"Aunty . . . Aunty Who?"

Oldie but goodie- back in 2014

Oldie but goodie- back in 2014

"That's Aunty . . . Aunty who?" asked my two-year old. My daughter had been introduced to so many aunties, uncles, and "other" grandmas and "other" grandpas in Cameroon. It was a funny moment for me when she asked me to name the newest Aunty again. In a way, it didn't matter if it was Aunty Flor or Aunty Folem, she could just call any of them Aunty without their actual given names. This is how it is in Cameroon (and other places I've lived, like Brazil). 

 

One of the main reasons we want to keep our daughter closely connected with her Cameroonian roots is to maintain a sense of respect for other people, and for elders in particular, that is deeply ingrained in their culture. In America, we have pernicious ageism, whereby elder people are written off most of the time as senile and outdated. I've had to fight this bias in my own perceptions both here and abroad. Those little thoughts in my head that disregard advice from my grandfather (or from anyone older than me really). It's all around and it's real. 

 

My mother asked me when I returned last month what I thought struck our daughter the most. I recounted how we would introduce all of the new friends and relatives as "Aunty" or "Grandma." "That's another grandma," I'd say as an elderly woman would meet us for the first time. "Oh, other grandma," my little girl would nod with understanding. I like how this title ties us to the people we met. When someone is an aunty or a grandma, you immediately understand that even though they may not actually be your blood relative, they deserve the respect that any family member deserves. Teaching our daughter to respect every person she meets, whether it's for the first time or the hundredth, is an important step in raising a conscientious and open little person who can connect with people of all walks of life.