There’s a particular song in our weekly music class when Tim the teacher asks the students what’s their favourite food or drink. He then incorporates their chosen word and rhymes it with another into the tune.
If a child calls out “banana” he sings:
“A banana sitting on a railway track,
Feeling rather groovy,
Along came the train down the track.
And now, it’s a banana smoothie”
Cheesy, but you know, kinda cute.
The other day, it was little Nunu’s turn to say his favourite drink.
“Susu !!!” he shouted in a loud, confident voice.
Tim suddenly stopped playing the guitar and along with the other mothers in the class, gave me a puzzled look.
“Um, he just said ‘milk’ in Indonesian…” I replied, almost in a whisper.
Tim tried to finish off the song but he was stumped. What could possibly rhyme with “susu” ?
Thanks to my cocoa brown skin, I don’t go red when embarrassed. But I don’t know why the little incident made me somewhat uncomfortable. Maybe it was all that unnecessary attention.
Perhaps it just took me by surprise. Still. That’s lame.
After all, at home we’ve made a massive effort introducing the boys to Indonesian. From the moment they were born, I sang to them the same nursery rhymes my mother taught me. Mr Surfer tracked down an Asian Children’s Bookshop on-line and we found that Bob the Builder speaks a bit of Indo too! They even boogie away to an Indonesian children’s songs CD that I downloaded from iTunes.
As I was driving back home from class, I started thinking about how I needed to change my attitude.
And I realized that being raised bi-culturally matters just as much outside as it does within the safe walls of home and family.
Whether it be at the playground or with their friends and teachers, if the boys decide to demonstrate or talk about their mixed heritage, that can only be positive reinforcements towards self-confidence. To take pride and dare to be different.
And it starts with my little boy not caring a drop that his favourite drink indeed isn’t milk but “Susu”.
Yet, I look back on my days as a migrant kid. How I loathed speaking in Indonesian. It irked me when, amongst a group of Caucasian Aussie friends, mum and dad would break out into what other’s would’ve heard something similar to little 125 CC scooters with broken mufflers.
“Aaaah, ring-a-ding-ding-diiiiiing !!!”
“Gee, Grace, your parents speak funny.”
So went the conversations.
Maybe that’s where the embarrassment stems from – all those years of being noticeably “strangely different”.
Interestingly though, not too long ago, I gave a Japanese mum a very different opinion.
Bumping into her at a local playground, I asked if she spoke to her 3 and 1 year old in Japanese. She told me it was limited to the surroundings of their home.
The rule was to stick to English when it came to the playground, fearing that others around might find it rude to hear a foreign language.
I distinctly remember telling her not to be so worried. We’re in a multi-cultural society here, I boasted.
But I was soon eating my own words.
Shame on me.
No longer can I keep listening to the abashed migrant girl within because there’s now a mother holding so much pride and elation for her two precious boys.
It’s time to celebrate, embrace and most importantly, encourage what my culturally diverse children have to offer.
P.S K-Bear, the other twin, is just as talkative in Indonesian…he just hates music class.
How do you teach your children to embrace differences ?