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10 Things Caribbean American Children Need to Know (and Probably Already Do)

I was raised in a Caribbean home in the States. I learned a few things along the way – survival skills, if you will – that may or may not have applied to other households. Check out this list and see whether or not your childhood included these “rules” or not. Share your experience in the comments!

1. “Fresh” smelling or tasting is usually not good.

Nothing should smell “fresh.” Not your food, and certainly not you. If your Caribbean mom or dad tells you that you smell fresh? Go bathe. Change your clothes. Wash those clothes. Smelling “fresh” in a Caribbean household is equivalent to “smelling like outside” in an African American household. Food that smells or tastes “fresh” is also a no-no. If you make something, and your Caribbean family or friend tells you that it is tasting or smelling “fresh,” it isn’t in the “you should be on a cooking show this is excellent” sort of fresh. It is the “what you season this thing with,” sort of fresh that should be avoided.

You might also like: 22 Things African American and Caribbean American Families Have in Common

2. Wining your waist in public between 3 and 18 is totally unacceptable (unless you are on the parade route).

Once you reach 3 years old, wining is for at home only, until you are 18 and out of the house.  At West Indian house parties, the young people party with the older people.  I could have easily been at the same house party with my mother when I was 16 or 17.  Could I wine on a man up in there? No. Nope. Naw. Nuh uh. Noooooooooo….. I got scared just typing that. No.

3. Most of the questions your parents ask are not meant to be answered.

I don’t ask questions that I don’t know the answer to already.  Questions like, “Ya mad or what?” are not questions at all. That is me letting them know that whatever they did was crazy and totally unacceptable. “Did you make your bed?” I have already been in your room and seen your bed. It isn’t made. Just say, “no, mommy” and make your way into that room. If you see anything else that you haven’t done, you better fix that too. That question was pretty much, “I’ve been in your room… fix it.”

4. They have choices.

They have choices between what I want them to do, and the other thing I want them to do.  For example, at dinner, I ask if they want broccoli or spinach.  Those are the choices.  I do not offer the option of no vegetable at all, because that choice is unavailable.

5. Anything can be curry.

Curry is a familiar taste to them, and they expect that it could be in just about anything from fish to fruit, and they are okay with it. They better be okay with it.

6. No one is to be barefoot in public… with maybe two exceptions.

You must have shoes or socks or both on your feet.  Babies, socks. Children, at least slippers (flip flops). Sometimes when we go out to play soccer, I will let them take off their shoes and socks, so that they can feel the grass under their feet, but that’s about it. You can also go barefoot for a foot race… but at the end of that, put on those sneakers or flip flops.

7. Making chicken takes a long time. (See #1)

So many things have to be done to chicken to get it clean and get the “fresh taste” out of it.  You need lime, salt, onions, garlic, green onion, pepper, and more to get it exactly how it needs to be, AND you have to clean your kitchen counters as you go.  My husband usually takes the kids out of the house for the production. Yes… it is a production.

You might also like: Lime and Salt: Cleaning Chicken Caribbean Style

8. Mops are for cleaning showers. Sponges are for cleaning floors.

This one might just be around our house, but we clean floors on hands and knees. I have a theory, that I have tested… My kids HATE to see me down on the floor cleaning, and they will usually offer to do it for me if they aren’t already cleaning something else that I have told them to take care of. My theory is that old school moms figured that out, and that’s how they got kids to clean the floors without complaining – make them think that they CHOSE to clean the floors. Just a theory.

9. School doesn’t have to be fun.

I came home from first grade several days in a row dirty and happy. I had a new coloring sheet in hand each day (one was of a turtle that I was quite proud of), and no school work to speak of. The next week, I was in the second grade. True story. My mom wasn’t playing that at all. West Indian parents don’t really care too much about you having fun at school… or friends.  You are friends with your cousins, and if you don’t have friends at school, oh well.  You aren’t there to make friends anyway, you are there to “get your books”.  That is all.

You might also like: 10 Reasons Why You Need a Caribbean Best Friend

10. Even if you know my first name, don’t say it unless the police have to ask you for it.

I am grown, and I still wince every time I have to say my mother’s name.  We had an exchange student with the same name as my mother, and I rarely called her by her name – at least not when my mom was around. My kids don’t say my name either. They know it, of course, but they’ll either spell it if they have to, or just figure out a way around saying it.

How many things in this list apply to your family? Share in the comments!