I grew up experiencing two different cultures. My mom is American and has English and German origins. My dad is originally Palestinian, but his family migrated to Egypt and then to Saudi Arabia. I was born in the United States and spent my childhood in Saudi Arabia; then my family returned to the States. Life has been quite interesting and a great learning experience from being raised in two different worlds.
On my mom’s side of the family I get to have the all-American experience of football, barbecue and the pride Americans have for their country. While on my dad’s side of the family, I get to have an all-Arab experience of hospitality, lots of rice and lamb and the value of respecting my elders.
During my time overseas, I attended an all-girls Arab school and my teachers only taught in Arabic with the occasional English lesson. At home my mom would make my siblings and I speak English because she figured one day we would be back and would need to integrate into American culture.
Once we moved back, my parents’ roles reversed, and my dad only allowed Arabic speaking at home, so my siblings and I wouldn’t forget our second language. Today, I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced both cultures at a young age, and I’m able to speak both languages fluently.
Being raised culturally diverse has taught me to embrace each of those cultures and to respect their differences as well.
Growing up, I didn’t like being the “mixed” girl, but as an adult it’s made me realize that I have a much better understanding and tolerance for other cultures, religions and ethnicities. I think these traits are very valuable to have in our society today.
My husband comes from a mixed culture as well, the only difference between us is that his Arab culture is a bit different than mine, which adds a new learning experience for myself and for him (all Arab cultures are different depending on the country and even speak different dialects of Arabic). When we got married all these differences integrated into a new family.
When we had our first son and then our second son, we wanted to foster a diverse culture for both boys and teach them everything about each of our mixed cultures.
My oldest son is currently in kindergarten and as early as I can remember, I’ve always had parents and teachers ask why my husband and I don’t just raise our sons the “American way” and only speak in English since we are Americans.
My answer to them is that I’m preparing my children to live in a world that is starting to embrace differences more each day. The opportunities my kids will get to have from being able to communicate and understand different cultures will benefit them greatly.
In my opinion, here are the benefits of raising multicultural children:
1. Teaches children another language
While anyone can learn another language, coming from a multicultural home forces a child to learn another language to communicate with other family members. Knowing another language has helped my sons communicate with my Arab side of the family.
Knowing a second language also helps in analytical skills and creativity, and it enables children to learn even more languages because their brain have been wired differently than those speaking only one language. Case in point: When I was in high school, learning a third language came to me easily.
2. They will enjoy trying new experiences and food.
Coming from a multicultural home will open children’s taste buds and their willingness to try new cuisines. It also opens the door to experiencing art, music and dance of other cultures.
3. They will enjoy having a diverse group of friends and will continue to foster diverse friendships.
Growing up, I had a diverse group of friends from many countries, and thanks to that, I have a good understanding of other cultures. Having diverse friendships will help enhance a child for the global market. Four out of five new jobs in the U.S. are created because of foreign trade.
It also will provide them better opportunities in government, military, technology, education and medicine. There have been numerous times that my son’s teachers ask me to help them with other ethnically diverse students. My husband has been asked to provide cultural and language lessons to soldiers before deployments overseas.
4. Makes children tolerant of other people’s cultures, heritage and beliefs
Children will respect, accept and appreciate the rich diversity of our world’s cultures and religions. We see how diverse the United States has become and the different ethnic and religious groups that are here today making up our cities and towns. Children who are multicultural will create positive attitudes and less prejudice toward people.
5. Eager to learn about other countries and fosters a sense of travel and exploration of this beautiful world.
Traveling forces a child to experience a new place and to see firsthand how other people live day to day. Exploring new countries is the best history and architecture lesson a child will ever receive. Last year, my family and I were fortunate enough to visit Jordan and experience Petra and lots of other rich history sites. My husband and I were able to educate my older son about the Nabataean people and he got to see firsthand the great architecture that this ancient group built. Today, my son is ready to explore another new place and always asks when we’ll be traveling again.
Raising children in a multicultural home has its challenges. However, as they grow up, they will begin to appreciate their differences and all the unique opportunities this world has to offer.
Aishah Eljirby was born and raised in Indiana and spent a few years of her childhood overseas. She met her husband at their local mosque 8 years ago, and it’s been a fun Army Aviation adventure since. In the last 8 years, they have gone from being an Army National Guard family to Army Reserves.
Aishah is currently a stay at home mom to two fun boys, and she has a passion for science and volunteers at her son’s school’s science lab. She also occasionally tutors college anatomy and Arabic.
She loves reading and traveling and considers herself fortunate to have a husband who also is a pilot in the civilian world, which allows them to travel and experience different cultures and gastronomy and to teach their boys how beautiful this world is.
You can read her last guest post here.