This week my daughter’s teacher announced the children would be talking about identity and where they and their families are from. She encouraged parents to talk to our children beforehand so the children can positively contribute.
As the parent of a mixed child, I was excited that my daughter would be having this conversation in school. Her background is, at best, interesting and layered but at worst, it’s complicated and confusing. So, as a person of mixed parentage myself, I have to admit my heart did skip a beat.
I remember being a teenager and cringing from those conversations about where I was from. Do you mean where do I live now? Where are my parents from? What culture do I identify with most? What languages do I speak (or, in my case, not speak well enough). When it came to my Iranian side, I often felt confronted about laying claim to a culture I knew so little about. And coming to England as a young adult, I couldn’t have felt more like an outsider if I tried. What basis did I have for identifying with any of these cultures?
When it comes to my daughter, I wonder what she might say in such a conversation. First of all, would she remember all the places/races and cultures that make up who she is? Does she identify with all of her heritage? Of course, these questions of a 5 year old were bound to fail. But I couldn’t help feeling conscious that I may not be doing enough to educate her. Or worse, that she may end up as confused or as pressured as I felt during these conversations.
When hubby originates from Nigeria, and I hail from Canada/ England and Iran, the story can be complicated. Particularly for a 5 year old who now lives in the UK but spent a good part of her short 5 years in Nigeria and Canada.
Her looks, race and accent will further put pressure on her to identify as either Black, Black British, African- British or just Naija. If her skin is darker, she may be questioned if she tries to identify as hyphenated or mixed race as people will argue her intentions. “Why don’t you just admit you’re black”, I can see her mates saying.
By now, she can reel off the list of countries, and can even tell people a few words from Yoruba and Farsi. But whether she truly identifies with any of these (or all), I guess only time will tell.
I do plan to show her a map of the world and to help her identify where each of these countries are located. But what I’ve realised is that any depth of association to these countries lies in her relationships.
As long as Grandma and Grandpa, cousins, Aunts and Uncles are in her life, she will hopefully always feel connection to where she’s ‘from’. And yet, her everyday experience and friends will connect her more than anything to the UK. And I’m okay with that. Being mixed, the ultimate positive is that she has options.
One reader commented that by the time our little ones grow up, their world will be a blended mix of all different backgrounds and cultures. So perhaps her experience will be different than mine. All I can do is prepare her as best I can.
For more resources about talking to your kids about being mixed, follow these links:
We were running late. After 2.5 weeks off, it was back to school last week and back to getting 3 kids out the door- on time.
On day 1, I got overwhelmed, frustrated that I couldn’t find one of DD1’s take-home reading books. Costing a small fortune to replace, I shouted at her that she should take better care of them.
We got out the door but she refused to talk to me. I tried the usual cajoling and apologised for shouting but she refused to smile. Guessing she was overwhelmed by the roller coaster of emotion she was probably feeling over seeing her friends and teacher after so much time off, I left her.
We’d spent a lot of time together over the holiday including having my Mum over from Canada. I stopped though, weary of being late but feeling guilty because I knew I should have kept my cool. Leaning down I looked her in the eye and asked her what was wrong.
Then she said it. “I wish I had a Mama that looked like me”.
This year has been huge in my daughter’s life as she’s become more and more aware of both her own colour and that of people around her. We only talk about race and colour in a positive way, acknowledging the differences but recognising that people are all the same inside.
My heart dropped- sensitive to the hurt I might have caused her but devastated as well that she would think skin colour would mend her broken heart.
I tried hard not to be heartbroken but I knew that I was completely unprepared for this this morning. Gradually, we each took a turn to say what makes us mother and daughter. Not the colour of our skin. The fact that she has my mouth and my eyes and that she’s good at certain things and not so good at others. But our love for each other. And how that will never change… Even when I’m shouting.
We arrived on time. And she’d forgotten about it when I raised it again after school. Flippantly, she said, “we already talked about this Mum”.
What made her feel this then… on that particular day, I’ll never know. Perhaps she had been feeling it all this time. The feeling that perhaps we don’t match or she doesn’t fit in… or that someone who looks like her might not shout?! All at the age of 5.
I imagine her older, walking beside me and feeling the same thing but perhaps more equipped to be able to dismiss this feeling of matching skin colour as unimportant because well… it just is.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 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.
