Seven Reasons Why I Love My Mixed Race Family

Why I Love My Mixed Race Family

When I started this blog, I was surprised at how much there is to learn and write about the mixed race experience. I’m excited but also encouraged that more and more people are waking up to the idea that mixed does not mean half-caste, or confused or some or all of nothing. Although there are the struggles that mixed race people feel when out in the world battling to ‘fit in’ and identify themselves in the carefully chosen boxes that exist, there’s so much more that our mixed race kids will experience and can explore because of their multiple heritages. Here are a few of my favourites:

Exotic and Amazing Holidays (with the excuse of going to visit family)

Like any family, after we had kids it became that much more important for us that we have our families (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins) close by. We want our children to not only know their extended families but also to know where they are from, where their parents grew up, their family histories. The fact that our families live on different continents makes for some amazing holidays and a cultural experience that we may not have anywhere else- the food, the celebrations, dare I say it- the fuss made over us- all make it better than any other holiday abroad.

The Ability to Blend In

With exposure to so many different cultural norms, our kids can easily blend in anywhere. I think they get, on a gut level, that different families, countries and cultures have different sets of greetings, languages, food and celebrations. They get it because they’ve been exposed to it from such a young age. They know that when they see their Nigerian grandparents they should kneel to greet, when they see their Bababozorg (on their Iranian side), the adults greet with three kisses on the cheek and their English Grandma will give them a hug. They’ll know about respect for elders, removing shoes, different types of food and ways of behaving. For them, it’s normal to look for the signs and follow their parent’s lead. This should get them far in life when they’re visiting new countries. They’ll expect that different cultures will do things differently and, who knows, with their myriad of cultures, they may even be familiar with some cultural practices that span different countries.

The best of both worlds

This is perhaps one of the best things I love about our mixed family. As we’ve travelled more and lived and experienced the benefits of so many different cultures, countries, climates, and histories, I’ve realised that when people ask the question, where do you prefer to live the most? I’m stuck. I love the mountains and outdoors of Canada, the beauty and history of England, the richness and intensity of Nigeria, and the proud culture of Iran. My girls can proudly lay claim to all of these and call each one of them home.

Open minds= Tolerance

With so much exposure to difference and sometimes conflicting ways of getting to the same end, it’s no wonder that people say that being mixed lends itself to careers in diplomacy, politics and foreign relations. Being mixed brings with it an inherent sense of tolerance and an open mind to ‘others’ because of who they are. Even where cultures and countries are at war, children born of an interracial relationship can be the healing and tolerance families and countries need.

Multiple festivals/ holidays and celebrations

With multiple excuses to celebrate and feast, this is by far the greatest advantage of a mixed race family. From an entirely greedy and fun-loving perspective, we get twice the number of festivals and celebrations as anyone else! For my family, we go from Nowruz (Persian New Year) to Easter in one week! If you’re Chinese, you get to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year so close together you might as well permanently eat chocolate! With so many festivals and celebrations bringing together family, friends, food and often music, your kids will get to experience the richness and diversity of multiple cultures. And that’s never a bad thing.

An Inherent Globalised World View

My family’s everyday is splattered with jokes and comments that are indicative of a family that comes from multiple cultures. When there’s a power outage in Canada, my daughter is asking, “Did Nepa take light?” (Nigerian’s way of describing the frequent electricity failures that plague the country). When winter comes in England, my daughters want to know if they can go shovel the snow like we do in Canada. And when we have rice, the girls want to know if they can have the biggest piece of tahdig (Iranian crunchy bit at the bottom). People we meet and their behaviour they see are always accompanied by questions about where they’re from- near Nigeria? Close to Canada? Or “look Mum, they’re speaking farsi!”

Unique (Standing out)

Whether you believe in all the hype about mixed race kids being especially cute is irrelevant because one thing that you can’t argue is the look is interesting. Pictures of brown skinned kids with blonde curls is interesting because it breaks the mold of what we’re used to seeing. Blue eyed black girls or Asian boys with a mixture of black and Asian features stand out. Apart from the look, I met some Asian mixed kids speaking fluent farsi with their Persian father coming home from school. It made me do a double take but it made me proud as well that mixed families come in all shapes and cultures and from everywhere. That it’s not just races that blend but cultures, languages, heritages and histories. What a world we will live in in 20 years time if this continues!

As featured in the Huffington Post….

ARE MULTIRACIAL FAMILIES THE NEW NORMAL?

