Why our multi-cultural family rocks

Guest post by Meredith

Coming from an extremely religious and intolerant home, I made a conscious effort growing up to rid my mind of the hurtful and negative things my parents force-fed me about people who weren’t just like them. During my youth, I hung out with people from all races and sexual preferences. If being a rebellious teenager taught me anything, it was that my parents were most definitely NOT always right!

When I met the wonderful man who would very soon assist me in bearing a son, and later become my husband, the first thing I thought was “Damn, he’s hot,” not “Oh, I wonder what nationality he is.” In fact, it didn’t even occur to me.

Contrary to what my father said, marrying someone from another culture is NOT an obstacle (I know, right!??!), but the most incredible learning experience. Before being with my husband, I had never been immersed in another culture aside from traveling abroad.

Here’s a few reasons I love my inter-cultural marriage:

His family is very supportive.

The first time I met my would-be in-laws, I was six moths pregnant — not a good start in any culture! As nervous as I was, my fears were soon put to rest by how welcoming and supportive they were of us. After Miles was born, we’d visit my husband’s adorable little Buddhist grandmother who would stick money and lottery tickets into our son’s pockets, which always made for some pretty hilarious photos. It goes without saying that food is a major part of Cambodian culture so I always expect to (happily) gain about 10 pounds per visit!

We have very different experiences and worldviews.

A little patience is required when it comes to my expectations of what the “perfect” husband is. My upbringing was staggeringly different from my husband’s. I spent my time watching TV, riding my bike with friends, and having sleepovers. My husband spent his youth running from the Khmer Rouge, living in a work camp in Vietnam, immigrating to America and being thrust into the school system at four-years-old without knowing any English.

From time to time, I have to remind myself that we’re from opposite sides of the globe and I’ve come to really embrace this separate viewpoint he brings to the table.

That being said, we obviously have different ways of doing things and different ways of thinking. Communication is vital in a relationship, but when the man you love grew up with very little of it between himself and the members of his family, it’s somewhat difficult to get him to open up. I often have to stay diligent in conveying what it is that I need from him because otherwise (and I think this is probably true with a lot of men anyways) he has no clue what is bothering me! From time to time, I have to remind myself that we’re from opposite sides of the globe and I’ve come to really embrace this separate viewpoint he brings to the table. The fact is that I’m growing just as much as he is every single day and there’s no one else I’d rather do that with.

Teaching our son where he comes from has been really exciting.

Knowing that we’ll be able to take him to Cambodia one day and let him meet part of the family his father had to leave behind brings tears to my eyes. Miles knows very little of the Cambodian language, mostly because my husband doesn’t speak it often enough, but what he does know, he speaks perfectly. It’s fascinating to watch!

Bonus: it provides me with tons of unexpected comebacks to rude questions.

I don’t resemble my son much at all, so I’ve learned a few nice comebacks when someone who is merely being curious asks a less-than-polite question, such as “Aww, where’d you get him?” My favorite response to that is “Oh, he came from my vagina.” It’s mind-boggling to me when my husband and I get stares out in public. Really?!? Is this the 1700s? I exercise the patience I’ve gained these past few years to remind myself that by the time my son grows up and marries whoever the hell he wants to, this country will hopefully be rid of the racism that plagues it.

If you’re in an interracial relationship and/or have a mix-raced child, congratulations, you’re contributing to tolerance, breaking down stereotypes, producing some damn cute kids and pissing the right kind of people off. For that you should feel proud.

Comments on Why our multi-cultural family rocks

    • ha ha, when asked where I came from (the old lady clearly expected me to give a country of origin) I replied, “My mommy’s vagina”. I was six. It mortified my mom at the time but is of course funny now.

    • I love it! We adopted our son, who is Aboriginal and I am amazed at the ignorance of people in both their stares and their comments/questions. I had one person walk up to me in the store and ask “Is he yours?” and the worst one was “Does he have F.A.S.?” I have learned to pick my battles and to laugh off most things and I am really just thankful that I have a broader world-view than that person. Congratulations to all of the families who have the courage to create their family in the way that they choose to!

