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.
What is their true identity? And, what, if any, is the message we as parents should be giving our children about their identity?
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’?
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.
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.
As we become more educated about the dangers of these poisons, we want to know exactly what is going into our curly baby hair products and what is going on their skin.
And yet, the difference between curly hair that’s moisturised, healthy and protected is big. We need to know the products that we spend money on, work. Products that moisturise, control frizz, keep our kids’ curls healthy and prevent product build up. An impossible request list? Not anymore.
More and more curly baby hair products are boasting all natural ingredients, giving parents an important choice. They’re also specialising in toddler and baby hair, containing gentle cleansers that are easy on the eyes and skin.
Here we’re bringing you an up-to-date list of the curly world’s most popular and effective curly baby hair products for babies and toddlers. So you too can make an informed choice*.
My favourite product from Curly Q’s is their Curl moisturiser /detangler. Every morning, a few sprays of this into wet hair and it was like the comb slid right through. Their products also smell great as well as being super moisturising. Boasting a long list of certified all natural ingredients (no sulphates, paragons, petroleum or silicones), this line is perfect for your curly kids.
Mixed Chicks has nearly cornered the mixed race hair market just by virtue of their name. I use their shampoo and conditioner and both are great. They aren’t paraben free but they’re free from sulphates and don’t contain any dyes or perfumes or silicone. I’ve found their products reasonably priced and easily available as a selection of their products are sold in most Boots and Superdrug pharmacies nowadays.
I love their detangler. “This hair care product is nothing short of a magic potion that will bring bounce and life back in your child’s hair! An absolute must have hair moisturizer from SheaMoisture, this nourishing detangler contains certified organic Shea Butter, which is essential in keeping hair frizz-free and soft as silk. Slippery Elm Extract makes hair smooth to touch while Coconut Oil hydrates, and helps in defining curls. It also contains Hibiscus Flower Extracts to add lustre and volume to hair, giving those kiddie curls extra bounce!
SheaMoisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus Kids Extra Moisturizing Detangler protects and moisturizes hair from roots to ends. Its natural ingredients make it completely safe for use by children of all age groups. Apply sparingly on wet or dry hair and watch as this product weaves its magic to transform your child’s wavy, curly hair to beautiful, frizz-free, glossy curls!We leave out these harmful ingredients: No Parabens, No Phthalates, No Mineral Oil, No DEA, No Petroleum, No Formaldehyde, No Propylene.” Good ethics. Good product. Nice prices. You can’t go wrong with Shea Moisture.
Why Curly Ellie came to be. “We need to look after our bodies, inside and outside and if it means using shampoos that sound like you are ordering a meal from the local health food restaurant… who can say no!Remember the phrase ”you are what you eat”? I am a believer.
Ellie struggled with allergies for the first 3 years of her life. Seeing my little girl unable to eat the birthday cake at friends’ parties, having a specially prepared packed lunch when everyone else was gorging on sandwiches was testing, but we survived. This makes me even more conscious of what went in her mouth and went on her body.”
We use NO parabens, sulfates, SLS, synthetic fragrances or mineral oils in any of our products. We are vegan, gluten free and great on sensitive scalp so we can be used from early years when the scalp and skin is most delicate. The shampoo, two conditioners and detangling spray contain natural ingredients such as hair shaft-toughening quinoa and broccoli for added shine. This is in addition to the cleansing and moisturising qualities of aloe vera, abyssinian oil, shea butter and sweet almond oil.” It doesn’t get more all-natural than this. ”
“When you start to see little curls begin to form at a very young age, you know you are in for a treat. There is no need to wait on these curls to fully take shape before caring for them because curly hair has different needs. No matter what age, curly hair tends to be dry and unruly, and sometimes hard to manage. With time, when you take care of your curly hair, none of these common traits will take over you.
Start your baby off on the right foot by using a product line of curly baby hair products specifically formulated to their unique hair type. Created by the curly hair product company CURLS, It’s a Curl, is the premier baby care line of products for curly hair. Your infants and toddlers are in great hands!
You can feel super comfortable using this product line for each step of the hair care process, starting with the shampoo. “Peek-A-Boo Tearless Shampoo” is gentle enough, even for sensitive skin and scalp. Its powerful ingredients include Calendula Extract, a cooling yet gentle antiseptic and Allantion, a botanical extract from the Comfrey plant that treats irritants of the scalp.”
“CurlyKids Hair Care products have been specially developed for children with curly hair and all of the wonderful textures that make up this incredibly diverse hair type. From hair that is curly-kinky, curly-coily, curly-wavy, curly-frizzy, or a combination of textures, our products satisfy the specific conditioning, moisturizing, and detangling needs that all of these textures share, without being sticky, tacky, or greasy.CurlyKids products are always sulfate and paraben free and contain the most effective ingredients to address the specific hair care needs of all our CurlyKids Cuties!”
“Tough on tangles but gentle on delicate curls, with fun fragrances that will make you wish you were 10 again.Gently loosens even the most difficult tangles. Leaves curls soft, frizz-free, and manageable. Leave-in/rinse-out formula makes caring for kids’ curls fuss-free”. Their products have great reviews for being gentle and effective (even boast multiple awards from Naturally Curly) but I couldn’t find anything about whether they are sulphate free so just how ‘natural’ they are.
Perhaps the most accessible, reasonably priced curly hair product out there, you will find Cantu at most drug stores or pharmacies. And at £2-5 a bottle, it’s super reasonable. And with no sulphates, parabens or minerals, they’re my go-to product line when I need something that can do the job without the frills. That’s what Cantu does. It is a great product line and their curling cream and leave-in conditioner have both easily become my favourites in the contest for best curly baby hair products.
Finally. More popular with our neighbours across the pond, I’ve not had much experience with Aunt Jackie’s but I know lots of people who use their products and swear by them. Sulphate free, no parabens, no silicones and no petroleum, their Curling & Twisting Custard is a moisture rich anti-frizz formula that helps curls, twists and waves stay springy and smooth while elongating and providing lasting definition. “Natural curls, coils & twists spring to life with Aunt Jackie’s special “anti-frizz” formula. The Anti-frizz formula helps curls, waves & twists stay well-defined & springy, elongates and fives curls long-lasting definition, helps leave hair feeling super soft to the touch with no sticky, crunchy feel!”
So there you have it. A complete list of the best toddler-friendly and baby curly hair products. Do get in touch if you can use another product and think it deserves to be on this list!
*Reviews are based on my own experience with my three curly girls, research into Amazon’s most popular products as well as curly specialist’s advice and recommendations.
**Disclaimer: Some of these curly baby hair products contain affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy from that retailer, Mixed.Up.Mama gets a cut. It helps us run the site and keep it going.
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.
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’.
Raising Mixed Race Kids: The Moment They Wake Up to Their Own Identity
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.
Where do you go next when your children realise they’re different?
I tried hard not to be heartbroken but I knew that I was completely unprepared for this this morning. I sighed with despair that she should have to feel this way, that this should be important and the meaning we attach to skin colour.
Slowly, 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 most importantly, 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 tender 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.