In this Multicultural Friday Family Feature, meet the Sargents who are raising their children to learn more about their cultures while building a community for all multicultural parents.
Meet the Sargents:
Erika (mom): half-Japanese, born in Hawaii, lived in Japan for 5 years, lived in Brazil for 16 months, fluent in Portuguese
Steen (dad): Danish descent, lived in Argentina for 2 years, fluent in Spanish
Kids: M (age 3), L (age 1.5), and a baby boy due in 2022
Why is important for you to raise your children in their cultures?
We know that understanding their cultural heritage will help our kids with their developing personal identities. There are so many great things about being multicultural, and we want to make sure that they understand they have so much to celebrate!
Our kids don't really look multiracial, but there are things in our house that their friends might think are weird, like taking off their shoes before coming inside, or eating rice for almost every dinner, or having full names that most people will pronounce incorrectly. By teaching them about the culture behind these everyday things, they'll learn to appreciate their unique cultural heritage and also be respectful of others' cultural differences.
What are you doing to raise your children in their cultures?
We try to...
Celebrate Cultural Holidays (the ones we know how to celebrate)
Display Family Heirlooms
Cook/Eat Cultural Food
Read Folklore Picture Books
What's working well in teaching your children about their heritage?
The thing that comes easiest for us is cooking cultural dishes. The recipes that I (Erika) grew up on are a cultural mix of Japanese/Hawaiian dishes which means a lot of rice and a lot of soy sauce. I'm trying to incorporate some new recipes, but sometimes ingredients can be hard to find since they're not sold in traditional American grocery stores.
The girls will eat things that people outside the family won't which means their palates are accustomed to Japanese/Hawaiian food, right? We count that as a win although it's still hard to believe that anyone would turn down arare.
What have been some struggles you face as multicultural parents?
We would love for our children to be trilingual since we speak Spanish and Portuguese, but English is the common language we all know, so it's the default for what we speak in our home. As they're getting older, we feel that we're losing the window to speak to them in a foreign tongue at home, but then we're reminded that we both became fluent in foreign languages in our late teens/early twenties, so it's really never too late to try.
Because we (Steen and Erika) are already a mix of cultures, it feels like everything gets watered down with each generation. We don't know everything about our own cultural heritages, so what are we supposed to pick and choose to incorporate in raising our kids? Sometimes we feel imposter syndrome and sometimes things feel forced, but we're trying to figure it all out as we go so we can be the best multicultural parents for our kids.
Where do you find support as multicultural parents?
Our parents are supportive of raising our multicultural family, especially when it comes to cultural traditions. They like to be involved and participate with us when they're able.
Surprisingly, the social media community has been a great support too! We learn so much about cultural celebrations and traditions that are a part of our personal heritage, but we didn't grow up being a part of. You're never too old to learn new things about your cultural history.
What's your favorite part about being multicultural parents?
We love our kids, and while it's stressful just being a parent, we love being able to enrich their lives a little more with pieces of their heritage. Yes, we know that we can't teach them everything about all of their cultures, but we're lucky to have so much to choose from.
Being multicultural parents has led to the founding of Multicultural Parenting, and while it's a passion project right now, we hope that we can grow the community of multicultural parents. We wouldn't have had this opportunity unless we realized we needed the support and advice of other multicultural parents. There's no textbook on raising multicultural kids, so we're learning as we go which is both scary and a lot of fun!
Photo credit: Bridgett Brown Photography
About Multicultural Friday Family Feature:
One Friday each month, Multicultural Parenting highlights a family that is working to celebrate, educate, and participate with their children in their cultural heritage. Every family has a different cultural background and every family has a different way of sharing that background with their children. The MF3 series allows us to learn and celebrate the successes of multicultural parenting together as well as provide support when things get frustrating or discouraging.
If you would like your family to be considered for a future MF3, please apply here.