The other day I found myself on a 45 minute bus ride with my 3 kids and 4 of their friends. We were all sat at the back.

Their conversations were fleeting, from the lyrics of the wheels on the bus to more serious subjects like what they might order at McDonalds.

At one point, one of the girls turned to the other and they were comparing skin colours- three 5 year olds arguing about who was lighter, hoping, each in turn that they were the darker one.

It was all so innocent but lovely. Lovely that they hadn’t been touched by any of our pollutant societal thoughts about skin colour bias. Lovely that they referred to skin colour as they might any other body feature- like they would the hair on their arms or whose hands might be bigger. And lovely that they were all insisting they were darker so they could match.

Within minutes, a woman on the bus turned to me, as I wiped their mouths, told them off and cuddled the littlest on my lap. “They must keep you busy”, she said.

I smiled. Grateful to hear that in 2016 a family of multiple different skin tones and races can exist in someone’s eyes and be normal.

And although I have somewhat frequent encounters with people who ask whether my children are my own because of our different skin tones,  this experience has given me hope.

As I pondered the woman on the bus’ comment, I thought about correcting her. “Only three of them are mine”, I was going to say. But I stayed quiet, content in the knowledge, that the new ‘normal’ is us.

A Mixed Race Daughter’s Journey From Straight Envy to Curly Pride

Just over a year ago I posted about my oldest daughter’s sorrow coming home from school and crying over not having straight hair like her friends.

Of course I was heartbroken and I knew that I had my work cut out for me.  As her mum, I was/ am her biggest role model and although looks shouldn’t matter, the fact that we (a multiracial family and therefore more pronounced than most mother-and-daughter combos) look so different, it can be painful.

On top of my skin being a whole shade lighter,  my hair is dead straight. And with media, magazines and friends sporting this same look, sometimes the curls can just feel too much.

If only she knew, I kept saying to myself… to others. She is the object of so many admirers when we go out.  Her hair can attract comments from strangers everywhere and yet she doesn’t want unique hair. She wants straight hair.

My daughter’s journey doesn’t end there. I made it my mission not just to subtly show her curly haired role models but I point them out everywhere we go. Beautiful white, black, brown skinned women with short, long and all types of textured curly hair. Her books, music artists and the shows she watches all sport curls. I talk to her about being unique, about having the confidence to be different, to be proud of how God made her. And to be more than just her curls. To be unique in every way because it’s better to be a leader than a follower.

And then…

Today she told me in no uncertain terms she doesn’t want straight hair.

Otherwise she’d be like everyone else. She said she likes her curls and can’t wait to be able to grow them and twist them and try out new hairstyles. She said she likes herself the way she is.

I smiled and knew she is beginning her journey to understanding and loving herself. Curly hair and all.

There is no prouder moment for a mum than when your daughter can look in the mirror and say she loves who she is.  My daughter is ultra sensitive and, I’d like to think, mature for her age. So perhaps it was an early internal switch that just happened at the age of 5. And perhaps she was already on this journey without any intervention. But for any girl, all girls, it’s so important for them to know, love and accept who they are.

Diversity in the Classroom: Why We Need to Go Deeper

It’s become popular and, indeed, a must in most primary schools and nurseries worldwide to have some sort of diversity woven into the curriculum. From black dolls to books featuring kids in wheelchairs, you shouldn’t have to look too far to find diversity in the classroom.

My daughter has now entered primary school in inner city London- a much more ‘diverse’ school in terms of its student population. And yet, sometimes I feel their nod to diversity is just a box-ticking exercise. When it came to a superhero theme in her first year, visiting ‘heroes’ from the community including a local policeman, a vicar and a doctor were all white and male. Really? I thought. When asked about it, my daughter said “I’m not a superhero, that’s for boys”.

When it comes to teaching, perhaps the odd nod in the direction of diversity in the classroom is sufficient but if we’re talking about understanding and making a difference… we need more. Because we are a multicultural family living in a diverse society, valuing and understanding difference is not only part of our being. It is essential.

But just because we as a family wear our diversity on our sleeve, why shouldn’t other families understand it in the same way? Children should know that difference is not bad… it is interesting and it is worth learning about…

This piece was first published on Multicultural Kid Blogs website. Read the full post here….

Does Racial Identity Change in an Interracial Relationship?

