Last Saturday, my darling little family was featured on Musing Momma in a post called "Saturday Spotlight on Multiracial Families: A family founded in faith." Please go read it, and read all of the awesome stuff on Musing Momma (musing-momma.blogspot.com). She will be continuing to feature multiracial families in the weeks to come, and I can't wait to hear their perspectives!
In writing my responses for Musing Momma, I really started to think more about having a multiracial family, and especially about raising a son in such a family. It might have been easy to downplay the uniqueness of our family prior to having Jr., but now that we have brought this darling little boy into the world, we can't ignore how the world may treat him. As his parents, we have a responsibility for helping protect him from the cruelness of this world and for helping him develop a view of himself that fits with God's view of him.
I've started reading "Does Anybody Else Look Like Me," a book on raising multiracial children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. I found this recommendation on Musing Momma, and thought it would be the perfect summer read. I've only gotten through the first chapter, as I've been recently captivated by "The Night Circus" (ok, I promised myself I wouldn't get distracted by thinking about or talking about that marvelous book). Nakazawa is a Caucasian woman married to a Japanese-American man, and they have two bi-racial children. She interviews other multiracial families and looks at the related research (I'm a sucker for good research) to make suggestions for parents raising multiracial children.
In her first chapter, Nakazawa addresses the preschool years. She suggests that a major task during this stage in a multiracial child's life is to understand that there are other families that look like their family and to be protected from the responses of curious and nosey strangers (well, family too). She talks about how her children were constantly ogled over and how people often said how cute they were and made curious remarks. She attributed this to their unique bi-racial features and suggests that this type of attention can be disconcerting for a child. By receiving so much extra attention, they learn that they are different. And, sometimes, different can make one feel "bad" and "other." She makes some very useful suggestions about how to talk to children about their family make-up, how to begin to help them identify as a multi-racial person, and how to defend them from nosey strangers. Her concrete examples and scripts are excellent tools for parents. I'm really starting to think about how I can start having these types of conversations with Jr.
For instance, Nakazawa suggests pointing out families that look similar to yours whenever possible. It is important to not avoid talking about race in an effort to be so enlightened that you are "above" race. Race, color, and being different will have an impact on a multiracial child whether their enlightened parents like it or not. So, one "model family" that I've put in my mental Rolodex of Black Daddy/White Mommy families is the beautiful and talented Diggs-Menzel family! (My darling hubby took me to Idina Menzel's concert last week, and I was reminded of our similarity in family :))
Now, for those of you who read the Musing-Momma feature, you may realize that some of Nakazawa's perspective does not fit with my personal philosophy. I don't mind the curiosity of strangers, and don't become defensive about people commenting on how cute Jr is (jeesh, he is super cute!). I really try to assume the best of people and think that most people come from a good place when they give Jr. a warm smile and extra look. For a couple weeks after reading her thoughts, I did try to be more aware of people's reaction to Jr., and I still found nothing offensive. Now, if someone started to ask too many questions about our family's make-up or ask to touch his hair, I would definitely squelch the interaction. But, when I walk down the aisle of the grocery store, I often look at ALL babies and make comments about the cute ones. Shouldn't I assume that is what others are doing too? Is my point of view terribly naive? I don't want to raise Jr. to be defensive and angry, but I do want him to be prepared for the narrow-minded haters. What do y'all think?