Whether it’s the shooting in Tunisia, The NAACP leadership debate or people asking me if I’m American, the issue of identity is ubiquitous.
The first time I had to address this was on arrival in the UK and having to complete forms that asked for my ethnic origin. I’ve opted for Black Caribbean. Though I know many Caribbeans choose Mixed.
I know that when people see me, my African heritage is what they see most. This has become even more important as my life partner is Ghanaian. In Qatar, people often make the sign of the cross over the continent in trying to find out where I’m from. Egypt? This I didn’t understand until I met a few Nubians. Ethiopia/Eritrean? South African? Nigerian – okay, this I understand, as West Africa was the starting point in that most nefarious of triangular trades.
I live in a place where the colour of your passport can make a difference to how much you earn, whether your dependents can live or visit you or which school your child attends. The answer I give depends on who’s asking the question.
If you’re an official or trying to put me in one of your pre-defined boxes, I’m British. If you’re from India/Sri Lanka, I’ll say West Indian so we can connect on the current sorry state of WI cricket and legends like Sobers, Richards and Lara. If you’re brown, and even if you’re not, and you make eye contact, I’ll acknowledge you with a smile or a nod.
Identity is complex yet comprised of two main components: how you see yourself and how others see you. This may imply stasis but with ISIS brides and multiple citizenship, identity is fluid and can be a currency.
What’s your identity?
Last week, my older son was denied, as punishment, attending football. It was his Dad’s suggestion but our decision. These decisions aren’t easy. Meanwhile, the younger one is on a new pair of sandals every 6-8 weeks.
We’re aware of how blessed our kids are with the lifestyle we afford them. Keeping the kids rooted in reality is one of the recurring themes in expat conversations. Another is the balance of enjoying the present while saving for the future especially as university fees in the UK are quickly catching up with USA ones.
The lessons don’t have to be harsh. A few days earlier, I got in and the tv was off but the living room was still noisy. My three boys were engaged in a battle of junior monopoly which is quite different from adult monopoly but a fun way of teaching financial fundamentals remains.
Whether it’s the step or the steer, many of our approaches to parenting, is a direct reflection of how we were parented. Whenever my brother is complemented on his son’s behaviour, he remarks that he’s just doing what he knows, parenting as he was parented.
When you’re a kid you think your dad will be around forever. A few friends lost their dads this year and this reminds us of our dads’ mortality. It’s been 6 years since I last saw mine. We talk, not as often as I’d like but an 8 hour time difference will do that to you. I’m praying that I get to see him this year and he meets his, at the time of writing, only grandchildren.
I often find myself doing or saying things that remind me of Daddy. And I see his traits in both sons and can’t wait for him to discover them too. Until we see you, Happy Fathers’ day Daddy from my boys and me.
Happy Father’s day to my husband who’s doing a fine job on raising his sons.
Have you wished someone Happy Fathers’ Day today?