The other day my husband of 7 years asked me ‘do you identify as ‘other’?’ His question was in response to a moment me and my girls had experienced earlier that day. I’d felt defensive and self-conscious while walking through the English countryside and being asked (multiple times) whether we ‘belonged’ there or… “are you lost????” definitely made me feel like an outsider. I knew it was too subtle to call it racism but it definitely felt uncomfortable and something I knew I wouldn’t have experienced if I was on my own.

The topic of racial fluidity has been raised several times in the last couple of years. Recently, Paris Jackson called herself black through her relationship with her tenuously ‘biological’ Dad Michael. And of course the controversial Rachel Dolezal, who has called for black identity to be ‘fluid’ and non-binary in the same way gender is. With more questions being raised about how identity is formed and racial constructs that lie behind it, the question whether it is possible to identify as something other than what you are through one’s relationships has intrigued me.

I am part of a multiracial family, the majority of whom are black, or who will be viewed as black by society. Apart from my daughters and my husband, I am the only white face you see in my family.  So, not to feel any sense of identity by virtue of osmosis or relationship would be impossible. Or, at least for me.

I have heard of other spouses who have non-white partners who become sensitive to the subtle racism that their partners feel on a daily basis. The wake-up to white bias is shocking and infuriating when it comes to the ones you love.

The first time it happened for me was when we entered a jewellery shop early on in our relationship. Soon enough I noticed a security guard as well as the shop floor assistant following hubby closely while he perused the rings. I, on the other hand, was not even noticed. Or, shall I say, after a few minutes, they did offer to help me but completely ignored hubby-to-be apart from the stares. I felt defensive and angered as though it were happening to me.

The experience and many like it have rocked my understanding of our world. Yes I knew racism existed. I wasn’t that naive but when you experience it and you become the object of it through your partnership (that was later on), you start to identify with it.

Since then, my children and I have felt the oh-so-subtle effects of middle class racism. The stares, the indignant looks that you may not belong in ‘this’ park- nothing major but enough to waken me up to the some of the realities of being non-white.

So yes, I guess in some ways I do identify as something other than what I am.  I still have white privilege and I’m not naive as to think I know exactly what it is to walk in the shoes of a black person. But by virtue of my relationship. Because my family is black. Because I am part of a black family. And because my identity is multi- layered, my identity as a mother of mixed race kids and as the wife of a Nigerian man is intertwined.

CurlyEllie Review: New Hair Products for Curly Hair Kids

Tried a new hair product recently and I think I’ve fallen in love. This isn’t a plug, don’t worry. But knowing where CurlyEllie came from and that the woman behind this brand is a mum of curly kids too, does help.

As many of you know, I’ve got three girls- each with uniquely textured and different-length hair. It’s difficult finding a product that works for all of them without being full of chemicals.

In the past I’ve used everything from Mixed Chicks to Deva Curl, Curly Q, Argan oil, Coconut oil and even my mother in law’s homemade mixture of shea butter and olive oil. It’s not to say that these products don’t work but I’ve always been on the lookout for a brand that I can trust and that EACH of the products works for my daughters’ hair- not just one.

CurlyEllie products came on my radar through my brother-in-law who knew the founder in Uni. I got in touch and found out a little bit more.

First off, all of the products are SULFATE FREE, PARABEN FREE, NO SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES, NO MINERAL OILS and 100% Natural Fragrance.

For me, it’s important that the products I put into my daughters’ hair are 100% natural. I can see the build-up that results when I use other products and I admit, sometimes products that do contain alchohol or some enzymes can be effective but… not in the long run.

This is about teaching my daughters as well as showing them to value their hair and what they put in it. With so many kids suffering from exzema and allergies, it made me think a little more about what we put in and on their bodies.

Retailing at around £13 per bottle, they may cost more than just buying off the shelf at your local chemist.  I have 3 girls, I’ll be honest, I know the costs add up but to me it’s important enough. If you already recognise the importance of buying curl-specific hair products, this is not much of a step further.

CurlyEllie originiated from a Mum. The familiar scenario of “seeing my 2 year old daughter (CurlyEllie herself) wincing as I pulled the comb through her forest of curls each night.”
She says, “Her curls were so beautiful but so difficult and upsetting (for us both!) to manage.  I turned to friends, family and social media to find the answer. I would routinely stop other parents of curly haired children and ask for advice on hair care. The only consistent theme in the responses I got was that nobody was that happy with the products they were using. This led me to develop the CurlyEllie Hair Collection.”

 

curly ellie

The products themselves are easy to use, and come in the form of detangler, shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner. I would have liked some sort of moisturizer to define the curls as well so I added a little oil to keep it moisturized throughout the day. But the shampoo, conditioner and detangler have become an essential part of our morning and evening routine.

