“Ethiopian Family Taboo: Wait…Mom is Really My Grandma?!”

I always thought it would be cool to have a complicated family. When I was growing up, I had friends with parents who were divorced, which resulted in an abundance of  step-fathers and step-mothers, step-brothers and step-sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters and even more extended relatives. It sounds chaotic, which it could be at times, but it was fairly stable for what it was. There wasn’t too much animosity, as far as the kids were aware, the adults exchanged pleasantries, shared responsibilities and those who had none just moved on with their lives. This goes the same for kids whose parents had children from previous marriages or past relationships. Often times, the current husband/father in the family would assume the role even if the child was not his own. It is also natural for families to adopt children and explain to them that they were adopted at a young age. These are all common family events in American culture but that is not quite true of Ethiopian culture.

tabooThere’s a certain dark cloud of shame, stigma and secrecy surrounding the family dynamics mentioned above, but why? Well, after numerous observations within my own surroundings, I have concluded that Ethiopians like drama. WAIT, i’m just kidding! PLEASE don’t turn that into a stereotype! In all seriousness though, there’s a particular pride attached to being a woman’s “first” or having been the “only man” to have married a woman or “the only father” to her children. In addition, there’s a stigma attached to telling kids or young people, THE TRUTH. Of course I don’t mean parents should be explaining in detail every familial issue to their 7-year old but please do not tell the child that her grandmother is, in fact, her mother. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that child will eventually figure out that her 70-year old grandmother could not have possibly had her at age 62. (Okay, I know it’s possible in rare ocassions but it’s definitely not common, you get my point) I do, however, believe that there are a number of Ethiopians who have evolved from this and have stopped making up stories to explain various family dynamics to their children, relatives, neighbors or strangers and I applaud those individuals!!!

As an Ethiopian American girl, I vote to adopt a culture of openness that is so often found in American families. Being open and honest can truly be life changing; it stops you from the vices of lying and carrying  lifelong secrets. So what if your daughter had a child out of wedlock? Odds are, your family and friends already know about it and were willing to help in anyway possible. Why then, would you make your family and friends lie by making up stories about who the child’s parents are? Don’t doubt the ability of children or the people around you to understand your life and your decisions. Despite the craziness of the world, I truly believe that all people are inherently good, that undoubtedly applies to my Ethiopian people, so let’s all give each other a chance to know one another’s truths and learn from them. Family is the perfect place to start.


Ethiopian American Girl’s Sister 😉

Footnote: Hey readers, as you may have guessed, I am the sister of Ethiopian American Girl. She has been gracious enough to allow me to share her blog space as an outlet for my own experiences and thoughts as an Ethiopian American girl, she’s so kind right?! Well,  just wanted you all to know that’ll be my official sign off at the end of any blog post authored by me so you know how to differentiate between the two of us in this crazy blog world 🙂

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