Pucker Up! A Bicultural Kid Conundrum

"Mom, we do not kiss kids at school."

I'm tucking Gabriella under the covers when she tells me this handy tip. I'm resisting a full-on face palm. Of course I'm the mother of the classroom kisser.

"Um... were you kissing kids at school, Gabriella?" Please say no. Please say no.

"Yes." Oh dear. "Well, I was playing with Anthony, and his daddy came to pick him up. So I gave him a hug and a kiss. And Ms Kayce couldn't stop laughing. And she told me 'we do not kiss kids at school.'"

"Where did you kiss him?" I asked.

"On the cheek."

And I couldn't help but smile and giggle a little bit myself. Billy has always taught our kids to hug and kiss people good-bye. It's cultural. And it's a habit Gabriella has truly "embraced."

I am so used to her hugging and kissing her friends good-bye that I've never stopped to think how they may feel. Of course, at our Latino church, it's no big deal. And most non-Latino friends in our circle don't seem to have a problem with it. It honestly never occurred to me that she would be kissing friends good-bye at school.

But she is. I am the mother of the classroom kisser.

So I'm feeling a bit stuck. I think I mumbled something about how yes, we don't kiss kids at school. Maybe I mentioned that we do kiss kids at church. I'm sure whatever I said was inspired and clear.

Basically, I'm trying to figure out how to teach my daughter to code switch. If you've not heard that term before, it's technically a linguistics term used to describe the act of switching between different languages or variations in a single conversation. Thanks to NPR, code switch is starting to be used more broadly to describe all the ways we adjust our language and actions based on cultural situations.

I feel responsible to teach Gabriella how to adjust her greetings and kissings based on her cultural context. But there's another part of me that worries I shouldn't. Another whisper in my brain says I should talk to the teacher and explain she's half-Latina and will continue kissing children good-bye. I probably won't do that, but still I wonder.

At the same time, I've watched and read enough immigrant stories to recognize the proverbial "stinky lunchbox" we are sending with her to school. I don't want her to feel reprimanded or mocked for the things we teach her. I never want her to look back and say, "My parents taught me to kiss kids and then I was made fun of at school."

Thankfully, Gabriella didn't seem to feel any sense of shame. I think she liked the feeling of making her teacher laugh more than anything. But I'm definitely entering new territory parenting a bicultural kid. I feel pulled between my desire to help her embrace her multicultural identity and my hope that she will not feel embarrassed in front of her classmates.

I'd love to hear your thoughts or experiences. I've had this nagging feeling that I may need to circle back around with her about the incident at school, but I'm still not sure what to tell her. What would you say? 

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  1. I wonder about those things too - how to help Micah embrace his multicultural identity without feeling embarrassed about it!

  2. It's a tricky balance to be sure!


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