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Before You Have Children My wife and I started discussing long before our children were born, how we planned to raise them.
A colleague asked him to develop a seminar on raising well-adjusted, bicultural children, with a focus on “half” children of Japanese-Western parents.
Disclaimers and Full Disclosure Let’s get this out of the way: no preaching, no pontificating. If anything, my goal in writing this is to help two-culture parings of parents better define their own “current situation”, by sharing what my wife and I learned through the years.
In the end, parents are responsible for drawing their own conclusions, and deciding what works best for them.
(Their typical response: “Dad, why are you speaking Japanese to me? ”) It’s worth addressing a popular myth in Japan that says raising children bilingually will “confuse them”.
I’m happy to report that there are enough well-adjusted, bilingual folks in the world to thoroughly debunk this myth.
The Path that Got Us Here Ry was born in Japan in 1986. Over the years I’ve come to understand that many of my Midwestern values parallel those of Japan, so adaptation was relatively easy for me.
Following a career opportunity, I dragged him to Tennessee at the tender age of 18 months, where he continued his rascally ways, speaking Japanese with mom at home, playing with friends in English (Southern English to be precise). But it was a much different “culture” than the north-side Chicago neighborhood I grew up in. In retrospect this gave my wife and me an edge in building a successful intercultural marriage, proof that common values can be found in a relationship if you bother to look for them.
In short, we consistently kept the two languages clean and separate throughout our childrearing years.
So clean, so separate, in fact, that after Ry and Grady got older, they were so thoroughly indoctrinated into this communication pattern that they would refuse to respond to me when, on rare occasion, I’d jokingly speak Japanese to them.
As luck would have it, we soon figured out that we were on the same page.
To my delight I discovered that my “samurai wife” is old school in many ways (A graduate of Japan’s Spartan Physical fitness University, ).
Blessed with some of the best public schools in the nation, my sons shared an educational experience with students of various economic strata, from poor to middleclass to rich.