Our visit to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the festivities of the Labor Day Parade and spending time with my 91 year old great aunt, got me thinking about how best to teach Zoë about our culture and heritage.
My parents and the immediate generations before them (excluding our European blood and African ancestry) hail from Jamaica West Indies. My husbands family hails from the island of Nevis & America. I myself was born in London. So there is a lot for me to teach Zoë about who we are and where we are from. Because she is so young, I have to keep it simple and fun but these lessons are not optional.
I have beautiful memories of Jamaica in my mind and in pictures. I will pull out an old picture in a flash and tell Zoe all about it. I am planning to make an album with these pictures so we can explore them together. Share old photos with your children. I know you have boxes full just like I do.
My baby has loved music from the womb. Although I barely felt her move, she came out loving the sweet sounds of Reggae and the jumping rhythm of Soca. Almost two years later that has not changed. We sing and dance to the islands beats almost every day. One day I will record her. Baby Z has a beautiful voice. It makes me smile everyday. She loves to sing. And she has movement just like her mama. Proud! I am very proud! We listen to a variety of music but the way she lights up when Soca comes on is everything. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my favorite Reggae & Soca songs for the family.
Just know Zoe has been eating her share of stew chicken, rice & peas and cornmeal porridge long before her first birthday. Actually, she has been eating since 4 months and I was never afraid to add seasoning and spices. She loves curry, stew and the pop of escovitch sans the pepper. These days she doesn’t eat much meat (uh, we are not vegetarians around her missy) but she devours everything else. I could stand to take a page out her her eating book. Lots of fruits and veggies, tasty starch and the occasional serving of meat. I’ll be sharing some caribbean inspired recipes soon. I cook caribbean cuisine 90% of the time so get ready.
4. Family Stories
I miss my grandmother more than I can ever express. She told me the best stories about her childhood in Jamaica. I have great stories from her and a bunch of her siblings. There was 20 plus of them! So now I share those stories with Zoe and she enjoys stories from my mom and her aunts as well. She knows Jamaica in story. I can’t wait for her to visit and create her own stories. I have tons from my childhood. Spending my early years plus summers in Jamaica made for a great time. I hope Zoe will learn how to stone a mango out of a tree like I did.
Don’t let your family stories die.
5. Everyday Life
Although I have been in the States most of my life and my mom has been here 30 plus years, we still do many things the way our family did it in Jamaica. One of those things is we speak in Jamaican patois. I speak in patois to Zoe as often as possible because I want her to know the dialect of our land. It’s also a good way to get her attention especially if she is doing something not so good “Behave yuh self likkle girl.” Don’t worry, we speak, read and write in proper English so she will not have issues in the future.
Zoe is also exposed to our Jamaican culture when we are around family for events, in the kitchen with Ma-Ma (my mother) and I try to bring her to family friendly caribbean events around our town.
6. History & Books
One of my favorite bloggers has a section on her blog filled with all sorts of activities and worksheet for children of caribbean heritage. Check out Soca Mom’s resources here. We currently only have two children’s books in our home library that are from Jamaican authors. That will be changing soon. As Zoe gets older, I will also teach her about the important history and contributions Jamaica has had on the world. I will speak with her grandfather and aunts about the history of Nevis so that I can teach her that heritage as well. And her grandmother from her dad will gladly share the details of her American family and history.
What is your family heritage and how do you teach your children about it?