Parenting is filled with second-guessing. Should I have dressed him in pink today? Did I start potty training too late? Does she better belong in an arts program in high school? Am I doing enough to honour his cultural heritage?
Bingo! There’s the scary question that I’ve been asking myself since PRIDE, where we were all made to consider our cultures and how they may differ from our adopted children. I consider my husband and myself to be culturally aware, through travel, study of many languages, and living in Toronto gives us the chance to make friends and learn about many cultures. Raising a child to have a culture requires more; daily and intimate contact are needed to not trivialize the forming connection.
We are the fortunate adoptive parents to an energetic and dynamic toddler, with Metis, Mohawk, and French-Canadian backgrounds. While he is learning to speak both French and English at home and attends a French daycare, we felt unprepared to authentically connect him to his First Nations and Metis backgrounds. The critical lesson here was that we do not appreciate the awesome resources that are our friends and family.
We have found ways to mix our son’s heritage with his new family. Our friend who manages a bookstore could locate First Nations stories written in French, which help connect him to his background at a kid-appropriate level. A friend of a friend is a designer and makes cool t-shirts that combine First Nations art with gay pride messaging. Another friend is a leader in Toronto’s Native community and answers everything we consider to be questions too stupid to ask. And on the dreaded “Family/Culture Day” at daycare, where the kids were asked to wear traditional dress from their home countries, we were directed by still more friends to more resources.
Despite the second-guessing, we are slowly finding that we don’t need to have all the answers, but we need to ask for help, be open to receiving it, and to let our son guide us. We will help him form his own identify, just as we have formed ours separately from our parents, and we too will grow through that process.