Tag Archives: mixed race families

Black or Multiracial?: Raising Biracial kids

Black or Multiracial?: Raising Biracial Kids

The other day I came across a post from a fellow multiracial mama about how she refuses to call her biracial kids black but instead intentionally refers to them as multiracial or mixed.

It generated an interesting discussion about why, why not, and whether that is truly the message we should be giving our biracial children.

Biracial kids

What is their true identity? And, what, if any, is the message we as parents should be giving our children about their identity?

biracial kids
My oldest mixed race daughter

My own experience as mixed race Iranian/British growing up in Canada was that my parents just didn’t talk about identity. It left me confused, in denial and ashamed at times when teasing at school pointed out the differences in me.

My parents’ preference was not to talk about identity or the many cultures that made up who we are. Instead, they assumed that we (my brother and sister and I) would assimilate into Canadian culture if they just didn’t acknowledge our differences.

Unfortunately, there were enough reminders of what made us unique and different for us to remain confused. Food, family, language and culture around us were daily reminders even if we didn’t always look the part. Though my light skin and features allowed me to pass into the majority white culture, I knew my experience gave me away.

It was only at University when I was old enough to embrace my multiple identities that I began to meet other mixed race and biracial people and understood the benefit to acknowledging and discussing what being mixed race means in today’s world.

Because of that, I have always made it a priority to talk to my biracial kids about the multiple cultures and identities that make up who they are. When faced with the potential backlash that perhaps we talk about race and identity too much, I know that to ignore it and hope that it doesn’t become an issue is absolutely the wrong message we need to be giving our children.

So what message do we give our biracial children when their identity permeates the boundaries between black, brown, multiracial, mixed race, biracial, multicultural and all things in between. And does it mean they’re not just ‘black’?
Biracial kids
My DD2 wearing traditional Nigerian head wrap

Can they be both?

For me, being biracial can mean many different things at different times. Being black and white are not necessarily mutually exclusive though many mixed race celebrities in the US are conflicted.

While Taye Diggs refused to call his mixed son Black, Thandie Newton and Halle Berry only refer to themselves as Black women. And most famously of all, we didn’t often hear the former President Barack Obama referred to as mixed but instead the first black President of the United States.

So do I refer to my daughters as mixed, biracial or black and does it vary with each one depending on how many outward African features they’ve inherited as black girls?

I’ve come to see my biracial daughters’ identities as evolving. Evolving with age, and with their own experiences. And, like me, I know that at different times, they will identify accordingly.

When I was immersed in Iranian festivals and food and culture, I felt wholly and truly Iranian. Other times, I knew I could only partially lay claim to this identity and mixed Iranian and English felt a more appropriate term for how I felt. Still, there will be times, for example when I moved to England from Canada, when I feel my Canadian upbringing comes out strongly.

Identity is More than just a feeling… it’s an experience

My daughters will likely want to identify with the political solidarity that comes with black identity. They will, at times, feel very strongly about who they are as black women when they are faced with the injustices of discrimination and racism.biracial kids

They may, on the other hand, also be aware of their white privilege. And know that their experiences as part of a multicultural, multiracial family lent them different and perhaps more privileged experiences than that of other Nigerians.

How they are perceived by others will also influence how they identify themselves. But it is not our job as parents to teach our biracial children that they are only mixed and not just black or just white.

Instead, we should encourage them to be confident about who they are, to stand up to others whose perception doesn’t marry with their own experience and to embrace all the parts that make up their identity. Acknowledging all the while that this will change and identities will shift as they explore what that means for themselves.


10 Fun Free Ways to Celebrate your Multiracial Familybiracial children

Celebrating the Holidays in a Multicultural Family

I love Christmas (if you haven’t guessed that already) and just as much as I love the lights, the tinsel, Santa and all the decorations, I also love the intensity of it all.

But I recognise this can be challenging and sometimes painful for families where, seeing each other once or twice a year is not always easy. Throw in a couple that have multiple heritages, traditions and backgrounds and it’s grounds for some pretty intense conflicts- if it’s not managed well.

