Today is a special day in the Dunford-Castro household. Our daughter, Aisha, is 15 years old today. Of course birthdays of your children are always special days, but since my wife Loly is from Ecuador in South America today is the day our daughter should be celebrating her Quinceanera.
For the unitiated, the Quinceanera is a big thing in Latin Countries. It marks the transition from child to young woman and is an excuse for a big party, usually quite formal. For the past year my wife has been trying to persuade my daughter that she should have a formal Quinceanera to celebrate this important rite of passage in a young Latina’s life.
Aisha for her part has rejected this idea, preferring the concept of the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ as a landmark birthday to celebrate. In so doing she has inadvertently made a stand about her own cultural leanings, marking herself as someone quite different, foreign even to her adoring mother.
I can’t imagine how this feels for my wife. When Aisha was born our plan was to leave England before Aisha started school and raise our children in South America, where they could grow up with their cousins in a close knit family environment. But 15 years on and the great escape hasn’t happened and probably never will. On top of the financial implications of the move we now have to contend with the stubborn resistance of a determined fifteen year old girl firmly entrenched in the English academic system.
More importantly, Aisha ‘s identity is that of an English girl. She is fiercely ambitious and very capable, and above all else, she has a plan. A plan that doesn’t involve picking up sticks and travelling halfway around the world to a country that speaks a language we have been negligent in teaching her.
And who could blame her really? This is our dream, not hers. She is almost of an age where she can legally claim independence from us if we were to force the issue, and thinks that her education would suffer if we denied her GCSEs.
The truth is that my wife comes from a much better background than me. No its true, I can almost hear your gasps of shock and disbelief at this revelation, but fact is fact. My wife belongs to the old and prestigious Castro family, who can trace their ancestry back through generations as shipping magnates to the Knights and Conquistadors that heralded from the mother Country, Spain.
My own ancestry is slightly less glamorous, boasting a short, ginger semi-professional footballer and a peasant deported to Australia for the ignominy of stealing a turnip. Yes, I know I am punching above my weight here, but they have graciously accepted me with open arms and I am proud to call them my family.
I want my children to know this beautiful, colourful aspect to their family, and to learn to know themselves better, their culture and their heritage. I want them to be open to all the wonderful possibilities that knowing life in another land can bring. The love of their uncles, aunts, cousins and especially the wonderful Tita, their Abuela.
We have a narrow window of opportunity when we can still make this decision for our daughter, still take the incredible adventure and start that new life in the sun. Will she thank us? I think not. Are we right to take this decision? I don’t know. We have agonised over this for several years, and I believe that our beautiful, intelligent, funny, kind children will all thrive wherever we take them, so long as we continue to put the time and effort in. But I don’t know, what do any of us truly know about the future?
What do you think?
Next year, if all goes well, we will make our decision. I’ll keep you posted. Who do we think we are?
Mum and Dad.
Happy Birthday sweetheart, I love you. xx