NETHERLANDS: The Perfect Fit

NETHERLANDS: The Perfect Fit

DSC_0265I’ve always had trouble knowing where to fit in. I have never known which box I was supposed to climb in or which label to stick on my forehead.

I was born in Surinam, but most of my life I have lived in the Netherlands.

My parents had a strong sense of culture and raised me accordingly.

We lived in a small town in the northern part of Holland that did not have many people of color.

Needless to say, things outside of my home were very different to things inside.

In my home there were loud voices and singing, dancing and vibrant music.

Outside of the home it felt like I needed to be ashamed of my mother’s loud voice,and I tried my best not to speak too loud.

Around my family I felt at home and liked my braids and dark skin.

Outside home, old ladies would sometimes come up to me and touch my ‘strange’ hair, and make me wish my skin wasn’t making it impossible to blend in or disappear.

There was lots of loud laughter in our home. My mother would read Anansi stories and we would laugh hysterically.

Outside of the home, I could not explain to people why any story that starts with: “Dear God, can you make everyone that laughs at someone else drop dead instantly…” is going to be a really funny one.

In Surinam culture it’s very important that children learn to respect their parents and older people. You never talk back, you never raise your voice and you always look down when you are spoken to by an adult.

At school the teacher would say: Look at me when I talk to you!

At home my parents would speak to each other and family members in Sranang tongo, their native tongue. They would speak to us in a mixture of Dutch and Surinamese, we spoke to them in Dutch. With my sisters I spoke in a mixture of Dutch and Surinamese. 

At school I spoke Dutch and there were so many things I could not talk about or explain because there was no word for it in Dutch. 

At birthdays, we had parties with lots of family and friends coming in from everywhere, staying for dinner and sleeping over. My mother would cook lots of food, aunts would help in the kitchen and the house was filled with all of these wonderful festive smells, and we would eat until we could eat no more.

When I was invited to a party of one of my friends, we sat in a quiet circle with mostly old family members having a polite conversation and we were given a piece of cheese with a little vlag stick (it’s a Dutch thing), everyone left before dinner and there was absolutely no music.

Growing up in these two cultures thought me how to adapt. I learned how to behave and what was expected of me in each situation. And because I was such a people pleaser, by the time I was in my teens, I could blend in anywhere and everywhere. and I knew what was expected of me. I also had lots of interest in different people.  

The people I called my friends were a variety of ages, colors, cultures and mixtures and I loved every one of them.

Still, I always felt different.

 Where did I fit in?

I’m an adult now. I married a man whose skin color is the exact opposite of mine (no matter how much sun he gets). My children are of mixed culture. Their skin color is a mixture of ours, their hair is mixed, curly but not as curly as mine, dark but not as dark as mine.

My husband sometimes plays his (terrible) Dutch songs and I sing and dance with my children to old Surinam children’s songs. When we celebrate there’s lots of family and lots of food but no music, because my husband says he can’t have a conversation with music in the background. I teach my children to respect their parents and older people, but I also teach them that it’s okay to speak up and look people in the eye.

I mostly speak Dutch, but when emotional I turn to my native tongue, although my kids hardly understand what it is that I’m talking about.

So where do I fit in?

I think here. With my own family a perfect mixture of black and white, Dutch and Surinam, east and west, I fit here.

Do you have a mixture of cultures in your family? How do you adapt?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of The Netherlands.

Photo credit to the author.

Mirjam

Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera. Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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NETHERLANDS: Interview with Mirjam of Apples and Roses

NETHERLANDS: Interview with Mirjam of Apples and Roses

MirjamWhere in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

I live in the Netherlands but I was born in Surinam. 

 What language(s) do you speak?

I speak Dutch, English and Surinamese and I also have a rudimentary knowledge of German and French.

 When did you first become a mother?

I became a mother almost eleven years ago, when I gave birth to my son Jason.

 Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?

I was a stay at home Mom but for the past couple of years I have been working one day a week. I still feel like a stay at home Mom, though.

 Why do you blog/write?

I started to blog because I needed an outlet for my creativity and a space where I could express myself. Once I started, it became so much more: a document for my kids; a report of my journey and struggle with depression; a place to inspire and encourage others; a special spot on the internet to honor my soul and mostly a mirror in which I could see myself in a positive way.

How would you say that you are different from other mothers?

This is such a tough question to answer! I think I am different because of my background. I  had some difficulties early in life that have permanently influenced my personality. I choose not to say damaged because I find, as a result, I can still grasp the concept of childhood. I still completely know what it feels like to be a child. That makes it easier to place myself in the shoes of my kids. And that is a big part of the way I parent my kids.

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

It is my opinion that society nowadays encourages self-centeredness. It is all about self-fulfillment, self-development. I want to raise my children to be compassionate. I would like for their lives to be a blessing to others, that they not only live for themselves. 

How did you find World Moms Blog?

I found World Moms Blog via Twitter.

This is an original interview and our second post from our new writer in the Netherlands and mother of two, Mirjam.

Mirjam

Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera. Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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