  1. I hear you on the bi-cultural family! We have two adopted children and a third one I’m currently pregnant with. Two of our three children will be mixed race (our adopted son is Aboriginal/Chinese/Caucasian and the daughter I’m currently carrying is Sri Lankan/Caucasian). Given that we’re a same-sex headed household, I’m only imagining the questions were going to get about this baby and where we got her from. I may just have to use the “my vagina” line.

  2. I am half Japanese and half caucasian. My parents gave me an American name because they knew I was going to have a hard time growing up bi-racial and they didn’t want to make it any harder. Although Japanese was my 1st language, my parents made me stop speaking it once I was old enough to go to school and we moved to the states because they wanted me to be normal around all the other American kids. I know my parents made these decisions for my best interest and with all the love in their hearts, but it breaks my heart to know that they had to make those decisions at all to protect me from all the ignorant people in the world. Yes, I still had to deal with racism and getting made fun of. When I came home from school crying because someone made fun of the color of my skin, my mother would apologize to me for being the reason I wasn’t white. But you know what? I wouldn’t change the color of my skin or my amazing Japanese heritage for anything in the world. Everything I went through made me who I am today.

    Now I’m pregnant and will soon bring my interracial son into this world and I couldn’t be more excited. Although I had some rough times growing up, being able to be a part of two different cultures was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to teach him all about his fantastic Japanese culture. And I can’t wait for my Mom to teach him Japanese; she promised me she would!

    Congrats on your amazing interracial family! Your son will be so happy that you embraced his Cambodian culture. 🙂

  3. This was a nice bolster for me. I am feeling really down about doing this single-parent thing with my bi-racial daughter right now. It’s hard, knowing how to address certain questions, ignoring the looks I get. I realize that I don’t look hispanic, though I’m 100% Puerto Rican, and I realize that my daughter has more of her father’s dark coloring, so we look… different. It’s just hard dealing with other, older Latinos who still get hung up about shade of skin color. It’s causing me some stress, dealing with this and knowing that my future children with my anglo fiance are going to be closer to the racial “ideal” and folks may comment on this in front of my girl… but this little article helped. All my children will have a wealth of culture behind them, and bright futures as full-bilingual Americans. You are so right; Thank you for sharing your bit of the world with us. It’s helped me.

    • My brother and I get a lot of looks, specially now I have two little ones. He is dark with black hair and black eyes. My little ones are blonde hair and blues eyes. You will develop a thicker skin to the looks. We have actually turned it into a joke/game. If we go some where and get looks (we do look back at them with a questioned look), we usually re-cap on who made the funniest face or we put dialog to it. We also compare to past event of who has made the worse or funniest face. It may not be a nice thing to do but it works for us.

    • Just laugh it off when you can! I’m a white, red haired, blue eyed single mum to a half Japanese boy, and he’s really dark skinned, straight black hair, dark eyes … I’ve had women ask if he’s adopted (“gracious no, I pushed him out of my vagina naturally – don’t deny me that experience!”). When I’m out with guy friends we’ll occasionally play things up to see if people will give us the ‘she cuckolded him big time’ look!

      … my only concern is that one day I’m going to have more kids and they’ll all hate their older, far more handsome big brother because of his striking good looks, haha.

      I’m in Melbourne, Australia, so I don’t know how different the situation here/there is, but I know in my son’s kindy class he doesn’t stand out as being different at all – I’d say most of the kids in his class are mixed ethnicity. I can remember having a conversation with some of the other mums about the ethnicity of our kids – most were mixed – and one mum piped up “I feel a bit boring now but my girls are both just straight caucasian”. Times, they are a-changing!

      • I get what you’re saying, but your denial of adoption made me cringe. By all means, be proud that you birthed your son, but what does your response infer about adoption?

        Also, I’m in Melbourne in a very white area. It’s great that your son is growing up with other kids who are like him, but it’s not like that everywhere.

      • “I feel a bit boring now but my girls are both just straight caucasian”.

        LOL, I can relate! There’s so many fantastic things about growing up with multiple cultures, though I only have an outside-looking-in perspective. While my grandfather waved his Native American flag pretty hard, given that his father was Northern European (I think Finland?), all the kids and grandkids are very pale, pasty white children. Well, adults now.

      • I’m in Perth, Australia and have found the same experience. I grew up in and still live in fairly outer suburbs and its pretty “normal” to be mixed ethnicity. Maybe not in other areas of the city, but certainly where I live.

