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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.

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