If you have got curly hair you’ll understand. Curly hair needs to be treated differently and with #Vickyqueenofcurls (google it!) you’ll find a stylist that is an expert in the personal nature of curly hair. Of course, every client’s hair is different, but this is especially relevant when it comes to curly hair.
Our Curly Hair Service, in our Manchester salon is part consultation, part dry cut and part aftercare advice. #Vickyqueenofcurls comes highly recommended and is Manchester’s foremost expert in the intricacies of Curly Hair Treatments.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Curl Love, Azzini Hair 3 high street, Botley, Hampshire, SO302EA
From ‘curl coaching’ to colour to intensive hydration treatment, Curl Love has great reviews and it’s easy to book an online appointment.
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.
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.
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.
“I’m Nikki Sampson and my passion is to help other curly ladies embrace their natural curls. For many years I was never happy with my curly, frizzy hair , apart from the 1980s when even I had perms! I was always on the lookout for the miracle product that would change my relationship with my hair. Unfortunately the hairdressing industry as a whole treats curls as if they are the same as straight hair. There is virtually no specialist training available and many products which are marketed at curly hair are a big let down and a waste of money. I had to travel many miles to find a hairdresser who understood curls and didn’t want to straighten them or fluff them up.
This inspired me at the grand age of 51 to take the plunge to go to college and train in hairdressing so that I could then go on to specialise and help curly ladies rediscover and love their curls. I spent six months travelling to London one day a week to work for and learn from curl specialist Lindsey Hughes, before completing an advanced level 2 DevaCurl course in New York last November.”
*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.
Take two parents, two entirely different cultures, traditions and perspectives and you get a family with some pretty tough discussions, strong opinions and choices ahead.Take two parents, two entirely different cultures, traditions and perspectives and you get a family with some pretty tough discussions, strong opinions and choices ahead. We can’t do it all and we certainly won’t do it perfectly when it comes to our mixed heritage kids but there are some things we as parents need to prioritise when raising kids of dual or multiple cultures.
Speak your language- If one of you speaks another language or originates from another country where English isn’t the first language, that means your son or daughter could and should be bilingual. Even if you don’t speak it well, passing down any culture often goes hand in hand with language. Your son or daughter may resent having to attend language school every Saturday now but they’ll thank you for it later on when they’re able to converse with friends and family from your native country.
Talk about your history– History can tell a thousand stories and telling your own history as well as that of your homeland will do wonders in opening up all sorts of discussions with your children. The Iranian Revolution marked a major historical upheaval and explains a lot about modern day Iran, its people, its diaspora and its politics. Pre-Revolutionary Iran and the ancient civilisations and dynasties also shed light on who and why Iranians are such a proud people. I don’t know if I would understand my Dad’s culture and origins if I didn’t have this perspective.
Emphasise both Cultures– Make sure you talk about both parent’s cultures to your children. So easy is it for parents to get caught in the trap of emphasising only the culture that is ‘exotic’ or foreign that the partner who hails from the country in which you reside or one that is more common, gets forgotten. Make sure both of your cultures and traditions are valued and explained and talk about it with each other to ensure you’re both on the same page.
Talk about racism– Even if you’ve never fell victim to racism, this is a must must discussion parents need to have with their children. Your children will have different experiences from you and they may have darker or lighter skin but either way they need to be able to talk about it and understand it even if you’re uncomfortable talking about it.
Pass on your traditions– Traditions are so important in passing down one’s culture. You don’t need to do everything your parents did but highlighting the important ones, in discussion with your partner, will help your children again to understand where you come from and the parts of their culture which are important. In our family, we have chosen to continue the traditional Nigerian greeting but have chosen not to pierce our newborn daughters’ ears. We have made these choices consciously and with intention about what we wish our children to take from Nigerian culture.
Mark your cultural festivals– With so many cultures to choose from, we’re never at a loss to have a reason to celebrate. From Canadian Halloween, to Nigerian Independence Day to Nowrooz (Iranian New Year) Festival, we seem to have it all covered. Each one gets as much attention as the next and we even try to ensure we can attend a community gathering to make it is as authentic as it was for us growing up with the real thing.
