Mixed Family Mixed Feelings?

Author: Sonia Hadj Said

'I’m a half-half', I say to a man who is looking at me curiously. OK, so maybe it’s a bit cheesy, but it has always worked and I simply can’t resist the urge to sound different and interesting. 'Half-half' is the expression I like to use when referring to mixed-heritage people. See, I have always been a very proud half-half. From the very young age, I had the feeling that it was something special. I would go for a nice summer holiday to my 'other' family, as I used to say. I looked a tiny bit different than my colleagues and teachers simply couldn’t pronounce my surname, with the whole classroom happily correcting them. As I grow up, I get to meet more people whose parents come from different countries. Could this be a new fashion or is the whole world becoming more open to other cultures? And most importantly- are there any disadvantages? The Good and the Bad The language.

Having two languages from the very beginning might just be the luckiest thing ever and children from mixed families usually start their life that way. Proud parents need to hear their child speaking in their mother tongue- doesn’t matter if family only goes to that other country only once a year. It is also investment in a future because the more languages someone knows, the more job offers this person is likely to get. Good job offers. This person can have a very adventurous life and go to schools in two different countries, therefore easily adjusting in new places. So what happens when there are complications? My complication was simply the fact that every time my father tried to speak Arabic, I would run to my mum, terrified because 'daddy was saying bad things'. There was no push from my parents side and so many years later I would end up in my father’s country, unable to speak to my family. The other factor is that one parent that simply doesn’t wish to hear another language in the house. It is the easiest thing to shape child’s personality. If you grow up believing that something is wrong, you will carry this with you and so it’s only parents' responsibility to make sure that the child is treated fairly and has the right to know the both sides of the family heritage.

The religion Religion has been and will be one of the most controversial topics of all time. There are situations in which there is confusion to which religion a child should have. Mother’s? Father’s? These are the things that should always be discussed by adults before there even is a child, of course. I believe that the decision made by my parents was the smartest- they left it for me to decide once I was old enough and knew enough. Unfortunately, people tend to think that being in love is enough so they skip the discussion part. Because of that, children often find themselves in the middle of the religious battle. I have seen many situations where a man doesn’t wish to see his daughter wearing a short skirt or going to the church. The rules that no one talked about before, suddenly pop up out of nowhere and they are expected to be followed, otherwise it would be being disrespectful to his or her family. It is definitely not fair to mess with a child’s mind in such a way.

The culture As I work in the restaurant, there are some dishes I just can’t be bothered to handle. Last time we had pulled pork, which unfortunately was ours to pull I did not touch it- not because I don’t go anywhere pork. My only reason was that it looked very unappetizing so I went to the manager, telling him that due to my religious beliefs, I could not do it. Of course, everyone knew I was bluffing as I am easy to find hiding in the corner, eating bacon with eggs or sausages. My culture is a good fun for me. Since both of my families are really loose, I never had to settle for one or the other. 'Do you have Christmas Eve?' 'Can you eat pork?' 'Do you do Ramadan?' These are only a few questions I was being asked by kids my age from primary school, following to high school. I was fortunate to be surrounded by curious friends who asked questions, rather than laugh at things they couldn’t understand which is mostly the case these days. Living in Poland, my family has always been celebrating Christmas Eve and most of Polish traditions, as it was agreed from the very beginning.

Cuisine If I learnt something, it’s that there is no recipe when it comes to combining different cultures. Every family needs to take whatever works for them and live by it with dignity, teaching the children to be proud of it. The whole concept seems to be wonderful and yet, if things don’t work it can get really messy for the youngest who are defining themselves. Most important ingredients? Respect and understanding, mixed with a little bit of fun.