There I was, standing with both arms up in the cart, hitting a new milestone and forewarning my potential fall. This was the beginning of my journey being half-Estonian, born and raised in Toronto, Canada.
My Estonian Heritage
My maternal grandparents were born in and raised in Saaremaa, Estonia and later sought refuge in Canada. Estonian identity wraps around me like a warm blanket. I have colourful memories of running down the Eesti Maja hallways attending lasteaed, hearing stories from my ancestors, or feeling the emotion of the audience at Laulupidu as I sang “Mu Isamaa on Minu Arm” alongside the Toronto Eesti Koolikoor and many others. There is a sense of comfort when I meet another Estonian or see the coat of arms stuck to the back window of an unknown car because I am reminded that I belong to a resilient and supportive community.
The Importance of Cultural Identity
Cultural identity is a broad concept based on the distinctive characteristics common to people of a given community. Rahvariided, folk singing and dancing, rye bread, sauna and kringel are a handful of my favourite examples when thinking of Estonian cultural identity. These concepts, as well as wellbeing, are complex. Strong cultural influences do have a significantly positive impact on children’s health and development. Introducing Estonian culture to your child is not the sole solution to avoiding mental health issues, but it can help them feel they belong to a larger community, give ancestral tools of comfort or healing, or bring connection within a family.
A Journey Together
My journey into motherhood and raising an Estonian-British-Congolese child has challenged me to find creative and fun ways to weave each culture into our everyday lives at home. This is challenging because I do not speak Estonian fluently and I have found myself further away from the Toronto-Estonian community after the past few years. There is beauty and bonding as my daughter and I learn about our cultural identities together through reading, play and music. I welcome you and your family to join us on this journey. Here, I will be sharing simple activities, books and resources to engage children and build their connection to their Estonian heritage.
About the Author
Ivi Lindau is a Child and Family Therapist and registered social worker with her own private practice, Time In Therapy. She holds a Bachelor of Child and Youth Care from Humber College and a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, specializing in Children and Families. Her extensive work in community-based organizations includes Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and Catholic Family Services of Peel-Dufferin. Recently, Ivi has launched an e-commerce store, Our Time In, to connect families with therapist-recommended books and toys to support children’s mental health and overall wellbeing at home. Learn more at: www.timeintherapy.com and www.ourtimein.com