A few weeks ago, my husband and I were asked to come to our daughter’s school to share something about our different cultures with the 120 children in reception. Now we both have quite a bit of public speaking experience, but standing in front of so many four and five-year-olds was a rather new experience (at least for me)!
My favourite bit was when we asked our daughter to come forward and put four different flags around her. The Dutch, Belgian, British and Congolese. We asked the children: “So what do you think she is?”
We continued: “Like many of you she is fortunate, because she has many places to choose to call home. She was born in the UK and is growing up here, so this is home for her. But home is also were her mum came from (Netherlands), where her dad spent most of his life (Belgium), and were her dad was born (Congo). Even though at times it might feel confusing or it can be difficult to explain, we think she is fortunate, because she gets the best of all those worlds.”
Our presentation was part of a project looking at the richness of different cultures. Today the term came to an end with a special celebration. The children were asked to dress up in their traditional clothes. Of course, this is not as straightforward as it might sound. Our daughter has so many different cultures to choose from. She ended up wearing an African dress, combined with her black spotty Hema* leggings 😉 Unfortunately, the clogs she owns are still a size too big so impossible to walk on all the way to school.
It was wonderful to see all the children walking to school so proud of the different cultures they represent. Bearing in mind that most of them were most likely born in this country, so are as much British as anything else. I did notice how it had been much harder for the kids who are “just” English to find a suitable outfit. It made me reflect on British identity and how there doesn’t seem to be much of a traditional outfit, but somehow all the different outfits of all those children represent what it means to be part of this country.
I found it quite emotional to witness this scene the day after Article 50 was triggered and the negotiations for Brexit have officially started. Looking at it through the eyes of these children, who were so excited to share something of their beautiful differences with their friends and teachers…
[*My favourite Dutch shop]