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An Islandgirl Raising Kids in Dutchieland
Kari van der Heide

Kari van der Heide

Contributing Writer at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Kari is a momblogger from the Netherlands. She has been married for three years, to another woman, and together they have a daughter called Isaya (2). On columnsbykari.com she writes about parenting, beauty, style and health. For the Parent Voice, Kari writes articles about her life as a Dutch gay mom.
Read more under 'Contributors'.
Kari van der Heide

It’s winter. And in the Netherlands that means rain, hailstones, a bit of snow and darkness – lots and lots of darkness.

And yes, of course it’s also cold. For an Island girl like myself winters here are trying. I’ve been living in Dutchieland for sixteen years and winter time is one of the things I just can’t get used to.

My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter on the other hand isn’t really bothered by it. Sure, she yells “look mama, sun!” every time a tiny bit of sunshine peaks through the dark clouds. And yes, putting on her coat, winter boots, scarf, hat and gloves is a daily struggle. And of course, she LOVED playing on the beach every day, when we were vacationing in Curacao last May.

But, all things considered, she’s fine with winter. Because she is used to it. The changing of the seasons is a given. She is a Dutchie, born and raised. Unlike her mama. Who lived in the Caribbean until she was fourteen years old.




She is a Dutchie, born and raised. Unlike her mama. Click To Tweet It seemed like such a cool thing to do: being able to go to school by myself, instead of my parents having to drive me everywhere. Click To Tweet

When I was a kid, growing up in Curacao, I dreamed of living in the Netherlands one day. I had this fantasy about running through the rain, on my way to school, looking at my watch, because I was late. It seemed like such a cool thing to do: being able to go to school by myself, instead of my parents having to drive me everywhere. That freedom! It seemed magical.

When I finally had that chance, after moving to the Netherlands and going to school by myself, it was exactly the way I had imagined it. And I hated every second of it. I remember riding my bike (which, obviously was a struggle in itself, not having grown up with the bike loving Dutchies), in the dark (at 4:30 PM!) and hailstones started hitting my face and legs. I had never experienced hailstones before – I don’t think if I was aware of the concept of hailstones up until that moment! – and it was painful. It was so cold and all I could think was: “I wish I was back in Curacao”.

It was exactly the way I had imagined it. And I hated every second of it. Click To Tweet

I missed the beaches, I missed walking barefoot, I missed being able to go outside in shorts and a top. I even missed being driven everywhere because riding a bike or walking the streets by yourself isn’t a safe option. I missed my Island. That feeling, that homesickness, has stayed with me for the past sixteen years, even though I have come to love the Netherlands, have taught myself how to speak “proper and accentless” Dutch and have learned how to dress against the cold (kind of).

That feeling, that homesickness, has stayed with me for the past sixteen years, even though I have come to love the Netherlands. Click To Tweet

This December Aya experienced hailstones for the first time. She was in her bike seat on the back of my bike (yup, I’ve mastered the Dutchie skill of being able to ride a bike in the city with two kids and two bags of groceries, whilst avoiding being hit by a car) when the hailstones started hitting our faces. I wanted to comfort her, tell her “I’m sorry” and “we’re almost home”. But she was completely unfazed by the whole experience. The cold, hard ice balls didn’t bother her one bit. She actually thought they were kind of fascinating!

It’s strange how my daughter is growing up in a completely different environment than I did. I mean, besides “the obvious” difference: growing up with two moms.

 



Kari van der Heide the Parent Voice


She is growing up wearing shoes on her feet as soon as the weather drops beneath 22 degrees. She will know how to ride a bike at four years old, not fourteen. She won’t dance in the snow and then fall on her bum on her sixteenth birthday because it’s the first time she sees snow and realizes it is freaking slippery.

She will think it’s completely normal to state her opinion in class, without getting punished for being “rude” to a grownup. She will spend more time inside than outside, because Dutch summers suck. She will think the ocean is grey, not turquoise.

Her Dutch will be infused with English, but it will miss the cadence of Papiamentu. She will hear about Hurricanes on the news, instead of seeing them destroy the Islands every year. Slavery will be something she will hear about in one or two school lesson, not something the whole history curriculum is built on and half of society still carries as a burden.

Slavery will be something she will hear about in a school lesson, not something the whole history curriculum is built on and half of society still carries as a burden. Click To Tweet She will not be one of the only four white girls in her class and be told to “go back home” when walking through town. Click To Tweet

She won’t know what it’s like to have her house broken into every year or know at least five people who have been robbed at gun point. She will have her bike stolen at least four times though, before her eighteenth birthday. She will not be aware of the extreme and unfair gap between rich and poor in the Caribbean.

She will not be one of the only four white girls in her class and be told to “go back home” when walking through town. She will most likely be confronted with discrimination in a whole other way. She may experience other kids being called names because they look different or being blamed for being born in a different country. I like to think she will stand up for these “different” kids.

I hope my experience of growing up somewhere else, having to start a new life in Dutchieland and being gay will turn her into a teenager and grownup with an open mind.

Someone who is tolerant and understanding. Of different cultures, backgrounds, personalities, looks, choices. I hope she will learn how to celebrate differences, not condemn them. I hope she will grow up to embrace diversity, not be afraid of it. And I hope she will grow up feeling safe.

Because safety is the main reason why, despite these horrible winters, I still choose to raise my daughter here. In the Netherlands I was able to marry the woman of my dreams and have a baby with her. Here I feel safe walking the streets with my rainbow family. Here I don’t have to worry all the time about break-ins and robberies.

But as soon as these things change – for the worse in Dutchieland, or for the better in Curacao – I am out of here. I will move back to my Island. Walk barefoot. Watch my children play on the beach, needing only the sand, the sea and the sun to feel complete and content.


Kari van der Heide blogs at ColumnsbyKari.Com. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.




the author

Kari is a momblogger from the Netherlands. She has been married for three years, to another woman, and together they have a daughter called Isaya (2). On columnsbykari.com she writes about parenting, beauty, style and health. For the Parent Voice, Kari writes articles about her life as a Dutch gay mom. Read more under 'Contributors'.

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4 Comments on "An Islandgirl Raising Kids in Dutchieland"

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Yolanda
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Good blog! If I may just give my unsolicited opinion :D, you could move back now. Crime here is not as bad as portrayed in the papers. And the value of living closer to nature is soooooo much higher than … anything really. Growing up with a true international sense of the world that you get here on the island is also super important for later (north america, south america, caribbean and europe all in one!).

Krys
Guest

Good read, and lots of things in the article hit home for me, having lived on Curacao until I was 19. Happy you’ve found some comfort in NL (where I’ve also moved to to study and work), and just like you I hope to be back someday!! Mi ta miss mi dushi isla, pero ya…Just need to settle for homemade pastechis for now!

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