Demonstrate the importance of traditional greetings– Greetings are so important in today’s globalised world where countries, people and cultures emphasise different things in their greetings. In Nigeria, greeting an elder is a very formal affair involving a bow or a curtsy along with lowered eyes to show respect. In Persian culture, men and women typically kiss each other on the cheek three times to show affection and respect. It’s important that our kids understand how and why we greet each other in each setting so they can navigate their way around each cultural setting when they’re older.
Visit your home country with your children– Even if you’ve never been and you’re a third culture kid yourself, at least you had the benefit of being raised by parents who grew up there. Your children will need to see the real thing before they can understand your culture (and you) completely. The people, the cultural norms, complexities and weirdisms that make it up. Don’t let it become just a vacation spot either. Let your children spend their summers there to know just how you grew up and how you actually lived.
Foster close relationships with your children’s Grandparents– Grandparents are so important to imbibing your culture in your kids. They carry with them all of the above- history, traditions, language. Developing that relationship and ensuring your children get to know their grandparents will have a huge impact on them in years to come.
Give your children the freedom to adapt culture to who they are as third culture kids– Your kids are not you and their experience is going to be different from yours as children of an intercultural family. When they’re old enough, allow them to explore their culture for themselves and decide which parts they can identify with and which parts they don’t. This may change again when they have families of their own but it’s important that you let them be who they are and not decide for them even when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.
If you’re planning to have children and you’re in an interracial relationship, consider these most common complications every parent of mixed heritage children has faced at one point or another.
There are so many amazing things that being part of a mixed family can bring to your life but of course like anything, beauty is complex. These are simple reminders to make you aware of what is coming and what you may need to discuss with your partner beforehand. As your children get older, try understanding each issue with as much openness and understanding as you would any other.
Your child may have a different accent/ culture to you
“Mama, say ‘water’”, my oldest daughter pleaded. She laughed as I repeated the word with my heavy-Canadian accent, “waaaderrr”. I never thought my kids would be making fun of my accent. I just assumed we’d all speak the same, we’re a family, after all. Growing up first generation British and the daughter of mixed parents, (Nigerian and Canadian/Iranian/British), my three daughters are bound to have different accents, cultural experiences and different identities. As parents, it’s something you know that will happen when you have mixed race kids, but it’s tough when you realise they’re having completely different cultural experiences than you did growing up- even opting to adopt one culture or identity over another. As mixed kids, it’s their prerogative. Their language, accent, home, even their look is different to yours and though that may be the case with all kids, being of mixed parentage, it’s even more pronounced. Hey, some may even switch between accents depending on who they’re with. Accents, like any other part of their identity, can become fluid for mixed kids.
Consider that this is new territory for both you and your partner
Let’s face it, most parents of mixed children are of one heritage themselves and so finding themselves in this unknown world of mixed parenting is a minefield. It’s the constant arguments over whose childhood was better versus what is best for the child all the while both you being able to pass on your cultural identity in the process… It’s hard and neither of you is experienced in this area. You’re both so different and coming from such different backgrounds, you’ve never had to compromise on culture before. And inevitably you’ll both probably feel quite strongly about passing on your traditions and values.
Like anything, keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to deal with these discussions. I remember the discussion my hubby and I had about piercing our firstborn’s ears. In Nigerian culture, it was commonplace, even expected- so much so that despite our little one decked out in frilly dresses, relatives and friends would often insist they couldn’t tell she was a girl or not because she didn’t have pierced ears. We kept that conversation going for a long time, raising it at various times until we both came to an understanding about why it was important (or not) and what she (our daughter) would miss out on without it. It may seem trivial now but it took on more significance because we were so new to the interracial parenting scene.
Your child may adopt one identity over another
Being biracial black and white, identity is and will be fluid. Associating different aspects to each cultural background, our kids are likely to adopt one over the other at different points in their lives. If they can pass as white, they might only identify as white. As they get older and they start to understand skin colour and race on a deeper level, they may identify more with their black parent, even going so far as to say they are not white (at all). Another thing to consider is that siblings may identify differently from each other because of how different they look and their experiences as a result. My oldest daughter is darker skinned, looks much less ‘mixed’ than my other two and the only one with an identifiable Nigerian name. She will, inevitably have a different experience than the younger two- even opting to identify as black ‘like Daddy’ instead of being mixed. Be ready for it all and accept your children for who they are and where they’re at.
