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

  1. I’m finding it pretty funny how many people are being asked if they are the nanny/babysitter. I AM the nanny, and I feel like I’m constantly being called the mom!

    And I’m only 13 years older than the oldest child I nanny for. SCANDAL.

  2. I am a geneticist, and I can tell you that you made a great choice as far as genetics go. In fact, choosing someone that is most different and least close in relation is the best way to minimize recessive diseases and maximize successful traits.

    I know you didn’t choose your mate based on this, but I have a friend who is STILL being asked “what about the children?” (!!!) and she was thrilled to have that comeback.

    • I love this comment. I have good friends in genetics and they always tell me that we hit the gene pool jackpot ( My partner is mixed Korean/German and I am totally Irish) – I love this article and I am so glad I am not the only one who has to explain that YES I am not the nanny but the momma. You have a beautiful family to celebrate that is for sure.

  3. I’m in love with this post. Our kids have TWO moms and people always ask “who is the real mom”. I’ve learned to say – we keep her at home in the closet and only bring her out on special occasions.

  4. sorry in advance: mixed traits can make for interesting beautiful people. maybe i just see people that look different as so much more interesting than boring old me i’ve seen everyday.
    we humans work on assumsions to some degree we can’t help it.
    also i always think its rude to ask if a child is addopted, espcially infront of them. I just think that’s too personal and weird. would you ask if the not phisically present parent is still alive? In response to adpotion questiosns: you could Ask the person if their adopted.

  5. I read an article about a Caucasian woman who was married to a Japanese-American man. She also expressed frustration at ignorant strangers assuming that she had adopted her daughter from overseas. I hope she stumbles across Offbeatmama one day because that is the best comeback ever!

  6. Yay! Love love love this article! All babies/children are cute, TRUE. BUT….. mixed/biracial people are the most attractive people ever! : ) Maybe I”m biased cause my daughter is half mexican and half white, but we can’t leave the house without random strangers coming up to us to tell us how cute she is! : D

    In a round about way, I’m just trying to say that bi-cultural families rock!

  7. I’m also in an intercultural marriage, but it’s not interracial. (I’m American, he’s English, we’re both white.) I found the last paragraph of the original post a bit odd, as it switched from one to the other. I think intercultural relationships should be celebrated, too!

  8. I think you are quite wise and a great Mom. Your kid is so adorable!

    I regularly tell my 13 year old daughter “What… you won’t take a sip of that drink after me? You came out of my vagina!” It is great too whenever she gets embarassed about holding my hand or won’t kiss me because its gross…. its wonderful to watch her mortified face

  9. This was an interesting post for me, less for the challenges mentioned when others see a “rainbow” family, and more for the challenges faced within the cross-cultural relationship. I’m married to an Iranian muslim man (now living in Iran for a few years – yep! adventure!) and could easily relate to the idea that issues of communication or just simple assumptions about various aspects in life are more challenging (though, as stated, quite rewarding) to deal with. Especially when we were living in the States, I struggled to know which views and behaviors of my husband were personality-based, and which were culturally-based (obviously there is a lot of overlap/influence between with two categories). I’m constantly questioning…does he assume X because this is common in Persian culture, his religious background, or is this particular to just HIM, and many if not most Iranians are not this way? It makes for really fun exploration, and a different approach depending on what I figure out. I think my marriage has challenged me to try be better person with ALL people, not just my husband, as I am now less likely to leap to judge or get angry about a behavior or idea that is drastically different from my own. Instead, I put more effort into understanding where that behavior or idea comes from, and (if i’m REALLY trying) loving or appreciating the person no matter if I disagree. This constant practice of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes no matter how different those shoes are…it’s one of the best and most difficult parts of a cross-cultural relationship. (That said, every relationship is – to an extent- cross-cultural, as each person’s family culture is different from the next.) I have to admit though that I’ve had PLENTY of not exactly “culturally sensitive” rants, i.e. “this culture is MESSED up!” or “why the HECK would you think that?” when I get exasperated. I’m so curious about this author’s experience with her husband as she raises her son…different ideas about child-rearing, different ideas he has as a result from having such a traumatic childhood, etc. (In general, parenting culture here in Iran is extraordinarily permissive…kids often rule the roost! and eat GOBS of candy -ha. I often theorize this permissiveness comes from living under such a gov’t, or as a reaction to the long difficult years of the Iran/Iraq war. Any parenting trends in Cambodian culture that you can spot?) Anyhow, great post! thank you!

