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Teaching our multiracial kids about their heritage

From France, Jean Philip Chartin came, saw and fell in love. His wife Jael Naliaka shares her journey raising mixed race children, dealing with weight gain and more

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace

Three-year-old Jesiah Chartin sits calmly on a coach as he follows a French cartoon programme on television. At his age, he speaks French fluently and is learning to speak English.

“His first language was French,” says his mother Jael Naliaka as she lowers the TV volume. She explains the family had moved to France when Jes, as they fondly call him, was only three months old.

They came back to Kenya shortly before he celebrated his first birthday, though their life revolves around staying in France and Kenya. They use English and French in the house. “And thanks to our nanny, he grasps a bit of Kiswahili,” she says.

The 31-year-old met her husband, Jean Philip Chartin at a wine-tasting event in Nairobi in early 2015. They hit it off immediately. Later they got hitched and to crown their love, Jes was born.

“He was received with so much joy by my family here in Kenya, and his in France, especially his grandparents. He is their first grandchild and they love him,” Jael says. Their second born child, Andre Chartin, came 15 months ago.

Since Jean and Jael are from different races, they ensure their sons know their roots. She points to a photo in her living room and Jes identifies his late babu (grandfather).

Jean is in oil and gas industry and because of the nature of his work, he travels a lot. Jael accompanies him too. “We love to travel when we can and most of the time, we tag our boys along. That’s how we spend time together,” Jael notes.

Her nanny has been supportive, especially during those times she has to leave the boys. “My nanny plays a huge role when I have to attend class or run errands. My brother, too, is around and helps out,” says Jael who is pursuing a degree in Hospitality Management at a local university.

Jael, however, had to struggle with weight gain after her first pregnancy. “When I was heavy with Jes, I ate everything and anything. Being my first pregnancy, I felt like going crazy,” she exclaimed. She weighed 99 kilogrammes. Not liking what motherhood had done to her well-toned body, she had a bout of depression.

“I had and still have the model figure, but I had lost it. I went into depression,” the nutritionist sighs.

She sought psychological help and further began a healthy living. “I cut down on red meat and carbs, did away with fast foods and only stuck to vegetables, fruits and white meat. It worked,” Jael who now weighs 61 kilogrammes admits. Since they have a gym in the apartment they live in, she got a personal trainer who helped her work out. “It rolled over into what my boys eat.

They take fruits in between the day and a yoghurt as a snack,” she adds. The Chartin household does not eat red meat and has minimal carbs. “Children will get used to what you give them and I am not taking chances with what they eat. I am taking a cooking class to learn Asian cuisine to add onto our menu as well,” she says.

And as the children are still young, they have limited ways of disciplining them. In France, children are rarely spanked. Even when Jes throws a tantrum, physical punishment is out of the question. “In school, they are sent to a naughty corner for punishment.

So when at home, and he does wrong, he has time out in one of the corners in his room. He is terrified about it. Sometimes when I need to discipline him, I grab his cheek and pretend to pinch him and he conforms immediately,” she says.

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