You’ll feel pressure from family about how to raise her/him
After the joy of having a new grandchild wears off, pressure will set in from family about how to raise your child. Starting from discussions about circumcision, ear piercing, the list goes on. Be prepared. Parents are likely to get involved in any family but when it comes to identity and culture, families can come from a place of fear of losing their cultural traditions when it comes to your children. Older relatives may even be stuck in a different generation where things were done for hygienic, economic or practical reasons. Those reasons might not exist today and may not apply to your home country so decide whether these traditions are still right for you and your children.
By the same token, don’t just discount it just because it’s not practically relevant; it might still be important to your partner because of its cultural implications. The first bath in Nigerian culture for our little ones was a great example of this. It was important back in the day because midwives performed many procedures that we replicate in today’s Western hospitals. Hence, its significance is not practical anymore but the cultural value I could recognise, was still relevant and important to my husband.
You’ll need to go with the times
Your kids are going to take on some aspects of your culture, but not all. Just as you probably did growing up and then going on to have your own family. Even as they grow, they might not think that going to mosque is that cool or they may turn a cool eye to the traditional stews you slave over every night, preferring instead fish fingers and fries because that’s what their friends are eating. I remember that feeling well, wincing in shame when one of my friends commented that my house always smelled like exotic food. I hated being different. I now try to make a fusion of food so my little ones can experience it all. As they get older though, trust that your children will be proud of who they are. Maturity brings with it pride in being able to be different and feeling comfortable. Keep that in mind when you’re having that argument with your little one over whether they can wear their superman outfit over their agbada (Nigerian traditional garb).
Adapt to the country you’re living in
Kids just want to fit in with their friends-especially when they get to the teenage years. Evaluate very carefully how important it is for your child to miss out on the biggest high school event of the year for a cultural event or insisting on traditional or cultural wear. Our children just want to be themselves, and I agree there is a fine line between wanting to imbibe important values, morals and ethics onto our children and imposing our own ideas. Finding the balance, through talking it out, explaining your reasons and not dogmatically insisting without allowing for dialogue is easier said than done but necessary if you want to pull them along. Explain the reasons behind such practices, and don’t just assume they’re going to do them because you said so.
Encourage bilingualism but don’t make it torturous for them
If your child is resisting speaking his/her mother tongue – don’t get upset. Keep up with it, encourage it in gentle ways. You don’t really want your child to hate your language, do you? In reality, there WILL be a time when the need will arise to learn and to speak it. And your child WILL show more interest. Saturday schools are just as common as they were when we were growing up and I don’t know how I feel about them yet. I’ve read about grown-up children who hated it and still today don’t speak a lick of their language despite the torturous 3-4 hour lessons they were forced to go to every Saturday. I’ve also read about people who hated it growing up and now really value that they can speak, read and write their native language. Make decisions based on what you and your partner believe is right but keep your minds open as they get older.
The ‘homecoming’ you had in mind for when you bring your kids back to where you grew up may not be what you were expecting
It’s not just that they might not be feeling it but your expectations of bringing your kids, your offspring, your legacy back to where their roots are might be too much given the fact that your kids are mixed. They’re likely to have different accents, dress differently and even may be perceived as completely foreign. All of this will make them feel unable to relate to how you grew up and may make them feel like a tourist in your home country. Don’t take it hard or feel like they’re nothing like you.
Expect that your child will question, even doubt or be ashamed of certain cultural practices
Be open minded- if your child comes home questioning something that you take for granted is cultural, allow him/her to explore it with you. Don’t just shut it down because you think it’s disrespectful. It may not be the right time at that moment when you’re at a traditional burial or wedding but remember these events and milestones are important markers of your culture and great ways for you to explain certain things. Many old traditions are built around births, deaths, weddings and milestones such as coming of age.
My husband recently took my daughter to one of his family naming ceremonies for a new baby. Naming ceremonies are important in Nigerian culture and depending on the families’ circumstances when the child was born, they can be quite emotional, marking the families’ joy after years of trying for another child or after losing a parent recently. The ceremony became quite emotional and the scene brought up many questions for our little one. My husband was able to explain what was happening and why- giving her context and insight into the emotions of the night.
