This week and next, I’ll be writing about how growing up in a Jamaican family has influenced me. This week, I’m focusing on parenting. Both of my parents were born and raised in Jamaica, but came to the states as adults. I never really thought about how my parents were different from others until they told me no about something that most other parents said yes to. My father was in the Air Force, so many of my friends had parents from different countries, which brought about their cultural norms.
As an adult no longer surrounded by other military families, I have settled with my family in the south. Many people I encounter live close to family, and have for generations. This highlights the stark differences between my upbringing and theirs.
Here’s a few things I have noticed:
• I love Jamaican food! There are no international markets near by, so when I want to eat Jamaican food or season my food with Jamaican spices, I have to ask my mother to purchase for me, get it from Atlanta, or my grandmother mails it to me from up north. Sometimes I just have a craving for authentic Jamaican food! Once when my uncle came to visit from New Jersey, I cried because he ate the last bit of ackee and saltfish (national dish). I didn’t know when we would have a chance to eat it again, and I thought it was unfair because he ate it all the time in New Jersey.
• My daughters love porridge! Americans make fun of me all the time if they happen to hear me mention it. Believe me, if you had it, you would understand why baby bear was crying when Goldilocks ate all of his! My southern friends make fun of me for not liking grits; but I blame it on porridge! You don’t have to take my word for it, listen to a few Bob Marley songs and you’ll hear all about his love for cornmeal porridge.
• Jamaicans love to sing…all..the..time! My mother sent me to Jamaica a few times as a toddler, but the first time I remember was in July 2010. All the resort staff was singing, as well as people in the community. I felt such a connection to my roots! Now it made sense to me why I have always done that. And guess what, my kids make up songs and sing all the time too!
• I have a need to keep my culture alive. Growing up, I always remembered my parents being friends with other Jamaicans, or people from other islands. The last time I’ve been to Jamaica was 2013, it’s time to go back!
• Family is important. I have a close relationship with my parents. In fact, I talked with my mom about this post last week as I was in the planning phase. I still look to my parents for guidance. Jamaicans utilize their family resources and look to their elders for guidance. This is essential for survival-a similar family trait to Asian and Hispanic cultures.
• Diversity! Jamaica’s motto is Out of many one people. No matter the skin color, if you were born in Jamaica, you are a Jamaican. I have met many Jamaicans of different ethnicity, but the culture, the food and the music tie them all together. I hope to instill this in my children.
I hope that as my children grow, I can share my love of Jamaican culture with them. On my first visit as an adult, I felt a strange connection with the land that I can’t explain. Everything that I heard my parents and grandparents talk about as a child, came to life for me the moment I stepped off the plane.
How many of you were raised in a culture besides the American culture? Do you seek to share those cultural pieces with your children? I can’t wait to hear from you! Have a great week!
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