        My father is maltese so has the dark meditarean look but I ended up with the pale skin/blue eyes/blond hair from my american mum. My husband has dark hair and dark eyes so it will be interesting to see if I get any strange looks if my coming daughter turns out dark skinned, dark haired and dark eyed.

  4. I am soooo adding the Vagina come back to my list to tell people. It will not be true but they don’t need to know that.

    I am raising my brother, who is native american/african-american/caucasian. Me, I am all caucasian. When asked if he is mine, I respond “Yes, he just has a better tan.” He gets asked, “what are you?”. Response: “All American” or “Human”. Over the past 17 years we have encounter many many comments, he and I just keep trying to out do our selves with our come backs.

    • Hah, my husband wrote “human” where it asked for “race” on his driver’s license application. Unfortunately, they told him he had to just pick a box and check it.

  5. Kudos to you! I’m kind of “dark white” (olive-y skin, dark brown hair, brown eyes) and my two year old son is as blonde and pale as they come. People often ask me weird, dumb questions, assuming that my son must take after his father (“oh, Daddy must be blonde!” um, NO – my husband’s hair is also brown) or be adopted due to these apparent differences. I try not to let it bother me, but one time a man at the grocery store asked me how much I got paid to babysit, and that REALLY made me mad. People need to learn not to make assumptions, or at least to keep them to themselves.

  6. I really enjoyed this article. I actually have the sort of opposite problem…I am half Filipino and I definitely look it! My son is an adorable little pale skinned, blue eyed, dirty blond haired baby. Unfortunately, people think I’m the nanny or babysitting….often times I want to just show them my stretch marks and say ‘Thats right, he’s MY baby!’

  7. My daughter’s grey… my husband’s black and i’m white, and she looks nothing like me… so I get that “oh, are you holding someone else’s child” things all the time too. What really gets my blood boiling is “mixed babies are so cute!”… I don’t know what to say about that… it’s like saying “white babies are so cute!” most babies are cute – not all babies no matter what colour they are are guaranteed to be cute. It was almost like a “You’re pregnant! Wow, your baby is going to be so cute because it’s different!”

    I don’t really know why it bothers me so much, it just does… happens if my baby was Quasimodo Jr? What would people say then? Argh

  8. I’m sure you know better than me what you have to deal with, but I would caution you against being too quick to judge people who stare at you. Your son is ADORABLE and, from what I see in your picture, you and your husband are good looking as well. Plus you have tattoos that can draw “Hmm, I wonder what kind of tattoos she has” kind of looks. You may just be attracting attention because you’re a pleasant family to look at.

    • Well thank you for that! I try not to judge anybody who stares, but living in the heart of the midwest, a certain amount of prejudice usually comes with the territory!

    • Thats a really good point! Now that I’m pregnant I’ve found myself accidentally staring at people with kids sometimes, I’m just so interested in the dynamics of families right now.

      Some of them have been mixed ethinicty and I’d hate for them to think I am staring for that reason or judging them in any way!!

      • Oh my gosh, me too! My son is 1, but I still love to look at babies and kids and pregnant women and nursing women. I feel like I have no tact, so I’m sure a lot of them feel like I’m giving them the stink eye as we are walking through Target or something.

  9. My little sister was fair skinned with freckles, golden blonde hair, and bright blue eyes. I was born with a natural tan, “rat brown” hair (as my father liked to put it), greenish hazel eyes, and not a freckle to be seen. We also had very different body types. Whenever people would remark about how different we looked, my sister and I would say “She’s the milkman’s baby.” Oh God, the looks we got. We made the mistake of saying it once when my mom dragged us to church, and the little old ladies looked like they would die of shock. *:D My poor mother, we drove her nuts…

    ((Disclaimer: we do in fact have the same father, same mother. I just take strongly after my father’s side of the family, while my sister takes after my maternal grandfather.))

