Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Culture Shocking

We don't consider it mean to teach kids about the important aspects of American culture. McDonalds, not so much...respecting the flag,  our rights and responsibilities as citizens, of course. What if you live in the US, but are from another country/culture? Is it mean to retain aspects of your culture when it comes to parenting?

For example, H is from Mexico, married to an American, and living in Virginia. She speaks fluent English, loves Trader Joe's,  and knows more about American politics than many Americans do. She also insists on raising her kids in such a way that incorporates Mexican traditions. Si, she speaks to them in Spanish, but the custom that stands out is that of shaving their heads. Her son, who is 3, has been shaved at least twice, and her almost-1-year-old daughter has been shaved once. Why? To make the hair come in thicker, healthier, and more even. By the way, this tradition is common in many countries, from Latin America to Eastern Europe, but what about when it is done here in the US? Is it mean, cruel, or unreasonable for H to subject her kids to this tradition when they are too young to understand the reasons behind it? Or is H a good mommy, giving her kids an enriching experience and giving them a connection to her cultural identity and half of their heritage?

Interesting note: when I was searching for images to go along with this post, I found mostly cutesy baby pictures, or pics of kids who had obviously lost their hair due to chemo. If you see a bald child--old enough to have a good bit of hair if not a full head--would you assume that it is a result of chemo? As a parent, would you be OK with strangers speculating about your child's health and the reasons s/he has no hair? Would you be apologetic or assertive (or even aggressive) in your response?

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