Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The baby-related blog entry

I finished that Ikea shelf system (all by myself!). Not without a few snafus which I’d like to blame on the sometimes too subtle pictograms that Ikea uses as instructions. Soon my husband and I will put together the crib (let’s see how smoothly that goes, he he). Physically we’re getting things prepared for bébé. But the fact that our baby has an American mom and a French papa adds some other things to our checklist.

This morning for instance I was looking online to see about getting our little croissan’wich a US passport. I think it will make things easier when we travel back to the US (for one thing she can stay with me in the line and probably get through more quickly when we land back there). I found out that she will automatically be a US citizen even without us lifting a finger, because of my citizenship. Of course, I’ll also speak English to the baby, so she can understand her Yankee relatives, while her papa will communicate in French.

But besides a passport and linguistic abilities, I feel that I must pass on some cultural heritage to our baby. I may live in France and speak some French every day, but I’ll always be American and never quite fit the French mold. Cue the Lee Greenwood music now. And I want to make sure that our baby has American values. By that I don’t mean Bush values, but more like an American side. That he or she knows that America is not just the land of McDonald’s (though I will take baby there, too!) or SUVs and the newest American starlet. That it’s her country, too, just as much as France will be. I’ll make sure she knows about Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie and the fourth of July and hot baked Tollhouse cookies. Yes, that about sums up the American experience, right?

Oh, it’s so much richer than that, I know. Those little things like a random airport worker calling you “darling” when she tells you how to get to gate 4. Or since I’m from the South, the joy of a nice cold homemade milkshake on a sweltering July day. The sound of a good summer thunderstorm. Chatting up the people in line at the Piggly Wiggly. I suppose it’s hard to define it.

What I definitely don’t want is for our child to turn up her nose at the US like some French do. To hear something like “All Americans are fat and want to rule the world” coming out of my child’s mouth would be a sure sign that I’ve failed to show her the real fiber of my country. And without living there a long time, it can be hard to get a real feel for a place and not reduce it to stereotypes. And I guess to be fair, I’ll have to limit my own sometimes negative comments about France in front of bébé. Because France is her country, too, and perhaps most of the time she’ll feel it’s more her homeland than the US. Hmm, bringing up a bicultural baby might be a bit more complicated than I thought.

Maybe my readers (all two of you!) can tell me what it means to you to be a (North) American…?

1 comment:

Jenenz said...

Being American is to have a dream and making it come true. Just like how you made your dreams come true. And it's about freedom, using your powers for the good of all people, and accepting people for who they are (the melting pot!) The Free Speech Movement, the Women's movement, enjoying all kinds of cultural influences (food, language, art, music). Okay, there's that darn Disneyland too, Pixar, Silicon Valley, Rock n' Roll music, Jazz, apple pie, hot dogs, and baseball. For me growing up in California, there's majestic Yosemite, Mono Lake, and the giant redwoods. And, the Golden Gate Bridge over the San Francisco Bay. I guess we're just very enthusiastic over here in the states. Everyone has potential to be the best they can be.