Our kids are growing older and I continually examine how well we address the implications of culture and race. I need to; we are a multicultural and multiracial family. Many people define us by our differences. While we acknowledge our differences, we also choose to focus on our similarities and define ourselves as family.
Unfortunately, what we view as cause for celebration isn’t necessarily viewed the same outside of our family. We’ve backed off from throwing ourselves full-throttle into the cultural celebrations of our children’s birth countries. For example, we dressed the girls in cheongsams when they were little and the rest of us in accompanying Chinese clothing. Josi and Aubry have no interest in that now—forget even donning a t-shirt with any Chinese or Mandarin affiliation on it. No way. (I got rid of my Chinese t-shirt when Josi told me the pictograph on it was wrong…) The kids still want the food and the hong bao…and, of course, to witness a Lion Dance. They appreciate the folklore and the arts too.
Aubry has said to me (many times), “I’m an American—a Chinese American.” She and Josi have also shared with me that they want to be “like everyone else.” In other words, they want to be everyday tweens, similar to their friends and peers. Their friends are diverse and this is good. There is respect for cultural and racial differences. However, outside of their circle of friends questions are asked in such a way that makes my girls uncomfortable…and so they move away from their birth culture and from talking about it.
What we’ve come to realize is that, as we embrace our kids’ birth cultures and assimilate what we can into our family traditions, celebrations are not a substitute for discussions about culture and race. I support my kids in their decisions to pick and choose what they want to embrace from their birth cultures. We will continue to embrace their cultures and others as well and to talk about prejudice and racism—for doing so will arm them against the ignorant.