Many years ago an American friend once asked me if I considered my children to be Irish or American. I didn’t hesitate for one second before I answered emphatically:
“My children are American.”
I feel very strongly that, as an Irish-born mother of four American kids I must try to raise them without any trace of an identity crisis. I want them to be proud of being American, all the while embracing their Irish heritage.
This is no mean feat.
My Own Childhood Identity Crisis:
I grew up in Dublin, but both my parents were from County Cork. I spent a lot of my childhood on my grannys’ farms, but when I was there I always knew I was not a true Corkonian, even though I had as much Cork blood flowing through my veins as any of my cousins.
Now Cork people are very proud of their county. There is a saying:
“Irish by birth, Cork by the grace of God.”
This line was made famous by Cork’s most illustrious soccer playing son, Roy Keane, when he used it in his autobiography.
I remember feeling different when visiting Cork. There, people loved to call me “a little jackeen”. The problem was in Dublin, I was not truly viewed as “a Dub”. I heard the term “culchie” more than once, an Irish term for someone born in rural Ireland. I didn’t know where I belonged.
I don’t want history to repeat itself with my little ones, so I am doing my best to raise four proud Americans.
My Little Americans In Ireland:
When we were back in Ireland last year my Mom asked my four-year old son what he learned at school. We were all sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit after dinner.
“I learned about America,” he replied.
“Oh tell me what you learned,” she asked.
“I learned this.”
He stood up on his chair and placed his hand across his chest, before devoutly reciting the pledge of allegiance:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of
America, and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.”
We all clapped, but my mom looked a little shocked.
“That was lovely,” she stuttered.
After the kids had gone to bed, my Mom confessed his beautiful recitation of the pledge made her feel very emotional. It was the first time she realized my kids are Americans, first and foremost.
My Son Realizes He Is Different To Other Kentuckians:
When we returned from Ireland to Kentucky after a lovely summer with family, my oldest boy was full of the joys of Ireland. He spoke about it constantly, so much so, one friend at school grew tired of listening to his talk of the old sod.
“Why don’t you go back to Ireland?” the little boy asked.
My son was devastated. He cried on his pillow that night as I tucked him in.
“But I’m American, mom,” he sobbed. “I’m your Dallas Cowboy.”
I held his hand and cuddled him, reassuring him he was my little Texan. When he finally fell asleep, I said a little prayer, knowing the issue of true identity may be with my children through life. Only they can answer the question of identity for themselves.
A Story For Our Immigrant Tales Section:
Last week I was contacted by Damien Fox, a young American writer from Chicago. Damien’s parents were both born in Ireland. When he grew up he had to determine which path he wished to follow (a decision my children may also face).
Did he wish to be Irish, all the while living in America
and pining for a country he visited as a child?
Is he a proud American, choosing to belong to a vibrant
community of family and friends?
He wrote a heart-warming and poignant piece about his Irish American journey, sharing the story of his personal identity crisis. Come back tomorrow to read his brilliant guest post.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)