More often than not couples from similar backgrounds can master the main events together easily. Not so in mixed-culture couples. Holidays steeped in tradition- often religious- and mountains of relatives in close quarters, can result in intense emotion from all sides and high expectations of what and how things should go down.

While my partner of Nigerian descent and I of Iranian/Canadian descent have been lucky to find acceptance from both sides of our families, it doesn’t mean we’ve not had our fair share of conflict around festivals and traditions.

Children bring out a new angle to building on and passing on tradition in a multicultural family. And what can follow can be intense feeling about what and how you should celebrate.

After 15 years of being together and 3 children later, my partner and I are gradually learning to let things go, reduce expectation and build our own unique family traditions outside of what we grew up with.

Celebrating the Holidays in a Multicultural Family
Celebrating the Holidays in a Multicultural Family

Like a lot of multicultural families, we spend most of our travel budget on visiting family. The yearly trips to visit my family in Canada and my husband’s family either in various parts of England or even Nigeria (if we can stretch it) are steeped in expectation and an idealised version of ‘homecoming’. 

The pressure to create the kind of atmosphere you remember fondly  can be stressful, especially if it’s at odds with how your partner may feel about it.  I feel that I could or should do more for my girls or they will miss out on an important part of my cultural heritage. What kind of pressure is that?!!

Take last year for example. The intensity of my excitement to be coming ‘home’ for Christmas in Canada was endearing but nerve-wracking. The pressure to ‘do’ everything, see the lights, make a snowman, visit Santa and decorate the tree with the right Christmas album playing in the background (yes, I’m sure everyone has a favourite that was continually played while growing up) can lead to overload fast.

My partner, on the other hand, is much more relaxed when it comes to Christmas. Growing up in Nigeria where the weather is warmer and perhaps schedules looser, has different ideas and both our versions of how to ‘enjoy’ the holidays as been at odds.

The Holidays can also split a multicultural family down the middle…

For multicultural families that have had to endure prejudice from one side or both because of their union, the holidays can be even more painful. The pressure and desire to spend it with your loved ones, hoping against hope that they will have gotten over their racist ideas and accepted your relationship for the sake of the kids or just because ‘it’s 2018!’- is heart breaking when it doesn’t happen.

Social media has made many of these stories real to me, particularly after big political events such as Brexit and the US election when I read about many mixed couples planning to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving with family they knew had voted to leave or for ideas symbolised by the Trump campaign which represented deep rooted prejudices. Their fear and sadness that their partner would never be accepted, despite the love between them, was harrowing to read.

For lone parents in a multicultural family, the struggle is even greater…

Not at all surprising, all those times throughout the year where families feel separated, abandoned, rejected or deep in conflict become even more intense in December. In instances of lone-parent families where the non-resident parent doesn’t play a big role in their child’s life, it’s left to the resident parent to fill their child in on a culture they may know nothing about.

For many, the fight isn’t worth fighting because as a lone parent, it’s probably easier to just do it your way. And yet, the void children may feel as a result of the other parent’s absence makes it even more vital that they know about all aspects of their racial and cultural heritage. Even more so, so that they are comfortable with who they are, recognizing that they belong to two or more cultural and racial heritages.

Release expectation…

All parents do things with their kids based on what they have known and learned throughout their lives. Their own parents gave them some of it, but a lot came from the culture in which they were immersed. 

Looking back, I realise that what made the holidays so special wasn’t the Christmas album, the gifts or the right coloured lights. It was having our entire family round for a big meal celebrating our unique traditions, beliefs and cultures- in whatever form that took. It was spending time together and making memories that strengthened our bond as a family.

Releasing expectation about reliving your childhood can be what’s needed at this time of year. Your heritage cannot be exactly relived because it’s relevance becomes diluted when you have two cultures to merge in a multicultural family.

Perhaps that’s what will make our Christmases in a multicultural family more interesting and more memorable. Our Christmas turkey now sits alongside a giant bowl of jollof rice and plantain. And snow lined walks in the afternoon will be replaced with games. Either way, I’m hoping that that’s the part my children will look back on and remember- our unique heritages that blend together to make Christmas so special.