  10. We weren’t a multi-racial family (although we did live in Asia for a while) However my parents really mixed up the gene pool with me and my sisters, my older sister is blond and tan, I am brunette and freckled, my little sister is somewhere in between.
    I distinctly remember the day a lady came up to my mom and asked us if we were all from different fathers. of course the fact that we all learned to speak English in different places, and thus had different accents, didn’t help 🙂

  11. I didn’t realize people still had hang-ups about bi-cultural relationships until meeting my husband, who has an uncle who… well, honestly, I’m not comfortable writing what he believes! But I was seriously appalled. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Your son is adorable, and has the best-est name ever. (Our son is also a Miles, lol.)

  12. I too am a multi-cultural child, and I totally remember people jokingly asking my mom where she “stole” me from… >.>

    Having been the subject of an orientalist gaze for most of my life, one of the hardest things to grow up knowing was that people felt entitled to question my parents about my origins. I didn’t go around asking caucasian people if they were adopted, or questioning their parentage! And my pet peeve is when people say things like “hapa babies are the cutest!?!?!” as if that weren’t fetishing…

  13. My dad’s Korean and my mom’s Irish. When I was a little kid, I looked wholly Asian so people would always be asking my mom, “How long did it take you to get her?” to which she would reply “About 9 months…”

  14. I’m Irish/German in decent, and have very dark hair, brown eyes and “olive” skin. I have been asked if I am Greek, Portugese, Mexican, Indian (like from India and it was an Indian Man), and even Arab. I’m from the midwest so growing up, many people thought I was Native American. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my genes mixed with my English/Polish husband would produce a blond haired blue eyed girl! (After having our DNA tested statistically we’re more likely to produce blue eyed than brown eyed children.) She is two-and-a-half, calls me mommy and people still think I am her NANNY!!! The worst was when a substitute doctor literally asked, “Are you sure she’s yours?”

    • Wow, it’s like you’re me! I’ve been asked if I was Mexican, Native American, Pacific Islander, and even Haitian (twice, on different occasions by total strangers). I told someone at a party once that I was a “Euro-mutt” and immediately he asked where that tribe was from. For the record, I look almost EXACTLY like my Swedish great-grandmother.

      I sure hope that Doctor was joking. It’s a bad joke, still, but if he was serious that’s way out of line.

  15. I love this!! This takes some weight of my shoulders. I have a “half-breed” daughter, I’m 100% lenni lenape (delaware indian) and my fiance is 100% “paleface”(mostly Scandinavian). We’ve been together for 7 years and I’m absolutely terrified about how hard she’ll have it in school or just plain being out and about with just her father. She looks so much like me but shes only 5 months old. My biggest hope for the future is less ignorant people in our school system or the whole world generally.

  16. I had a fun time during our 3 1/2 year courtship/engagement dealing with my parents…. My husband is black and you would not believe the things that came out of their mouths. It was never anything racist directed toward him or his family, but they would dream up all sorts of horrible things that would happen to me (such as, I’d be passed up for raises if I married a black man, or how my dad would never have dated my mom if she was black) or our not-yet-conceived children (neither the whites or the blacks would accept them.)

    Then we got married …and things seem to be fine? It’s the strangest thing, the marriage license seemed to work wonders.

    Good for you, remembering that love is blind!

  17. Haha LIKE. My husband is Korean but was actually adopted into the U.S. as a baby so the Korean culture is really as foreign to him as it is to me. Still, we have fun with it. My son looks a lot more like me than I’d expected (for now), but I’ll keep your comeback in mind! When I was pregnant I had come to terms with having a son that strangers would just assume I’d adopted.

    My husband isn’t my first interracial relationship and I feel you – It is insane the sort of looks you get considering what year it is! When I had a black boyfriend, an elderly couple actually complained about us (very innocently!) kissing in a restaurant!

    • I’m not quite understanding this attitude towards adoption. Ive read it a few times in the comments. If your child looks different from you, someone might very well assume they were adopted, and as many people dont know a lot about adoption, they are curious. Three of my siblings are adopted, and we actullay have a really fun time having people guess which ones are adopted. Adoption is beautiful thing, same as childbirth. Why is it so wrong to have someone ask if you adopted your child? It honestly hurts a little bit, with so many of my own loved ones being adopted (all of my aunts and uncles were adopted as well)

        • I’m having trouble wording my thoughts, so I hope I get this right. I think the issue isn’t that adoption is bad, but that a person who asks me if my child is adopted may somehow be inferring that my child is less mine — which I think would be especially hurtful if I did adopt my child.

