language, the more they get to practice it. In our case, visits with the maternal grandparents and aunts and uncles always offer an opportunity for the children to practice  hearing and speaking Spanish.

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Are you a parent to bilingual children?

The Edmonton Public Library has material in over 20 world languages, and is a wonderful resource for bilingual parents. My children are able to enjoy “new” Spanish books every couple of weeks, and the library doesn’t just have books in other languages, it has many foreign music and movies, which is another way our children (and parents) can enjoy learning languages too.

In addition, to promote early literacy, the library provides a “Welcome Baby” package when you get your baby his or her first library card. You receive a bag, a book, and helpful information about the programs that the library offers for children and parents. If you have a baby, this is something you want to do!

The best part of it all, this is a resource available to the community at no cost!

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Whether you are introducing one or multiple languages to your children, it’s never too early (or too late) to start. Even though my children cannot read or write yet, we are providing them the building blocks that they will be able to use in their future language development.

In the very international and multicultural world we live in today, language is an amazing tool. It allows us to connect, to meet new people, to enjoy books, theater or movies, and to learn more about different cultural discourses.

Language provides us another tool with which we can explore the world.

My oldest is just under 2.5 years old, and I’m happy to say that when she goes to her little friend’s birthday parties, she is able to ask for Agua or Water, depending on which language she feels like speaking at the time.

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Storytelling my Multicultural Motherhood




Today is Canadian Multiculturalism Day. As an immigrant mother living in Canada, this day is important to me. Growing up in a bicultural environment, my own identity is a blend of cultures and experiences that have defined the way that I think, the way I see the world, the things I find important. Today I am a mother, and I have the responsibility to raise my children, and this topic is important and very relevant to me, to many of us.

The conversation of culture in motherhood is not a new topic. As a mother, perhaps I am more aware of it now, but it’s been around for a long time. I think back to the moments my grandparents told me the stories their grandparents told them. Every funny anecdote was unconsciously forming and becoming part of my cultural make up. These anecdotes continued throughout my childhood. From stories of my Dad’s innocent mischievousness at school, to how the children respected their teachers and elders. From songs my mother taught me to harmonize to, and realizing that the lyrics, the story within the melody, are what I remember the most.

It seems to come down to the power of storytelling as the way I understood and learned about culture, about the world. It’s a way in which many of us have. Within storytelling, it also meant reunion, time together, laughs, and celebration. In a world where so much culture is being told through advertising companies, social media and other voices, I think it’s especially important to practice a strong narrative in my home and in my parenting.

I attended an event last week which screened the documentary film “Embrace” by Taryn Brumfitt, a body image activist. The movie explored the current culture of body image, and one of the lines in the movie that stuck with me, was one from a mother. She said she was constantly doing “damage control” when it came to what her daughter understood as important or not, when it came to her body image. I relate to this when it comes to teaching my children about culture. I want my stories, my voice,  to be what my children hear the loudest. To be what grounds them morally and in their values. I take on a huge responsibility in that I have to tell those stories right.

I want them to know their mother’s language so that they are able to sing the songs that I sang as a child, so they can read books and poetry that I read growing up, and to read it in the language it was written in. I want them to know how to make Ají de Gallina and Papa Rellena, and to proudly take that to their “Bring a Traditional Dish” to school/work day.

So how do I make sure my children hear my voice as what grounds them? It really comes down to how I spend my time with them. The pace in which the world moves in today makes it feel like we are on a constant battle of catching up. We are in a hurry to get nowhere, fast. Isn’t that ironic? I am slowing down, and creating moment and anecdotes with my children. Through play, through exploration, we are creating the stories and experiences that start to shape who they become, the same stories they will be telling their children, and their children. The art of storytelling in culture, in my form of being their mother, staying alive.

It sounds like a lot of things I want for my children, who doesn’t? I admit that I worry sometimes I won’t be successful in teaching them and passing on all I want to. Thankfully, I am not alone. The narrative of culture isn’t just from one voice. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it does. It’s important that my children hear stories from their grandparents, their uncles and aunts, friends, the family outside of just their mother and father.

Everyday, I become more aware to continue to tell my children stories, with good and right rhetoric. To continue teaching them about their culture in the little moments of the day. When we’re out for walks, when we make art together, when we play, when we sing songs, when we cuddle on the couch, when we read books, when we get dirty, when we eat yummy foods.

Related posts here and here.

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DIY Nature Mobile / Embracing Multiculturalism

I hadn’t ever thought to press a dandelion flower, but the children have taught me to find beauty and potential with everything. Dandelions press beautifully – who knew? They are delicate, the yellow color preserves well, and there is something magical about them. From the moment Penelope could walk, she has loved picking dandelions flowers. I imagine Oliver will be the same. Where live, these flowers are everywhere in the spring and summer, perhaps even over looked in their abundance, but they really are quite beautiful.DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (3)I didn’t grow up in Canada, so the dandelion is very much a flower that I consider native to the land. To my children, the dandelion is something they will have seen since the moment they were born, just a flower that grew in their home land. I imagine one day, when they are older, travelling the world, and come across a dandelion flower, they will remember this mobile, their mother, their father, where they came from.  The dandelion flower, the inspiration for this DIY post.

