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Coping with a multi-cultural family setting

Living halfway across the world is indeed exciting. When I first moved to Miami it was a change of air from all the places I lived in. Eventually I met my girlfriend-turned- wife-turned- mother-of- my-child, the years passed and we kept staying right here in SoFLa. To be honest, we were very aware of cultural and background differences, but we didn’t pay all that much attention to them until $hit got real and we started raising a child together.

For once, my wife tells me we, from the Iberian Peninsula, have a very direct (like overtly direct) way of expressing ourselves. I say we are just very honest. Brazilians, on the other hand, give everything “with a spoon full of sugar” as she’d put it. They believe there is such a thing as too much honesty and avoid telling it like it is as much as they can.

There are big differences and there are subtle ones too, but they add up.  Think about the smallest of things: she has to eat lunch with protein, salad and a side. Every Single Day. I can eat a one-ingredient meal and be like, “I ate”.

We clash a lot, but we know each other so well by now, we know how to handle each other and how to appease each other.

That is not necessarily true with the rest of the family, though. We are “lucky” enough to live thousands of miles away from our relatives, but when they visit, they stayright here in our two bedroom apartment which means they see the good, the bad and the ugly in each of us.

And my MIL visits a lot.

My mother-in- law is the kindest person you will ever meet, she is a dream and she makes other people’s dreams come true too. There’s no one more generous on earth. However, she is very restless and tidy, she enters our home like a hurricane reordering everything on her path. That means she re-orders all my mess and when I complain about “How is a man supposed to find his pants if they are not on the floor where he left them?” my MIL and wife don’t get me.

I have to admit, I purposefully leave unchanged bulbs waiting for my mother-in- law to visit and fix them, knowing she will spend the afternoon laughing about our lack of homeliness, but it is my wife’s fault as much as it is mine, is it not?

 

Now, the one place where there’s a lot of tension is the treatment of our daughter. My MIL spoils her rotten, giving her everything she asks for no matter how absurd. Then, it’s up to us parents to deal with a bratty little girl. We love to get her new things, but believe in smart consumption and doing these things in a more efficient way (shamelessly plugging in Criblis here, lol).

Overall, we somehow manage to maintain peaceful terms. I’m not sure the same lightness can be said about my wife’s relationship with my family.

When they are away and facetime, it is all great. Pictures of the baby, funny videos, everyone is happy. But when my mom visits, it takes exactly 36h for the clashes to begin. My wife is a very tempered, red blooded person. My mother is an old school “my boy can do no wrong-Italian style” (although Spanish) mama.

I am sure a lot of people will relate to my wife, but she tells me what to do at all times, asking for the exact same thing over and over again, to which I calmly answer “give me a minute”. Firstly, it is annoying and secondly, let’s be fair here, I do get around to doing things on my own time.

But by then the earthquake started… “If I have to ask one more time I’ll lose my shit”… (and she does) My mom thinks she should do more, ask less and be more ‘compassionate’ towards me, pobrecito. Not to mention, we tend to have inner-family jokes that my wife just doesn’t get. There is certainly a gigantic difference from what has come to be socially accepted in the U.S. that has hardly been addressed in Spain, I get it. But, I mean, she should at least try to understand our sense of humor, she has been around Spaniards for 5 years now…

Needless to say, raising a multi-cultural child and living in a multi-cultural family has its perks (speaking different languages, great food diversity, tremendous mind expansion), but also its severe downs. I could play a bigger role in diplomacy to keep the ship afloat and prevent the crew from throwing one another in the sea, but sometimes I just sit back, grab some popcorn and watch the house burn down.

What are your experiences with family interactions?

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