          So I think it’s less intended as malicious judgment, and more a concern about why someone would ask if someone was adopted.

          Ugh, I’m still not sure that’s right, but that’s as best as I can get it. It’s not meant to sound douche-y, it’s just me thinking…

          • i understand what you’re getting at. I think most people just ask because they are curious about adoption itself though. The really hurtful comments we’ve gotten through the years are ones that imply that my parents, other bio sibllings, or me mean more to my parents or that we love our adopted siblings less b/c we are not biologically related. The adoption comments just bothered me b/c its like people subconciously or consciously think that my love for my adopted siblings isnt real, isnt valid. I understand what you mean though, both sides of the adoption topic are difficult concepts to explain at times ^.^

        • I have to say those comments have made me really sad this morning. I can understand why someone might be offended at being mistaken for the nanny, and how it can be annoying to have your parenting route assumed to be adoption when it isn’t, but the comments here have an overwhelming sense of ‘OMG! how dare you assume my child is ONLY adopted! can’t you see he’s my REAL child’ which is just reinforcing my insecurities about not being considered a ‘real’ parent by the commnunity at large.

          • Miss Miaw, thanks so much for sharing this perspective. I think this tangential thread actually has the opportunity to be incredibly educational for folks — there’s a lot to be learned about how comments can be unintentionally hurtful toward adoptive parents.

            I think the undercurrent here is that we’re all dealing with the challenges of assumptions made by strangers, whether that’s a curious stranger in a grocery store, or a random commenter on the internet. At least here on Offbeat Mama, there’s a lot to be learned from challenging those assumptions. Thanks for speaking up and offering a lesson this morning.

        • My mother used to get those comments about my brother (he had white-blonde hair, Mom has very dark brown hair) and she used to get… well, not insulted, but certainly annoyed. Mostly because it’s none of anyone’s business but our family’s.

          And this is a woman who later worked in adoption casework, so… 😉

      • But what business is it of theirs to ask where you got your child? If someone is seriously considering adopting a child, then I think can be valid, but if it’s just a “cute” way to strike up the conversation, I’d prefer they ask me where I got my sweater or my shoes.

  18. I don’t know if I’m “allowed” to make this sort of comment, but, here goes…

    My brother and I don’t look like siblings. He’s got dark red hair, skin that tans heavily in the sun, and a much lighter figure than me. People assume that he’s Irish/German/English and Cambodia/Vietnamese/Laotian.
    I, on the other hand am quite pale, dark-haired (my hormones have decided that it’s not to be an afro any more, although it was for about ten years), well-muscled, and also freckle-less. Most people assume I’m German/English and Middle Eastern.

    In actuality, we’re the children of a German/Scottish/French/Indigenous/some other things mother, and a multi-national-origin-ed Jewish father.

    People ofter ask if we’re related, and if one or both of us is adopted.

  19. A minor peeve, not confined just to this post and not meant to be a rant or pick on people who choose to see it another way. My view is affected, like everyone’s by a number of personal factors, so I understand if others don’t see this the way I do.

    Words matter. I think (just me, I speak for no one else) I would be doing a disservice by referring to the people in my life as “biracial” or “mixed race” by default, or at least doing it casually. Race is a construct. Yes, it is a construct that has a very real impact, so I’m not saying that to dismiss it. It does matter – in how we and the people around us are perceived, and how we perceive others, but we don’t have to support this construct and maintain it. Part of the construct is transmitted through daily language and how we use these words.

    Yes, it might lead to people asking us what to use instead, and yes, we might not all agree on the same term. Yes, others terms might end up being a mouthful or awkward at first (I’ve never found it so), but I feel I owe it to myself, and the kids (not just my own) in my life. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but as I search for and read posts on this type of subject, I see that – while we try to deconstruct and tear down racism and its ideology – we are subtly reinforcing a notion of otherness and essentialism in the use of the very term “race”, which is seen as discrete (the only way anyone can be seen as “half” of anything) and created for this purpose, rather than more fluid terms that speak more to ethnicity and culture (multiethnic, mixed ethnicity, multicultural, bicultural) which are more accurate, fluid and speak more to the experiences of people from two (or more) different backgrounds.