As a mother raising bicultural children, I am always looking for fun and creative ways to teach them about both their cultures. My children are Canadian, and they are also Peruvian. I speak to them in Spanish so that they learn their mother’s tongue, I sing them the songs that I was sung as a child. During our walks in the beautiful Edmonton trails, Penelope picks up dandelions, fallen pine cones, tree sticks, and she learns about the flora of her country. Through exploration, my children are embracing the nature of their homeland, and learning to love their mother’s language as they practice the names for trees, flowers, rocks in English and Spanish.

As with any DIY that I do, like this and this , I look for it to be easy, simple and affordable. In this case, most of our materials are collected from nature, and the rest, most likely in your home already, or easy and inexpensive to get (ie- your local Dollar store).

 

DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (4)We began by cutting the stems off the dandelions we collected, placed them face down between two sheets of paper in a large heavy book, and allowed them to dry. Penelope then helped me tie “talking knots”, or “quipu” into the string, a practice that is native to her Andean culture. The number and color of the knots conveyed meaning, sort of like writing. In this mobile, the number of knots in the strands reading both her and Oliver’s birthday.DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (5)DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (6)Once the dandelions were dry, I glued a small piece of cardboard onto the back of the flowers for easier handling, and glued them back to back onto the string. I tied pine cones at different heights and secured a little Spanish note in there as a special touch.DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (7)
DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (8)Once two pieces were completed, I placed them together at a perpendicular angle, and secured them with wrapped knot, leaving a little loop at the top for hanging. And voila!DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (11)I love how this DIY turned out! In the process of making this mobile, with the stories I tell my children while we’re out exploring nature, they are learning about the history and the culture before them, and I give them a sense of identity, a place in the world.

Gathering materials that are abundant in the native flora of where we live, with addition of details native to my ethnic culture, my children and I create a simple, but special piece of art that brings activity, culture, and nature together. All encompassed by something all mothers, of all cultures, share – love.

I hope this inspires one of you.

Related post of Motherhood and Culture – hereDIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (12)DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (14)DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (13)DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (15)DIY Nature Inspired Dandelion Mobile (1)

 

 

 

 

 

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Gabriela

I picked up my guitar yesterday after months, maybe even years, of not playing it. I didn’t put it back down for the rest of the night. Today, I feel the familiar calluses forming on my finger tips again, and I smile because I am so happy .

I used to play guitar all the time. I loved it. Playing again for the first time in a long time sent me on a nostalgic journey; every song to a different memory of me and what I felt like at the time. It reminded me, of well, me. The part of me that existed before being a wife or a mother, the part of me I’ve forgotten a little lately.

As a busy mom to two little babies, it’s easy to put myself on the back burner. Over the past month a half though, I have been working to change that a little. I have started this blog, I have gone back to yoga, I am writing in my journal more, I am playing my guitar… doing things that nourish the part of me that is neither wife or mother.

I am a wife, I am a homemaker, I am a mother, and my family are my world and happiness.

I am something else too.

I am Gabriela, a simple, but definitely not ordinary, woman with long black hair, playing the guitar in a beautifully lit room, and I am so happy. A self portrait of who I am today.

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Motherhood through Culture




They say you can leave Africa, but Africa will never leave you.

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I grew up in Africa. 9 years of my childhood was spent in that beautiful land which has very much defined and influenced the person I am today. I remember watching women carry babies on their backs with beautifully patterned chitenges, while balancing buckets of water or wood on their heads. All while looking as graceful and calm as a mother can be. Those are the images that I remember now as a mother myself.

I am also Peruvian. My daughter calls me Mamá, I sing “Los Pollitos Dicen” to my children before bed, and make Lomo Saltado and Ají de Gallina as regular meals in my house.

I am a Peruvian woman, who grew up in Africa, raising a Canadian daughter, while speaking to her in Spanish and carrying her in a chitenge.

As her mother, I have a responsibility and privilege to introduce her to the culture before her; through the foods I offer her, the songs we sing, the books we read, and the language I speak to her in –  the language of her maternal grandmothers, and their grandmothers, and many generations before them. In all that, I give her a sense of identity, and a feeling that she belongs to the world… to many parts of it.

As I carry my children in either in a Malawian chitenge or a Peruvian manta, I can only hope that through the culture of my motherhood, I am teaching them that they are part of many things. Part of many histories and practices before them, and hoping they feel a part of all of them, and love them as much as I do.

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