The Art of Compromise: Raising My Son in a Bi-Cultural Family

When my husband and I met and fell in love, our cultural and religious differences had a definite impact on the evolution of our relationship.

I was a non-practicing Jew.  He was a semi-practicing Catholic, Filipino.  We realized family_blogreally early on that in order for us to thrive and grow as a couple, compromise would have to be at the root of what defined us.    It took lots of practice, several fights and a tremendous amount of effort, but I feel that we’ve really mastered this art and compromise now plays a HUGE role in how we are raising our son.

The first major obstacle was our wedding.

Looking back on this day I can honestly say that it was a true representation of who we were…. it was a blending of cultures. We got married by a secular officiant.  We wrote our own vows.  We stood under the chuppah.  We incorporated important traditions from my husband’s culture. It felt perfect.  It may not have been “typical” and it may not have pleased everyone but it was true and honest and felt right for us.

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The next hurdle…..starting a family.

“How will you raise your kids?”…… “Will your child be Jewish or Catholic?”……”Will your son have a Bar Mitzvah?”  These are only a few of the very personal questions that were presented to me by friends, family, coworkers, even strangers!  I felt so much pressure to have all the answers, to have a definitive plan, to have it all figured out before my baby was born in order to appease others’ doubts. I sensed that these questions were fueled by the fear that our child would grow up to be terribly confused and that this bi-cultural component to our family, that I valued so dearly, would somehow be detrimental to our child.

But after much discussion with my husband, we decided to simplify something that seemed so complex……We applied our principle of COMPROMISE to this dilemma.  We agreed that the value of culture and tradition was something that we wanted to incorporate into our son’s life.   So….we light the menorah and we also trim a Christmas tree.  We gather at the seder table and we also go on Easter egg hunts. My son loves challah, but he also adores his Lola’s (Filipino for Grandmother) lumpia.IMG_0033

My son is equal parts me and my husband.

He’s part Jewish, part Filipino.  My husband and I do not feel the need to attach a label to him in order to clarify things.  I realize that my son is only two and that as his inner world develops and matures, he will most definitely have questions about who he is.   I may not have all the answers right now, but I am determined to give him the message that his life is ENRICHED and not hindered by his mixed background.  My belief is that this will instill a sense of confidence and pride in him as opposed to confusion and doubt. Besides……..being able to celebrate Hanukkah AND Christmas and having the best of both worlds…….what could be better????

 

 

 

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9 Comments

  • Great article! Kudos to you for not letting others’ doubts drive your decisions. Our tween/ teen daughters were also raised bicultural and have shown no signs of angst or existential crisis. Their lives have been enriched by these differences, not complicated by it. Montreal is a fabulous place to celebrate this interculturalism.

    • Thanks Alissa! I agree, it’s really easy to allow family and friends to influence your choices. So happy to hear you share in my belief that a bi-cultural family can be ENRICHING as opposed to CONFUSING for a child!!

  • I completely agree with you and actually think that your son is sooo lucky! It will make him more open to other cultures and religions when he does grow up into a fine young man. It is beautiful to want to continue traditions in a culture, but it is crippling to say that only one culture or religion is better than another. If anything, he will be very open-minded. You are right about celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas—it IS the best of both worlds! I celebrate Christmas but every year, I am so happy when I get invited to the annual Hanukkah party at my friend’s house 🙂

    • Thanks for you comments Melissa! As you said, my hope is that exposing him to both cultures will enable him to be an open minded and empathic individual. And he gets to enjoy the best of both worlds!

  • Nice write up! I grew up a “mixie” when it wasn’t as common. There will be much that your little guy will have to discover himself as well. The bicultural Native-Scottish veteran is ready to chat if he’s needed! lol! Thanks for sharing:)

  • Could not agree more. Loved the article Steph. We love celebrating all the different holidays and there is never any fighting or confusion as to where we need to go on the 1st or 2nd night of Passover 🙂