    • I understand what you are saying, and though I don’t necessarily agree, I get it… But I did want to point out that while the comments have made reference to race quite a bit, the original post actually seemed to focus on being multi-CULTURAL which I feel is a positive distinction and, to my understanding, goes along with the point you were making. When asked about my race, I say black and Latino…. But when asked about my culture or nationality, I respond American. Especially in raising my son, I try not to focus on or reference race specifically if not necessary.

      • Hi Cookie! See, I like your first sentence. You don’t have to agree, but I’m happy you get where I am coming from. Actually, I should have been more accurate. While the author does use the words interracial and mixed race in her post, it was the build up of the comments, and the fact that all of these posts fall under the “biracial” label.

        The post itself provided lots of food for thought as did the comments below it. I was not critiquing the overall quality of the post.

        Like you, I have different responses for different questions, depending on context. I use black as an answer at times, too, depending, but I have many other answers depending on the context and level of accuracy required.

    • I totally agree with this. Race is a construct and not a good one at that, it’s not scientifically sound. You can’t determine a person’s genetic make-up by examining their skin color; genes don’t sort themselves according to the racial categories we’ve created. People often ask these questions about “what race are you” because of anxieties created by the unknown. Perhaps instead of needlessly and mindlessly prying, people should stop and think about why they are asking that question. It pays to be aware.

      If people want info about adoption they can look it up on this new invention called the internet, or call a local adoption agency.

      I think another reason why it bothers light-skinned moms that their darker babies are assumed to be adopted is because it associates them with all the celebrities who are assumed to adopt asian babies because it’s cool and unique. Who wants that negative stigma?

    • The term “biracial” has always bothered me. My father is black and my mother is white, and that’s what they tried to tell me I am. But not only did their use of the term warp my little mind to think it made me somehow better than the black children I played with, it made me more hurt and confused when white kids still dropped the N-bomb on me when my dad came to pick me up from school. I was white like them, right?
      Now that I’m older, I know that having lighter skin doesn’t make me better than anyone, and I’ve embraced my blackness to identify solely as African-American. My mom thinks it’s a rejection of her, but it’s not: it’s the shorthand term that BEST identifies MY life experiences. I’m a black woman with a white mother who I love very much, even though she shuts down when I talk about race- the focus of my sister’s and my graduate studies (Surprise! It hurts).
      In retrospect, I think my parents, despite their best intentions, did a terrible job of helping me build a racial identity that was positive, healthy, and contributed to my self-esteem; I’ve only done that on my own, as an adult (learning the history of your people works wonders unknown).
      To the parents of children of color who have posted here, it is so crystal clear that you love and are proud of your children. But as you raise them, please consider how the ideas that you give them (consciously and subconsciously) about who they are and what their race and color mean (to you and other people) WILL affect how they feel about themselves- and that those feelings are theirs and theirs alone to have.
      *steps down off soapbox*

  20. I respectfully disagree, especially when dealing with responses to issues of biological heritage. I come from an adoption background, so calling me multi-ethnic or multi-cultural wouldn’t be accurate, since I don’t share any cultural traits from my biological ancestors. As troubling as using race in biological terms, I feel that sometimes we must work with imperfect tools and keep open dialogue to work towards our goals of acceptance.

  21. I am in love with this post. As many people have said above, I too got the weird stares while out with my mother and brother growing up. My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is Black. My mother’s genes are strong in my brother and I, but. Puerto Ricans can be dark as night, light as snow and all the in between. So I look black, my brother look white and my mother looks Latina. She would joke with friends that she’s just missing an Asian child.

    My husband is white (Irish) so our son has three wonderful cultures to pull from… But in raising our son, we have chosen to raise him with the mindset that he is human first, American second and race isn’t important.

    My mother-in-law had a huge problem with her son marrying someone so “ethnic”. So that is an on-going struggle… But with the birth of our son, she has physical proof of the beauty in our relationship and is coming around.

    I haven’t traveled internationally much so I don’t know if race and culture clashes are as much of an issue as they tend to be here in the US, but I hope as my son grows, he’s able to live in a country that matures to a point where it’s people wouldn’t even think to ask questions like “what are you?” and “where did you get him/her from?”

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