 

Father’s Day Gifts for Multiracial Families

Father’s Day Gifts for Multiracial Families

It’s Father’s Day coming up and as parents of mixed race kids, it’s a challenge to find gifts that feature multiracial families. Why shouldn’t Dads of mixed kids enjoy the same original, personalised gifts featuring their multiracial families? Why shouldn’t they see themselves and their families represented?

Well, we decided to put together a list of some great ideas for the Dads in your life who deserve to see themselves represented in your gifts. Take a look below and tell us what you think!

How about a book featuring Multiracial Dads and their kids?

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Daddy Do My Hair

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Girl of Mine

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
The Night Before Father’s Day

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
My Dad and Me

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Papa Do You Love Me?

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Daddy Poems

If Books don’t work for you, try out these gifts that you can personalise with your own family photo, kids’ drawings or personalise yourself with Dad’s unique features. Get the kids involved in choosing and drawing and it’ll be extra personal. With all that thought going into it, there’s no doubt he’ll appreciate the uniqueness of your gift!

Fathers Day gifts for Multiracial families
‘My Dad’ Personalised Book For Fathers

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial families
Watercolour Line People Portrait
by LETTERFEST

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Personalised Colour In Family Portrait Print

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Your Drawing Cufflinks For Dad
by HOLD UPON HEART

Father's Gifts for Multiracial Families
Parent And Child Hands Graphic Cut Out Style Print

Father's Day gifts for Multiracial Families
Personalised Dads Apron With Child’s Drawing

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Family Silhouette Personalised Print

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Father’s Day Clock

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Personalised ‘Daddy Cool’ Cotton Canvas Washbag

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Thanks Dad Father’s Day Cards

Father's Day Gifts for Multiracial Families
Personalised Photo Book For Daddy

Other great ideas are photo gifts that print one of your amazing family photos onto mugs, cushions, mouse pads and more!

Try some of these ideas and if you have any more, do tag us on facebook, twitter or comment below and we’ll make sure to add it to our list! Hope the men in your life enjoy Father’s Day!

For more resources exclusively for multiracial families, visit the Mixed.Up.Mama resources section…

 

Why #royalwedding2018 Was So Important for our Black or Mixed Race Children

Tale of a Mixed Race Royal Wedding

There has been a lot written about the royal wedding since it aired on over 30 million television sets across the globe. Most of it is positive- even dramatically praiseworthy. Meghan’s dress, her poise, Harry’s nervousness, Prince Charles walking Meghan down the aisle and of course, who could forget Rev Curry’s poignant yet dramatic address. The day was filled with elegance and style but perfectly choreographed to pay homage to both sets of cultures uniting as one.

I watched William and Kate’s wedding with interest seven years ago, having never watched the amazing performance the Royal machine puts on during one of these affairs.

And yet, this one stood out, not just because it incorporated the same pomp and performance that is behind all of the Royal Family events. But because of who it involved.

These six images below captivated my little ones’ faces.

For the same cliche reasons that many black Americans and Brits have been going on about. Let it not be overstated. This was history in the making.

And representation matters. Meghan shook up an establishment that is centuries’ old where black faces are/were rarely seen. (“They were coming out of every stockroom the BBC could find!”- one of my family members joked.)

And to have so many front and centre- to see a ‘princess’ (and I say this knowing that she will not officially get the title) who is biracial and PROUD! marrying into such an old, white and stodgy establishment. Well, what an absolute mind blower.

I cried and laughed for the same reasons  that most others did watching. But I also cried for my children- because IF this is how the Royal Family wish to go forward, they have made a statement of intention that is both progressive and welcome.

Our children will grow up knowing and seeing a woman part of the royal family who is a feminist, an ambassador for growing up mixed race, proud of her black roots and most of all, willing and able to push against even the most stubborn of barriers.

It was a day that will go down in the history books and one that I’m certain my three daughters won’t forget. When they looked at Meghan and commented, “she’s mixed like ME!”, I knew it was a moment to remember….

Next step is for Meghan to wear her curly hair natural!