I use the leave-in at night after I wash it and it softens the curls- making a huge difference to how they feel in the morning. The picture below shows my daughter’s hair after I applied the leave-in and I could run my fingers through her hair easily.

After applying CurlyEllie leave-in conditioner DSC_1104

Using a hair product whose only ingredients are plant products such as quinoa, broccoli seed oil and sweet almond oil is fabulous. It means I don’t have to worry about their hair drying out or being damaged by the mess that goes into most hair products nowadays.

I love where it comes from. I love the ethos behind it and I love the products themselves. Definitely a convert for CurlyEllie.

The UK’s Best Curly Hair Salons for Mixed Heritage Kids

Because cutting curls is not the same as straight hair and we, as parents, need to recognise that straight away, I’m bringing you part 2 of Mixed.Up.Mama’s guide to curly hair salons.

Following on from the highly sought after and recently updated London guide to curly hair salons, we thought, what about the rest of us in the UK?

So without further ado, here is a list of the UK’s best curly hair salons.

After all, it can’t hurt to consult with a  professional even it’s just to get some advice about hair type, products specific to your child’s hair texture and how to keep it moisturised, how often you should wash it, what products work and what doesn’t…

So give them a call today and make an appointment. And do let me know if I’ve missed any! This list is only as good as you, my readers comments!


Birmingham

Matthew James Hair, 181 Corporation St, Birmingham, West Midlands B4 6RG.

If you’ve got curls, coils or waves, then Matthew James is your go-to stylist!

Matt specialises in cutting, styling and caring for naturally curly hair.
In fact, he loves curls so much he focusses solely on cutting and styling textured tresses – the first stylist to do this in the UK.
Matthew is committed to giving his customers the best experience possible and will always start every appointment with a thorough consultation. If you love colour ask Matthew about the bespoke, curl-by-curl colour service to really make your curls pop!
Curl specific products are used in the salon to cleanse, hydrate and style – so no need to worry about harsh sulphates stripping your curls or silicones sealing out moisture!

Klassic Koncept, 9 Lower Severn Street, Birmingham B1 1PU

At Klassic Koncept we are very happy dealing with all types of mixed race hair and have a wealth of personal experience and expertise to pass on to you,

Mixed race hairin particular and curly hair in general can vary in curl pattern and texture all over the head. Hair at the nape maybe very different from hair at the crown. What is required is attention to detail and careful analysis as the various areas of the hair will need to be treated and conditioned in different ways. We are confident that how we work with your hair will allow you to manage it and wear it with pride.

Whether you want to “Embrace your bounce”, straighten or colour we can guide you in the right direction. We won’t be judgemental about whether you want to be curly or straight – it’s your hair and a beautiful accessory, not a political statement. We also don’t get too hung up on curl types, it makes no sense when the hair varies from one area to the next. It’s sometimes useful as a general description but serves no purpose in the actual decision with what to do with your hair. Far more important is the texture and with mixed race hair a common error is that often density is taken for coarseness, when in fact the exact opposite is true. Each head of hair is individual and what works for one may not work for another.


Bristol

Nuala Morey Hair and Beauty, 178 Gloucester Rd, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8NU

Need help with your curly hair? Here at Nuala Hair Studio, Bristol’s best hair salon, we love cutting, styling and colouring curly hair. Whether your curls are fine, medium or thick we are here to help. We understand that your hair has different needs to straighter hair. We understand that the shape is very important to you, the texture is doing what you want, and we will listen and guide you through style, maintenance and home care. We can offer excellent curly hair advice using specialist hair products that will work for you. We love to give you great tips on how to get the best out of your curl using good techniques that aren’t difficult!

Cococheno, 17 Nelson Street, Bristol, BS1 2LA

Cococheno hair salon is Bristol’s leading multicultural Afro/European hair salon outside of London. We are a reputable salon committed to providing the best product and excellent service to all our customers.

Our friendly team has over 20 years experience constantly staying in touch with the latest trends and learning new techniques. With a reputation for excellent service Cococheno strives to maintain a high level of customer care with an in depth consultation and achievable styles personalised for you and top tips to maintain your style at home. Experience pure pampering in stylish and friendly surroundings.

Our creative team has a vast knowledge working with Afro, European, curly and multicultural hair. We offer a full range of hairdressing services including styling, cutting, colours, relaxers, texturisers, perms and the Yuko hair straightening system.


