Published by Urbane Publications
Ebook and paperback : 2 November 2017
My thanks to Abby Fairbrother and Urbane for the invitation to take part in the blog tour. For my turn today, I’m delighted to host Angelena with a guest post.
MUM – WHY DID KATIE CALL ME A CURRY MUNCHER?
by Angelena Boden
The trials and tribulations of raising dual heritage children… not forgetting the good bits.
When my first daughter was born in 1983 the Birmingham Evening Mail were doing a piece on mixed marriages. I agreed to take part but I found the final version disturbing in its use of language. I quote “and when the café au lait children come along, to hell with what the neighbours think.”
One of the greatest worries mothers like me face is whether the children are going to be accepted by both sides – family and community. Research has shown that dual heritage children face more rejection and isolation than those from a mono racial background. For a child to feel a sense of belonging, both families, need to accept them. In our case, their Iranian family thought they were too western as they got older and began to look for a new wife for my husband. On my side of the family my father was dismissive of them initially. So it was down to me.
This question of identify and belonging becomes more prevalent as children move through their teenage years. They need to be like their peers and will discard any cultural baggage as they see it in order to fit in. This creates additional clashes with parents who often turn in on each other. That’s my story anyway.
The use of language in relation to my daughters has been a theme running through their upbringing and the scene of many battles. Let’s start with their names. Both have ancient Persian names that have no religious link. The amount of times they’ve been spelt incorrectly or had an insulting comment attached to them are too many to count. Here’s an interesting fact. I had no say in choosing them. In Iran, baby names are a family decision. In fact for six weeks I called them both by something else entirely. A name sets a child up for life. It can help them or cause problems so it’s worth thinking about in advance. When blame rained down on them for the invasion of Iraq and the rise of Al Qaeda, I did ask if they wanted to use their English middle names but such a suggestion was met with fury. ‘We’re proud of who we are. You obviously are not.’
My daughters had a good understanding of Farsi ( Persian) when they were young but were averse to speaking it. My husband didn’t encourage it for sinister reasons I learned much later and this was a bone of contention between us. Research shows that bilingualism is beneficial to the cognitive development of the brain and apparently can delay the onset of dementia. Anyone raising dual heritage children where a second language is involved should really encourage bilingualism. Not only does it open up extra work opportunities but language helps us to understand the culture of a country and the nature of its people more fully.
Although brought up in a faith, their father was agnostic so religion was never a big issue at first but he insisted on maintaining certain rituals to keep the extended family happy. When you marry an Iranian you marry the clan. It was only when his father became ill, did he take a greater interest in God and started to wield his new found religious authority over us.
I’ve heard it said, and I agree, that children of dual heritage have to be twice as good and work twice as hard to be accepted. My daughters have different experiences of this. Anousheh went to a private girls’ school in Birmingham, onto Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin and into the law. She was with girls similar to her and I cannot recall a single problem she had of not being accepted but then she keeps a lot to herself. She now fights for the rights of women who have been raped during acts of war and genocide.
Aniseh, the younger one and the rebel, insisted on going to a girls’ comprehensive where she was definitely in a minority. For five years she endured racist taunts, (see the title of this blog) and staff who didn’t take my complaints seriously. If I could name the school I would but I remember the Deputy Head saying, ‘ Oh girls will be girls.’ I took my daughter out of school in her GSCE year and taught her at home. She went onto Aston University (Birmingham) built up a million pound business and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for her work with disadvantaged young people. Resilience in the face of adversity. I’d like to think I instilled in both of them the values of respect, fairness and citizenship.
I could write a book on this but as space is short I’ll sum up some of the main challenges of raising children who find themselves with a foot in two worlds.
1. It’s important to give them a strong sense of identity by knitting the two backgrounds together and giving them the space to become themselves.
2. The issue of raising a child in a faith or none needs to be discussed at the outset bearing in mind that come the teenage years they may well turn their backs on everything you’ve taught them.
3. Let them learn both languages from the native speaker of that language. There will be confusion at first. My daughters used to start a sentence in one language and finish it in another.
4. As with all children, help them to feel secure and grounded and comfortable in their own skin whatever its colour.
5. Let your child see they belong in both cultures and hope that’s how both families view it. If they are travelling long distances to see the “other” family once a year, prepare them in advance. Travelling to Iran meant long briefings on how to behave in all aspects of daily living.
I am happy to take questions on any aspects of this blog.
| About the Book |
The Future Can’t Wait is a contemporary novel set in multicultural Birmingham against a background of growing radicalisation of young people sympathetic to Islamic State. Kendra Blackmore’s half Iranian daughter Ariana (Rani) undergoes an identity crisis which results in her cutting off all contact with her family. Sick with worry and desperate to understand why her home loving daughter would do this, Kendra becomes increasingly desperate for answers – and to bring her estranged daughter home….
| About the Author |
Angelena Boden (M.Soc.Sc PGDE) has spent thirty five years as an international training consultant, specialising in interpersonal skills and conflict resolution. She trained in Transactional Analysis, the psychology of communication and behaviour, her preferred tool for counselling and coaching.
Since retiring from training, she runs a coaching practice in Malvern for people who are going through transition periods in their life; divorce, empty nesting, redundancy or coping with difficult situations at work, home and within the wider family.
Angelena has two half Iranian daughters and has extensive experience of helping mixed nationality couples navigate problems in their marriages.
She is the author of The Cruelty of Lambs, a novel about psychological domestic abuse. Her new book, The Future Can’t Wait tackles the breakdown of a mother and daughter relationship within a cross cultural context. It is published by Urbane Publications and is out in November 2017.