Having children of your own will force you to confront your own childhood issues
Don’t assume that because they’re yours, they’re an extension of you. They’re going to have different experiences and therefore different issues, if any. So don’t make the bullying about racism if it’s not for them. If they do experience racism, take it in your stride and explain it to them, talk about it and don’t assume that this is going to be a major issue just because it was for you. I know plenty of mixed or lighter skin black people who say they never had to experience racist bullying.
Your children have the chance to embody the best of both of you
Finally, remember that growing up in a mixed family is one of the most enriching and fulfilling experiences your child could ever have. Without even trying, your children will grow up with a healthy sense of diversity, tolerance, open mindedness, awareness and the potential for multiple languages. Being mixed allows your child to bridge gaps and embody diplomacy, with the ability to switch between multiple spheres and cultures.
So good luck raising your global citizen! For more about raising mixed heritage kids, click here…
Appearing on the radio last week to talk about mixed race issues, I realised the most topical question people wanted to discuss is actually the intersection of culture in an interracial relationship. (And just to clarify, being mixed race and multicultural do not necessarily go hand in hand).
In my case, they do. My husband is from Nigeria. I am half-English, half Iranian and I grew up in Canada. So cultural differences play a big part. As does race.
Jenny, the host of BBC’s Women’s Hour host last week asked a number of questions about how my husband and I work out cultural clashes and how our multiple backgrounds may cause confusion in our children.
A minority of internet trolls caught onto this and criticised our choice to ‘interbreed’ as they put it and put our children unhelpfully into a perpetual state of confusion.
It made me think. Is this true? While I didn’t want to give any troll the value of my consideration, I did wonder:
Are we doing a disservice to our children by marrying outside of our culture or race?
Indeed, there were definitely times growing up where I was confused being half Persian and half English. The question, “where are you from?” often caught me off guard. And other times where, appearing at an Iranian gathering, I longed to speak the language better, to ‘look’ more Persian and to legitimately say, yes I am Iranian. But I always felt unsure or not ‘legit’ enough- whatever that meant.
On the other hand, laying claim to solely my Canadian identity also felt an uneasy relationship, as if I was ignoring the parts of me that were Iranian and mixed and which I knew made me ‘different’ somehow.
How is it Different Today than When We Were Growing Up?
Today being mixed represents a plethora of experiences. When Tiger Woods spoke out in the late 90’s calling himself “Cablinasian”, the world took notice. Referring to his “mix of half Asian (Chinese and Thai), one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American and one-eighth Dutch, he’d adopted the term as a way of honouring his mother Kultida (of Thai, Chinese and Dutch ancestry) as well as respecting all aspects of his cultural and racial heritage.”
Since then, dozens of celebrities have spoken out about their experiences being mixed including actress Meghan Markle, recently featured in ElleUk talking about her identity as a biracial woman and currently dating Prince Harry. Although her mixed race background has, even in this day and age, caused ripples in the aristocratic ‘white’ circles that define the British class system, it’s not made enough headlines to deter Prince Harry from his new romance.
Today, being mixed race or multicultural represents so much more than it did back in my day. Back in the 80’s, people didn’t talk about being mixed. You were either black or white, Canadian or ‘other’. Today, while being mixed can also still be confusing, it also means one person’s own experience can embody the essence of globalisation- diversity, diplomacy, multiculturalism, immigration, tolerance and equity.
My husband and I teach our children about all of their experiences, backgrounds and histories. We celebrate a multitude of festivals- including ones that are not our own- and practice traditions that draw from the best of our childhoods. It means our children are confident about who they are and where they come from. When they perform a traditional greeting for their grandparents just before tucking into Iranian rice and stew, I know we’ve done ok. They are not ‘confused’ but instead proud that they can call many different countries ‘home’.
We’ve Come a Long Way from the Old School Way of Thinking
So, ‘interbreeding’- as my friends the internet trolls accused my husband and I- yes, admittedly may not be as easy as marrying the next Dick who grew up next door. But today it represents so much more. We’ve come a long way from the old school thinking that one must marry within their race. Experience and exposure has done a lot to help that along. Sure, there are challenges but I’m happy in the knowledge that my children are not confused, but ‘enriched’.
Have we done them a disservice? No, rather I would think they will grow up confident and openminded. And perhaps by the time they do, this question will not even be worth considering.