Manchester

The Hepburn Hair Project, 340 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9NG

It is important to take into consideration the individuality of each client, such as their facial and features shape, life style and fashion style. Each cut needs to be made to suit these personal attributions along with an easy styling maintenance to suit a busy life style.


Glasgow

Belle and Blackley, 205 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 2UP

You’d be amazed how often clients with naturally curly hair have come to us in despair of ever finding someone who can deal with their hair type. The level of bounce and the texture of naturally curly hair can throw a few curve-balls at you!

However, we LOVE curly hair and all its challenges. In fact if you know what you’re doing it’s not so much of a challenge.

Scott – our resident curl expert says : ” With curls you have to take into account that the overall shape of the style may change depending on how curly the hair is on that particular day and also that the client might want to also wear their hair straight so you still need precision cutting – I often cut curly hair dry, so I can see the shape that I want to end with – then I get the hair cleansed and treated and go for the detail of the cut.”

Alan Edwards Salon, 56-58 Wilson street, Glasgow, G1 1HD

Building an Artistic Team is something that Elaine and Alan both feel very passionate about. With accolades such as Scottish Hairdresser of the Year and L’Oréal Colour Trophy winner, Elaine’s expertise is paramount to the success of the Artistic Teams shows, seminars and photographic work.

Having great vision and natural ability to create stunning hair whether it be in front of or behind the scenes, Elaine’s Art Direction is second to none within the teams’ international recognition. Latterly, it has found Elaine working closely with Fiona on shows and shoots for Vogue which has created another dynamic duo within the artistic team.


Liverpool

Faye Lawless, 122 South Road | Waterloo | Liverpool

Faye Lawless Hair are the curly hair experts. Frustrated curlies fear no more. We are here to help you manage and celebrate your curls. We offer the complete curly hair care experience from cutting curly hair in the right way, colouring, curl smoothing and the all important home styling and after care advice.


Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Mojo Hair Design, 69 Heaton Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE6 5HH

Our out of town hair studio in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne is a place of creativity and style, and possibly the friendliest professional hair salon in Newcastle. We are confident that you will find no where better for your personal and professional hair design solutions for men and women young and old; hair styled, hair cut, hair up, hair perm, hair straight, hair curly, dry cut, blow dry, roots or hair colour, coffee or tea, at your hairdressers Newcastle.


Leeds

Jon Kinsey Salon, 259 Harrogate Road, Leeds, LS17 6PA

Our style team are chosen for their expertise, passion and creativity. Our hair is as individual as our fingerprints, and we know it is important that you get the cut and colour that enhances your style. Our ladies’ and gentlemen’s hairdressing services are tailored individually to give you beautiful, natural and manageable hair every day.


Sheffield

Made Hair and Beauty, 294-296 Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2HS

We are proud to say that we are rapidly becoming the curly hair specialists of the north, with clients that travel far and wide to visit it us. Our main aim is that you enjoy your experience our relaxed, but professional approach to hair and beauty. Lead by multi award winning, and Avlon educator, Serena Giscombe, the Made family are approachable, empathetic and knowledgeable.


Bradford

The Cutting and Colour Room, 36 Sunbridge Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 2AA

Every client of “The Cutting & Colour Room” is a real life testament to our professional craft of cutting, shaping, and styling hair in way that reveals our clients natural good looks. Curly, thick locks, or fine and straight – “The Cutting & Colour Room” has the creative talent and exceptional skills to help you look amazing.


Cardiff

Michelle Marshall Salon, 12 Beulah Road, Rhiwbina, Cardiff, CF14 6LX

Hair salon specialising in curly hair.


Fareham

Kate Preston Hair, 70 Arundel Drive, Fareham, Hampshire, PO16 7NU

We know what it’s like to struggle for YEARS with curls until you learn how to embrace them and look after them. That is why at Kate Preston Hair in Fareham (Hampshire) we made it a priority to become Curly Hair Cutting Specialists.

We understand curly hair has special needs and it takes a special skill to cut it well. You must know how to look after your curls. So many people just don’t have a clue how to manage them well and are left struggling with their hair!

If you want to trade your frizzy unmanageable curls for drop dead gorgeous sexy curls then Kate Preston Hair and Beauty in Fareham is the place to come.


*Disclaimer: I haven’t tried each and every one of these salons but I did scour the internet for good reviews and recommendations from fellow curlies. Leave your comments below if you’ve tried any of these and what your experience was like.