Doing our best as a multiracial family.
When the twins were infants, people would stop us admiring the babies. All babies draw attention and when you have two at once, they get even more attention! We would get a lot of nice comments such as they’re cute and they’re adorable. Then, we’d also get the inquiring mind comments from people who we assume had good intentions but said all the wrong things. These people would say “are they twins or are they brothers”? Well, yes, they are, they are just not identical. Their skin doesn’t match. Their eyes are not the same color. Their hair is not the same. Then, the most offensive question of all to me is “what are they?” I’ve had to learn to handle and respond to in a way that I want my children to hear, learn and grow from in a positive way that builds their confidence not hurts it. The first time I heard “WHAT ARE THEY” I was absolutely appalled. The question is no less offensive to me today, however I have learned that it is just what some people say. My answer use to be … they are HUMAN or they are baby boys. It took me several years to be able to not let that question bother me so badly and to respond better to it. Now, I’ll still play it off but in a kinder way such as “he plans to be a doctor and he plans to be a race car driver.” I believe the people asking it are just curious and are ignorant in wording their question.
We experienced an interesting situation at church which I found challenging. Families were “assigned” to groups to “connect”. We were assigned to a group where all of the other families had biracial children too. At first, I was excited. Then, I went to the first meeting and I found it challenging because none of the families had anything in common other than being a mixed race family. We had no commonality of likes, dislikes or career. There was no effort made to put us together in a fun way or help us connect. I personally find this pathetic even though I think it is incredible for my family to be friends with a diverse group of people from all walks of life including but not limited to skin color. I have made a decision to believe their motives were good but the way they went about it is bothersome as I would have loved to connect with other families where we had something in common in addition to the color of our skin.
We are hopeful as parents that we are doing some things right. We believe racism is taught. We believe love and acceptance is natural. We feel we see successes as our boys love and accept other children despite color or disability. They have no idea about rich and poor at their young age however we believe they will embrace everyone despite social status. We teach them to say “I’m not interested in that” when other children ask them to do something that isn’t nice, is against the rules or that they simply do not want to do. We want them to know that everyone makes good and bad choices no matter who they are, where they live or what they do. We hope they will understand good and bad is not related to the color of skin.
One of my biggest fears as I parent our biracial children is “am I doing this right, are we making the right decisions and the best choices” to help them succeed, be happy, and live at peace in this world?” We live in suburbia. There’s MORE diverse areas to live in but we chose to live in suburbia as it is what we know, where we are comfortable and where we live and enjoy life together. We believe getting to have love, give love and be loved and have numerous positive experiences is a good thing. We control what our young children view on all different media types and what and who they are exposed to or around. We believe we are doing the right thing by living in suburbia. It was a tough decision for us and we looked around in a lot of areas before making this decision. We do have friends of all different backgrounds and colors. We know we are doing the right things to help them succeed in other areas of parenting as it’s just “normal”. They love to go to the zoo, take a horseback ride, go camping or to a ballgame. If we leave out the biracial part of parenting, we’re just like everyone else. We just have an added thing mixed into parenting to think about. Actually, maybe we shouldn’t think about it. Maybe we put too much thought into it.
A friend went with us on a recent bargain hunting trip and she commented about the people staring. I said, oh, I don’t pay any attention to it anymore. The stares are meaningless to me. Occasionally, one of my sons will notice and say “why is she staring at us?” I use to get by with an answer of “because you are so cute” and now, that doesn’t work anymore. I’ve had to be more honest and say, “she could be looking at me because of my age, us because we are all different colors or she might be admiring how handsome you guys are, how well behaved you’re being or she may have noticed your incredible sense of style!” I can handle the stares and am teaching the children to do so also. It’s the words that hurt. It’s the words that I have worked hard to be able to laugh off otherwise they are very painful. So, I have put a lot of effort into finding humor in the ugliness so that we can have peace in our hearts. It’s not worth letting someone’s insensitive comments, ignorant comments, rude or racist comments impact our hearts in a negative way. I typically keep walking or walk away from such comments. When the twins were infants, I was more likely to say something back but today, because of their young impressionable age, we typically decide to walk away. I tell our sons not everyone is kind, not everyone is nice and that unfortunately, this world is not a perfect place.
We do not view ourselves as different and our children are not told they are different. As they ask the tough questions, we answer honestly. Our sons are happy and healthy. Our sons run, play, learn, grow, develop and love to create, build, explore, go on adventures and play, play, play! Our family has love and that’s the greatest gift of all. We all love each other and keep family first. Maybe, just maybe, I need to think about it less. Hopefully, I’m doing more things right than wrong. Ideally, the world will get better instead of worse. I dream of it being kinder and more embracing where everyone is truly equal. Today, I deal with the awkward, well intended, rude, racist comments a bit better than I did when the twins were infants! While those comments are still very wrong to me, some people aren’t bothered by them and the people saying them often, do not know they did anything offensive! So, either I have to believe they are ignorant instead of rude for my own heart. I also have to wonder sometimes if I’m wrong or if I am being too sensitive. We’re just a family doing our best and we don’t match.
Francine Dylan is a writer who understands invisible battles and is a family girl who is high maintenance but worth it, has a happy hubby and is a momma bear blogger who writes about marriage, parenting, real life and almost anything under the sun.