You would think that with the rise in multiracial families in the United States, there would be less ignorance in regards to race and ethnicity. Moreover, you would think that there would more diversity across the country. But sadly, that's not the case. As a mom of two biracial kids, sometimes I feel as if I'm preparing for battle. I often find myself defending our family dynamic, while struggling to teach my kids about their identity. Here are five challenges parents of multicultural and multiracial kids can understand.
I remember getting my eyebrows done one day with my son in tow when the esthetician asked if he's my son. "Yes," I answered. She asked again as if she didn't believe me. I should probably be used to this question by now. But there's no getting accustomed to it. I'm surprised no one has asked for a DNA test yet.
Oh, and let's not forget those curious kids. You know, the ones that will ask about the difference in skin color. I never quite mastered how to deal with this type of encounter. As a parent, there are certain subjects I would like to tackle on my own, without someone adding their two cents. So I extend the same courtesy to other parents as well.
When my daughter's classmate asked why my daughter's complexion is different from mine I held out my hands and said, "I don't know. Because God made it that way." Then I put my hands next to her olive skin and added, "Look, your skin is different too." Discussing how biracial babies are made is a conversation that should be left for her mom and dad to have with her.
The key to overcoming them is to face these challenges head on. Ignoring them only adds to the problem.
2. Touching my children's curls
People always feel the need to run their fingers through their hair. Every time it happens, I feel my blood boil. I spend a lot of time shampooing, conditioning and getting rid of knots. I know their curls are beautiful, but jeez! I finally reached a point where I have asked offenders to keep their paws off.
3. Finding multiracial neighborhoods, schools and centers
This has been a challenge of mine from day one. We live in a diverse community, but schools appear segregated. Our district is predominately black and Latino with poor test scores. In fact, the elementary school our kids would attend is on a watch list because of it. As a result, most white families send their kids to private school, which leaves a mostly black and Latino population in a poorly rated school district.
Even though the white schools are rated higher, I wouldn't want to send our kids there either. Finding a balance has been a quite a challenge. We are a diverse family, and we would like for our children to attend school with a diverse group of kids. After years of searching, we've finally found a school for our 4-year-old, who will be attending kindergarten in the fall.
4. Learning a different hair texture
My kinky texture is not like my children's loose curl pattern. Many may assume that it's much easier to manage their biracial hair, but it's not. Both of my kids hardly had any hair when they were born. It took my daughter about three years to grow a full head of hair. At one point it began growing like crazy, so much so, that I didn't know what to do with it. It took a bit of research and practice for me to get a technique down pat.
5. When it comes to raising multicultural kids, there's always a challenge of trying to incorporate all cultures into everything we do
I'm from Jamaica and my husband is from America, but he is of Irish and German descent. We'd like our children to know their background because knowing your family establishes a strong sense of identity.
There are also those moments when there's a clash between cultures. For instance, we never celebrated Halloween in Jamaica, so my siblings and I were not allowed to celebrate the holiday here in the U.S. It's something I struggled with after becoming a mom. Ultimately, I realized that it wouldn't be fair to take away that tradition from our American born kids. The same goes for Santa Claus. After much thought and conversation, my husband and I came to an agreement to allow our kids to celebrate these American traditions.
There will always be challenges when raising multicultural and multiracial kids. The key to overcoming them is to face these challenges head on. Ignoring them only adds to the problem. I've also learned to choose my battles carefully. As much as I want to scream when someone says something inappropriate or reach out to touch my children's curls, getting angry will only make the situation worse. Sometimes it's best to smile, nod and keep it moving.