If you’re wondering whether multiracial families are the new ‘normal’, read on…

 

Raising Multicultural Kids in a Mixed Race Family

Raising Multicultural Kids in a Mixed Race Family

That first day when I realised my kid was global both in heritage and in mindset was when she was three. My Mum and I were talking at the kitchen table, and the subject of China came up in conversation. My firstborn piped up, “Mama, did we fly over China to get to Canada?”

She’s referring to our move from Nigeria to Canada. And, no, we didn’t fly over China. But to hear the question come from a 3 year old suggested she knew that it was both a country far away and that other places in the world existed outside of her familiar environment. We hadn’t spoken about China before but her exposure, we knew, already included an array of foreign countries.

We didn’t set out to be raising multicultural kids in our mixed race family but as our family is made up of Nigerian, Iranian, English and Canadian heritage, it just sort of happened.

Raising a Multicultural Kid in a Mixed Race Family

This birth advantage grew  after being accepted to a genuinely international school in Lagos, Nigeria. Friends of hers hailed from all over- South Africa, Netherlands, India, Greece, America, England, Israel, Lebanon and of course, Nigeria.

It was and still is normal for her friends to speak two, if not more languages and having parents of different colours/ races was no big deal.

Even When You Stop Travelling, Raising Multicultural Kids Can Still Be Easy

We’re now living in London, England. And as she becomes more aware, she’s also talking more about accents, vocabulary, geography and social norms. We have realised that raising multicultural kids sort of comes with the territory when parents hail from different parts of the globe.

And my daughter’s accent, having lived in 3 different continents in her 6 short years, and vocab shifts according to whom she’s talking to.

Like any child with access to an ipad, her favourite shows include BBC’s Ben and Holly alongside American cartoons Paw Patrol and Lego Friends. She’s savvy enough to realise the characters speak differently and that “Hi guys” is not common all over the world.

For her, asking Mama where the garbage is and saying, “Odaro” (goodnight in Yoruba) to grandparents via facetime is normal. For her, assuming “Nepa took light” (an affectionate way of referring to the frequent power outages in Lagos) when the phone cuts midway through phone calls with grandparents and cousins that are two shades darker than her, is normal.

And showing off her collection of shopkins to cousins three shades lighter, blonde and blue eyed, in Canada where the 15 inch snow glistens off their window is also just as normal.

She doesn’t yet know that friends won’t know what she’s talking about when the day comes she proudly refers to her “Bababozorg” (Farsi for her maternal grandfather). Just as it came as a surprise to her recently when her friend asked her why she was referring to the ‘bathroom’. What’s that?, her friend asked.

Games every other day include role play as a waitress carrying a pizza. Not in her hand though. “On my head”, she insists, “like they do in Nigeria”.

Dressing up as a princess includes a jewel-like ‘bindhi’ in the middle of her forehead “because it’s pretty”. And books at night spin riveting tales of African villagers, Middle Eastern parables and American kids playing on the ‘teeter totter’ and doing ‘somersaults’.

So Does Raising Multicultural Kids Take Effort?

Yes and no. We didn’t set out to give our daughters such varied exposure. We both love travelling but we thought learning about the world came later, when children are interested in learning about their own history and culture.

But without our intervention, it’s just happened. Our daughter’s everyday exposure and experience is littered with variety growing up in a mixed race family. And that is the key, exposing your children to diversity as part of each and every experience- intentional or not.

Whether we tried to, just her being is a mixture of colour, race, history, culture and language. As mixed race kids, we were bound to be raising multicultural kids and perhaps there’s no getting around it these days.

So in that respect the term ‘third culture kid’ is perhaps outdated. Kids can’t help but be soaking up four, five even ten different cultures blended into their little beings.

So when their experiences span continents, their loved ones hail from different corners of the globe and their conversations are packed with language, intonation and dialects bridging nations. Raising multicultural kids becomes unintentional and it gives new meaning to the word ‘globalisation’.

For more from Mixed.Up.Mama about raising mixed race kids, read about Preparing your Children for Racist Bullying

How to Talk to Mixed Heritage Kids about Racism10 Things Every Parent Should Do When Raising Mixed Race Kids10 Things to Consider Before Having Children in an Interracial RelationshipRaising Mixed Kids in a Colourism World