The smell of peanut and spice fills the air of our warm home while my husband moves his feet to African hiplife music as he stirs the pot of soup on the stove. Our daughter, an incredibly curious 2-year-old, sits on the countertop hovering just close enough to see him dicing up onions and tomatoes, her mouth watering and her little body rocking to the beats. From the moment we found out we were pregnant, my husband and I promised we would raise our child to embrace both of her cultures and have her spend holidays in both Ghana and the US. The beauty of his culture is easy to embrace and share with our daughter, but as adults raised in entirely different worlds, our cultural differences have us working daily to maintain balance and understanding.
Sharing our foods, languages, music, dance, books, and hobbies has been seamless. Our little one has shown a preference to Ghanaian dishes, which could simply be because my husband is a far better cook than I am, or also because we all favor this food in our home (we cook Ghanaian food and listen to African hiplife most of the time). The other days, I’m usually trying to come up with a well-balanced meal while Taylor Swift is on repeat.
I’m a very strong American woman. I’m punctual, I worry, and I’m fiercely independent. I think constantly about the future and I cry, a lot. Some of this is just who I am, and some is due to American culture. My husband is free-spirited at heart, very positive, is always at least 30 minutes late, lives in the now, and doesn’t bother much with plans and worrying about the future. So as we entered into the new world of parenting, living in the States, raising a Ghanaian and American daughter who we both want to be strong and kind with a respect for all cultures, it’s been a bit of a juggling act.
My husband, the star of this act, has learned to adapt to an American style of parenting, although he was raised quite differently. For instance: a child in Ghana would not be welcomed into a conversation or setting where adults are having a conversation, they would be asked to excuse themselves. Most parents don’t hover, and it’s common for large groups of kids to go off and explore together, the eldest of the group typically keeping a watchful eye. They are strict with their discipline and in his upbringing, any family member can discipline a child. But he’s quick to point out the things he loves that I do with our daughter that he sees as culturally American: spending a lot time with her, reading to her before she was even born, and using distraction instead of only command. My goal isn’t for him to lose his beliefs as we raise a child, but for us to learn from each other. He’s picked up my broken pieces as a mom, teaching me that it is OK to let go of structure, and I’ve shown him the fun in being a caregiver and a playmate, crawling with her on the floor and drawing fishies 500 times in a row.
Some days everything runs smoothly, and others, we end up in a silent battle until one of us opens up. We’re still learning daily, but we know that with this great challenge also comes real beauty. And that beauty reminds us why we chose this life together.
Our daughter is bilingual. She’s learning traditional Ghanaian dance but also loves moving to American pop music. She gets messy eating Ghanaian food with her hands but also loves a good bowl of pasta and veggies. And as she grows and our family makes roots and perhaps more children, we hope to maintain balance, communication, and grow together, always embracing both sides of our family and culture. And when the tough days come, I hope we can find solace in our warm kitchen, cooking up a pot of peanut soup, dancing, music filling our ears, and love filling our hearts.
Follow Jacquelene and her multi-cultural family as they create a life full of diversity and adventure on Instagram @extraordinarydaisy.