One of the reasons spurring a more open conversation on this blog, was thinking about how I want to raise these boys, especially as they get to teenage years. This culture is so vastly different to any of my own experience growing up that the older they grow the more complex it seems and thinking ahead freaks me out. I know that much of what they experience and feel will be new ground, as for any parent, but usually you do it from common ground to draw on. Even though times have changed things, you still understand the base line. Practically, it’s not a problem. Dealing with this big brother “abi” culture and the nuances that must entail, G can guide them wherever I’m lost culturewise, but emotionally we’ll both be out of their loop unless we make a real conscious effort to be in it. We won’t have felt what it is to be a bilingual teenager splitting their life between two different worlds; we won’t understand how that influences decisions, dreams, plans & personalities until we see the boys doing it themselves. Their definition is different, even terminology separates us and our sweet, growing “third culture kids”.
Little as they are, even now we’re given clues in the way they speak when they talk in both tongues, in the words they choose to express certain feelings and the language they talk to each other in. This summer I’ve sat inside listening to them on the balcony jabbering away in kid-Turkish using phrases I’ve had to zargan. Its ok that their language expands my own, there’s nothing unexpected or unnerving about that and M especially loves swapping teacher roles. The part that takes me aback is how the meaning and approach reflects their culture not mine. Whereas I’m “popping to the loo”, they say they’re “going to empty some water”, where i’d have shouted “Charge!” as a foam sword led me into battle with imaginary foes, they mimic friends charging to the call of “Allah Akbar!”; their games of tag involve a home-base on a tree and they’ve never played “ring a ring a roses”. Even now while they’re still little enough to curl themselves into my lap (even as their legs are trying vigorously to outgrow that possibility) our references are distanced, separated. So I learn right there with them and follow their lead on comfort zones, even as that takes me further out of mine.
Its early. The boys are asleep – T curled up in the gap on the floor between my bed and the dresser, a duvet fashioned as a make-shift summer mattress, M spread-eagled in the bed itself. My foot itches where mosquitos attacked and the call to prayer ringing out from three mosques simultaneously creates its own harmony with a synchronicity glitch. I’m sleepy and should go back to bed, but I’m sitting here trying to figure this out because I feel I’ve no idea at all what I’m doing. The only clarity is the wish for them to wear their differences with pride, as a thing of bounties not a hurdle to overcome. And that, I think, starts with my heart being right there on my sleeve and honest about this journey we’re on. A Turklish BritTurk family living Islam in a post-religion world. We were never going to be uncomplicated!