Whenever I’m faced with an ethnicity monitoring section on a form it makes me think about the racial mix of my family. My husband is from Ecuador, South America so our three children are a 50/50 combination of Latino and British. Ethnicity forms don’t have a label that really works. My husband is always annoyed that he has to go in a catch all “Other” category. I usually look for “Other Mixed” to describe the kids which is also unsatisfyingly vague.
Asides from form dilemmas I love that our family is a blend of two very different cultures. It adds another different dimension to our day to day life. I think I’m quite typically English and my husband is 100% Latino, even after living here for over 10 years. We celebrate some Ecuadorian customs as well as British ones. A massive bonus for me is that Mother’s Day is on a different date in Ecuador so I get to feel the love twice a year. We make año nuevos every New Year’s Eve. These are figures or models that represent the good or bad in passing year. In Ecuador they are displayed in the street before being burnt in the street at midnight. We burn ours on the bbq at midnight in our back garden. If we have friends around they get roped in too. We celebrate coming to the UK day. This is the anniversary of Rolando arrival here on a snowy February day with not so much as a coat.
Our meals start with a buen provecho (similar to the French Bon appetite). Rolando makes chifles (fried plantain chips) which the kids love. We drink avocado milk shake (which sounds disgusting but is weirdly delicious). Rolando makes ceviche for his lunch. Me and the kids draw the line at eating his concoctions involving offal and peanut cream.
We have an indoor hammock in our hallway (very Ecuadorian although there it would be outside in the sunshine). It’s very handy for rocking poorly children or chilling out after a stressful day. Rolando plays salsa music and eighties Latino pop music and tries to instil Latin rhythm into the kids. We dance salsa in the kitchen.
Being bilingual is really important to us. Rolando speaks Spanish to the kids as much as possible. I stick to speaking English although I do understand everything that Rolando is saying. We decided that keeping the two languages separate is less confusing. The kids watch the Latino versions of Disney clips on YouTube videos and can sing along to the songs in Spanish. Sofia understands a lot of Spanish and can speak quite well with a bit of prompting. She corrects me on my less than perfect pronunciation. Sam and Leo currently speak very cute Spanglish.
There are some culture clashes to work through. It adds an extra dimension to making decisions about how we raise the kids when our experience of childhood were completely different. Discipline is particularly different – Rolando is more traditional than I am. We have had a few discussions about how strict we should be and around rewards versus punishment. The education system is very different here so I sometimes need to explain how things work to Rolando.
We are very lucky to have some good friends who are also Anglo-Ecuadorian couples. Between us we now have a tribe of beautiful blended children. It’s nice to know people who have backgrounds and experiences in common and we have the best get togethers!
Does your family life blend two different cultures? How does it work for you?