“Mamma, can we show Ajji (grandma) the laddoos (traditional sweet dish) we made?” Neil (my 2.5 yr old son) asked me, eagerly.
“Of course!”, I replied and promptly video called my mom thousands of miles way. I smiled as I watched him show her his wonderful, imperfect, laddoos with great delight.
I got to thinking about how all of us, who raise our kids outside of our home countries do it. Sure, there is lots to be grateful for and many, many advantages, but what do we miss? What do we consciously want to pass on to our little ones? How do we integrate a slice of the home we grew up in into their everyday lives?
We’re talking about this all week so join the conversation if you’re in the same boat.
To kick us off here are a few things I wanted to share that I love doing. Nothing complicated, maybe not even different, but might be a good read.
Integrate family into our child’s life
Grandparents are such a joy. I miss my son having grandparents in the same city (or country in our case). We live in Singapore and one set of grandparents are in Bangalore, India and the other in Durban, South Africa. So we video call as much as we can. In fact, everyday when Neil comes back from school we call my mom for 15 mins. She is woven into my son’s life. My dad and brother are also around at that time and we read a book, talk about school, sing & dance and have a lovely time. This afternoon we used an app to become virtual pandas and rolled around! Making it an everyday affair, even if for a short time makes it natural & you see the relationship grow. It warms my heart. Every time.
Foraging a community
Most people in their own home town have a pre-existing community around them. Outside of their parents. Childhood friends, a favourite aunt, a cousin who is always on the same page as you. That one awesome best friend who you can share everything with because somehow every life phase magically occurs at the same time. Second generation folks usually have this too. But us first generation people have to forage a community of our own. I have a favourite male friend who is a rocket scientist, my son loves him. They make cardboard rockets and read books about space. Another friend is a documentary film maker who challenges everything Neil does, makes him think differently, alternatively. Someone I barely knew moved to Singapore and we started hanging out. We got pregnant a few months apart and shared that journey together. Now, we share beers, clothes, stories and memories. So allow people in. Cherry pick, forage, but allow them in. You won’t regret it. Your children need a community. You know what they say - it takes a village ;-)
Creating memory structures
This one is my personal favourite. I lived in five countries before Singapore. I have close friends everywhere. So does my husband. We have family split over 4 continents. We want Neil to know the ones we love. So we created a memory wall. It is part of our living room and it has pictures of everyone we love. Our people or #peeps as kids these day would say. Every night since Neil was a baby we say goodnight to the wall. We still do it and now, photo frame by photo frame, he recognises all of them. We try to call them often, stay in touch & care about them. He sees that and learns to love those he doesn’t physically see often. Make a wall of love.
We love our rituals. We light diyas for Diwali, organise a treasure hunt for Easter, perform a pooja for Ganesh Chaturthi, dress up for Spooky Week & decorate a tree for Christmas! We glean as much as we can from our families and recreate these wonderful memories for our child. We also try to create our own. We make heart shaped eggs for breakfast every time it’s someone’s birthday, cheer hard each time one of our countries play an important game of cricket or rugby, do a bbq (braai) at least every quarter and a few other things. Only one rule - we try to be consistent every year.
Food. Food. Food.
I could go on and on about this, but I don’t think there is anything quite like food that brings generations together. I collected my husbands mom’s recipes, some of my mom’s recipes and some of our grandmas as well. I try to make them often, specially for the same occasions they were made during our childhood. So Neil loves a combination South Indian and South African cuisines passed on from generations. I find it really helps open up the palate, making him a less fussier kid when it comes to food.
And lastly, as they say, every little helps. Clothes, Books, Games, Language - aligned to your life but with a little inspiration from your slice of home. As those of you who follow us already know, that’s also why we started indigrow (read more here).
So, join the conversation, share your tips, tricks, challenges and joys of raising kids outside of home with the wider community. Follow us on instagram here.