Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Racist or simply egotist?

Drummer boy has a proper girlfriend. I like her. She is at University, while he is in his last year at Lycée. She is very pretty and fashionably dressed, and they spend every night on MSN talking to each other in code – it is lerve. He has even dusted off the webcam that I bought a while ago only to let it fester in its box, since it is unkind to wrinkles. She also seems to be intelligent, polite, friendly and ever so slightly wary of me, which is as it should be!
So why did I wake up in the night in anguish, realising that my grandchildren would be – O Mi God – French.

When I mentioned this to the family, all hell broke loose, and I was accused of racism amongst my other more usual crimes. Fortunately, we are a family where everyone feels free to point out with wounding precision the weaknesses of their loved ones. I tried to explain that I would feel just the same if I were a French person who had moved to London and had had children. It is the loss of my culture that I am mourning in advance. It is not as though I fell in love with a French man, and should expect French culture to be the natural heritage of my children. I have lived in lots of different countries before France, but never stayed anywhere for very long, so it is sheer luck that we lodged here, like a marble caught in a crack.

My children appear to be English, but they can also pass for French when they want to:
they can laugh with me at Sid James in a Carry On film; read Harry Potter in English so that they can drop hints to the other children in the playground before the French translation comes out; they can sing most of the Beatles’ songs, and play quite a few of them; appreciate Elgar’s cello concerto; laugh at Monty Python.
I am scratching my head as I hopelessly try to define Englishness, and realise that I am not really English anyway, being Irish/Jewish. And my sweet H is of Viking and Scottish descent. And that my cultural references are all in the past; because that is where ex-patriots tend to live.
If I am honest with myself, I just want them to be like me, and I don’t like the idea that my grandchildren will be even less like me. Which is ridiculous, isn’t it?

At least neither of them likes chanson française or I would have to write them out of my will…but no, French law won’t allow me to do that...


Anonymous said...

well yes, msn is usefull when you want to speak to someone and that you dont want your parent to understand! ;)
anyway, I undestand your thoughts about you following generations but what ever will be, will be, kay sara, sara...[english version! ^^]

great blog

your blue/green haired toddler

hexe said...

I have finally started to accept that my children will not be brought up with some of the great joys of my childhood such as my grandparents farm and the family camp on the lake. I don't think its racist, more just wanting your children (and grandchildren) to have a common history.

Rosie said...

you are right, don't worry about what you can't change.

hexe thank you for confirming that I am simply an egotist

Lucy said...

I really don't think it's racist, that implies an imbalance of power to me and I don't think that's the point. Biculturalism, if that's an acceptable term, like bilingualism, always incurs losses as well as gains, in many ways it makes life more rich and interesting but I guess there will always be incomprehensible and difficult aspects to it also.

But the fact that your children are happy sticking around in France but also being English sounds really good; many seem to decide during their alienated teenage years that all would be well if they were only back where they really belong, in England, ditch their French education etc and head for a perceived spiritual home Back There which generally disappoints.

Rosie said...

you are right, Lucy, it is a good thing that the children are as at home here as they are in England, where they visit to stay with godparents, so they know that it is not the promised land. Ever since they were small, we emphasized the fact that we live in the world not just a country. I am panicking before the fact. My imaginary grandchildren will probably not even be French...more likely the children will take our restless genes even further afield, and I wont even understand their language.