“Come on, Bailey, let’s go,” I said waving good bye to his day care mates and the teachers.
“Mommy, no English, please. My ears hurt,” came Bailey’s reply like a thousand needles right to my heart.
I can understand how he feels. He wants to fit in. He wants to have friends. He wants to play and have fun. These are all great, wonderful things. I just don’t want him to forget the “English side” of him too.
When he first started going to daycare, one of the teachers pulled me aside and said, “Do you always speak English to Bailey?”
“Yes, I guess so,” was my reply.
“That’s not really a good idea,” she shook her head, “He needs Japanese more than English.”
At that exact moment it occurred to me that cultural sensitivity wasn’t part of her training. It made me mad to hear. But more than that, it made me sad. As the saying in Japan goes, “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”
It is hard to maintain your own cultural identity when you live in a foreign country. As hard as I try to pass on traditions like trick or treating, Easter egg hunts, the real meaning of Christmas, it all just seems to get swallowed up and mutated to the Japanese way. This is something I have never gotten used to.
I have never gotten used to the idea of Christmas being solely about presents. I have never gotten used to the idea of such a strong group mentality. I have never gotten used to being criticized for doing it the “American way.”
I am sad but I am soldiering on with plans for a Halloween party for Bailey’s day care (the “American way”) with bobbing for apples and treat bags and costumes.
Hopefully, someday English won’t hurt Bailey’s ears as much and he will be proud of the fact that he is unique. Someday my caterpillar will emerge from his cocoon a beautiful, multicolored butterfly.
Baily’s mother, Trisha Yonekura, is an American married to a Japanese. She and her family live in Japan. You can learn more about her and her family at: baileyandsophie.blogspot.com.