Tag Archives: Racial Identity

Implications of Culture and Race

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.


Filed under Adoption Issues, Advocacy, Multicultural Families

The Race Thing

Josi is heading off to Mexico with her classmates shortly.

Excited? Is she ever!

Am I? Yes and no.

P9050043By traveling without me or her dad, she is fostering more independence. Granted, she will be under the watchful eye of her capable and trustworthy teachers. Being a very seasoned traveler, she is ready and poised to travel.

While in Mexico for ten days, Josi will be immersed in the culture of Mexico. This is not new to her. As a family we seek immersion when we travel. We believe it enriches the travel experience, opens our kids up, and teaches them about the world outside the U.S. In past years she has traveled with us to areas in Mexico that are not inundated with tourists.

Josi has had a taste of the rich beauty of Mexico. She has also experienced racism. I know because I was there to witness it – the gawking stares, the stunned expressions upon seeing her, the pulling of the corners of the eyes to point out the shape of her eyes. And the talk. What they didn’t realize was that she understood every single word they said. She handled it by choosing to ignore it. But I, well my feathers were more than a bit ruffled. Without language skills, I was not able to be proactive or reactive.

Protective mama needs to take a deep breath and remain confident that Josi’s teachers will handle it well, if it occurs. They are all native speakers, two are Mexican and one is Spanish. They are wonderful compassionate human beings.

So, I again need to gently open up the race dialogue with my daughter, one she doesn’t have much interest in. It isn’t a comfortable conversation, but it is necessary. Racism exists everywhere on the planet and only by talking about it will she have the ability to navigate it.

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Filed under Adoption Issues, Adoptive Mom's Perspective, International Adoption, Multicultural Families, Parenting, The International Mom

Observations – Discoveries Through Pictures

pc2100521         Listen – and you will learn.


         I was sitting in my bedroom chair, knitting Holden’s birthday afghan. The girls had been knitting with me, working on their projects. It was getting rather late and the girls were done for the night. After putting their knitting away, they began to wander around my bedroom and ended up at the dresser, focusing on a dear shell-encrusted box Josi had made for me years ago.


         “Mom, what’s your favorite piece of jewelry?”


         I answered that it was my bracelet with all of their names on it. That elicited no response from them.


         “Look at Greyson! He’s so small! He’s got so much hair. I wanted to sit on the big monkey. Next time I’m going to sit on it. Can I, Mom?” 


         This conversation was going back and forth between the girls and there was so much laughter in their voices. I realized the picture they were looking at was the one taken at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. I continued to knit, counting out my pattern, but listening.


         “Where’s Mom?” asked Aubry.


         “She’s taking the picture,” said Josi, with total authority.


         “Oh, yeah.”


         “Hey, look at Holden. He looks just like Mom,” observed Josi.


         I was “kind of ” paying attention, but now I focused my listening and could feel that Mark, on our bed with his laptop, had become an interested observer as well.


         “Do you think so? Yeah, it’s him. Looks like Mom,” said Aubry.


         Very interesting, especially because we always hear how Holden resembles Mark. They moved onto our wedding picture, their comments full of derision; too romantic for them… The girls were having a big time looking at the pictures.


         “Look at Mom! She’s so little!” said Aubry.


          I knew there wasn’t a picture of me as a little girl on the dresser.  “What are you looking at?” I asked.


         Aubry picked up the pictures, framed together and connected by a pewter hinge in the center. (These are two of my favorites, done in sepia.)


         “Who do you think it is?” I asked the girls.


         “It’s you. She has blond hair,”  said Josi, referring to the pictures.


         “Look closer. Who do you see?” I asked.


         “Awww, she’s so cute! Mom, it’s you,” said Aubry.    


         “Honey, it’s not. It’s you.”


         “No, it’s not! My hair isn’t blond.”


         The girls took the picture over to Mark for confirmation.  He told them the pictures were of Aubry.


         “Aubry’s hair is brown,” insisted Josi.


         “Yes, it is – but the sunlight is on her hair, making it shine,” I said.


         “Her skin isn’t brown. She’s light,” said Josi.


         “Let me see,” said Aubry. “No it isn’t.”


         “The pictures were taken in the early Spring, before you had a chance to be tan. And sweetie, that’s my dress you were wearing.”


          “Your dress?”


         I loved the excitement in her voice, the emotion that welled up from the realization that I had kept something of mine to give her, to share with her.  “Yep – from when I was a baby. My grandmother made it for me. It was one of my favorites and I saved it for you girls.”


         “Are you sure it’s Aubry?” Josi asked, still doubtful.


         “It sure is,” I said.


         “Why was she bent over like that?”


         “She was looking for fairies.”


         “Yep. It’s Aubry; she always looked for fairies,” says Josi. “Did she ever find any? I mean, really?”


          I looked over at Aubry, who was full of joy, her smile coming through her eyes and answered, “She sure did.”




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Filed under Multicultural Families, Parenting