Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Celebrating Cultures

It was only this morning that I realised just how much the children wanted, no needed, to go to Singapore for Chinese New Year.

This sounds like its going to be a long whinge about the state of the current education system and the way in which children are simply not allowed to take holidays in term time. Full stop. Period. No asking for special treatment, no chance for the headteacher to apporve necessary trips away - nothing. Oh except exceptional circumstances - a death in the family would suffice I guess. But I'll save that for another whinge - there are plenty of people out there moaning about it already.

No, this is about how our not being able to go has had such a surprising effect on the kids... and I hadn't seen it!

Yesterday, as we can't go for Chinese New Year, the boys and I decided to pull out the CNY decorations and put them up in the dining room for Papa. TJ loved it. He wanted to hear the story about the animals and how they became the astrological symbols. He wanted Papa to explain all about the different symbols and items we put up for prosperity, longevity etc etc.

Then that evening I found him in his room crying his eyes out. TJ doesn't cry - not ever and definately not in front of people. He used to. He used to cry over everything, not being able to tie his shoelace, his jumper being inside out - all were major catastrophes. Then he just stopped. We went to therapy but he simply built more defences, so we stopped going, we didn't want to re-traumatise him - I know there are lots of possible reasons, the one I am favouring is that he doesn't want to show weakness, which could also be a peer group thing as well - boys of a certain age suddenly seems to want to be men, with their own interpretation of what being male means.

Anyway, he was distraught. He wouldn't talk about it - but he would let me hold him whilst he cried. Its strange to say that I actually loved having him in my arms, sobbing into my shoulder - its such a rare occurence.

This morning it all came out. He wanted to see his Grandparents, he wanted to see his Aunty and Uncle, he wanted to see his cousins, he wanted to see his Godparents and all of our friends. For the past two years, since the boys came to us, every CNY we have gone to Singapore and celebrated with family and friends. And I hadn't realised how much that meant to him.

I now felt as if I was denying him a festival as big as Christmas - thats the only way I can describe it. He had tried so hard to fit in, to meet his new family, to get used to our 'ways' and now he was settled and looking forward to it I was cancelling it - or rather school were.

The Government had cancelled Christmas.

I suppose that because the boys are (to use ethnical descriptions) white British, its very hard for people to get their head around the fact that they are also half Singaporean. The boys have had no trouble getting used to it. They know that Papa's family  are in Singapore, they know my family are here. That's their lives. They don't see race, they don't see cultural difference, they see Daddy and Papa - they see their family.

Its an argument I am going to push harder next year - even if i end up talking to our MP or Mr Gove about this - its not fair and I'm sure my children aren't the only ones being punished because some people misuse the system.

Our children were adopted into a mixed race family and the minute that happened they took on both of our cultures and both need to be celebrated and accepted by everyone around them - including me!


Its funny but after reading this I was suddenly reminded of a play I did with the fabulous Chua Enlai, directed by the equally fabulous Krishen Jit - it was David Henry Hwang's 'Looking for Chinatown' about a white guy who has been adopted by Chinese parents and is essentially more 'Chinese' than the Chinese guy he bumps into (played by Enlai). The piece was seen as almost ridiculous but thought provoking - indeed I think that Francine in the TV show 'American Dad' is also adopted by a Chinese family - why is this seen as comedic? Plenty of Chinese kids are adopted into white families - so why is it the other way round seems so strange? Am I asking my kids to live a life previously restricted to the theatre and comedy shows?

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