  10. Some of these comments, especially the ones about different-looking siblings, are cracking me up. When I was little, I had blonde hair and blue eyes with fair skin. My older brother had brown hair and brown eyes and tanned like a nut. We are four years apart, so we went to the same school together. We got asked, repeatedly, if we were DATING. Blood related!!! DATING!!!! First semester at a new school that is really awkward, but now it’s just hilarious. XD

  11. Another mixed kid here. My mom is Puerto Rican and raised Catholic and my dad is a Polish/Romanian and raised Jewish. Now neither of them associate with religion in any way but my dad definitely identifies culturally as Jewish.

    My coloring definitely takes after my dads- Blonde hair, fair skin, though, other than my nose, ALL of my facial features are my mothers.

    Growing up, numerous people asked my mother if she was the nanny and what not, and she found those comments EXTREMELY hurtful! I remember when I was in 6th grade this kid in my class found out I was half puerto rican and insisted that I was adopted! When I said actually no, I just look more like my dad, he insisted my parents just hadn’t told me yet. Now- even if I was adopted- I love my parents tremendously and that wouldn’t change if they hadn’t had me biologically- but I was just baffled as to his reaction and his insistence. Luckily, even at that young age, I pretty much knew a douchebag when I heard one and proceeded to ignore anything he said for the rest of the year.

    Other than that… Looking one race and identifying as another… you tend to hear REALLY effed up things. I’ve had compelte strangers come up and tell me extremely racist things giving me the *wink wink nudge nudge* like “we’re on the same team!” kind of thing and me just being like… me and my dad are the only “white” people in my family- go to hell!!! It’s really mind boggling! It’s mind boggling that people would say things like that at all, let alone to a complete stranger!

    Unfortunately there is still IMMENSE racism everywhere. It’s pretty sickening, but I don’t let it get me down. I love being a little bit of a lot of things. I definitely don’t think i’d be as cute if I wasn’t. 😉

    • Yeah, college was pretty terrible for me, being incognegro. I grew up in all-black neighborhoods, and went to a mostly-white school in a rural setting (culture shock!) that definitely seemed to make people feel free to say vile things about the nonwhite people they didn’t think were sitting right in front of them. I lost count of the number of people we put out of our house for going in on “n***ers.”
      But my favorite of the comments were from well-meaning friends:
      “Oh, you’re lucky! You don’t even look black!”
      “If you took down that photo of your family(!) no one would give you a hard time.”
      “You must be here because of affirmative action.” (I had a 3.9 GPA)
      “Did you go tanning today?” “No. I’m black.” “Oh. I’m sorry.”

  12. Sounds like us. I’m black and my FH is white. I come from the south of Tennessee and he is a Yankee from Pennsylvania. When people saw my daughter for the first time, they assume her dad was Hispanic till I pointed her dad in the back and explain she is both black and white. My family has been very supportive of us and the baby. His family I feel is iffy. His mom and dad are ok and love us, but the rest of his I know are still getting to know me and the little one.

  13. I’m native american, cape verdean, danish, and irish. After the age of 6 or 7, I was raised exclusively by my mother, who gave me my caucasian traits. Even to this day my friends will ask if I was adopted, because I look nothing like her. I only have half and step brothers and sisters, and I look nothing like them either. I’m much shorter, have jet black hair, and go from snow white to the dark of night after a day in the sun. I’m also the only one with green eyes and curly course hair!

    So see, very different. Yet I don’t remember ever feeling especially different. I like that people were interested in me and my heritage, and thought I was “special”. I think it depends on how you approach it. People are allowed to be curious.

    I highly doubt a lady in a grocery store is out to get you and be malicious and ruin your day. Embrace questions and explain, and people are a lot more likely to understand.

  14. All I have to say is that your son is truly beautiful. I wish you and your family the best of luck, and am sorry that you still have to put up with such nonsense.

  15. i’m bi-racial… my mothers white, and my father is a Native American…. so when I was a baby my mother tells me…. People would come up to her and ask “Where did you get that adorable Asian baby” She’d say…. well she’s not Asian and I made her.
    Just want to comment on the staring… I stare at bi-racial couples because it makes me happy to see couples like my family. So don’t assume they are all thinking bad things they might be filled with warm fuzzys like me.

  16. Neither I nor my husband look stereotypically like our respective ethnicities. While other kids can be cruel, we both had loving parents who gave us confidence in who we are, and as a result we grew up to be happy adults without identity-related insecurities or chips on our shoulders. We’re looking forward to seeing who our kids look like, and refer to these future babies as our ‘lucky packet kids’. I’m secretly hoping for year-round tans, though!

  17. I’m a genetic throw back in my family; all my immediate family members have dark hair, dark eyes and freckles. I am olive skinned but quite pale, have very blue eyes, blonde hair, and a total of 10 freckles.

    ‘Where did you get her??’ was a very common question my mother fielded when I was small. Her favorite answer was always ‘oh well you know, I was in this grocery store once and spotted her just sitting in this cart and HAD to have her!’

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