Tuesday, May 01, 2012

On Raising Multicultural Kids

Last night we went to the High School Concert Choir, Orchestra and Band Concert. None of my kids have made it past 7th grade in band, but we have had several in choir. Last night Sadie's choir wasn't performing (and yes, her "real name" is Mercedes, but she has always gone by Sadie at home) and Tony didn't join this year, so it was just Leon. Of course, my battery on my "real" camera died after one picture, but my phone did OK at capturing a few pictures.

The choir sang in Italian, Gaelic and English. It made me smile to see my son with his lovely tan skin singing "on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" with a Scottish accent. It got me thinking about how multicultural my kids really are.

As we are looking for an appropriate school environment for our kids in the Twin Cities for next year, one of the options is a charter school that is 95% Hmong. Neither of my sons who are of that ethnicity are at all interested in that option. At first I was almost ashamed, thinking that possibility we hadn't done all the stuff that the books say you should do to be a "successful transracial parent" if my kids didn't want to go to school with kids from their own culture. But I also am a person who looks for potentially positive stuff so I began to think about how multicultural my kids are growing up to be.

Let me take a moment to state that most of our children moved into our lives at the age of 8 or older, so they have a pretty good idea of what it means to live in their own culture. Had we gotten them at a younger age we would have been even more intentional about teaching them about their own race or ethnicity but right now I'm seeing the benefits of living as a multicultural family.

I started paying attention to the friends my kids who are still in school have chosen to hang out with. Our oldest daughter who is Hispanic had a series of "best friends" between 7th and 10th grade when she moved in with her boyfriend's Hispanic family. She had white friends, Hispanic friends, and African American friends. Our youngest daughter right now has two best friends, one who is white and one who is African American, and in the past her best friends have included a young lady who is Asian, one who is biracial, and one who is Hispanic.

My two boys who are Hmong have also demonstrated this kind of multicultural approach to life. Our oldest has a girlfriend who is white and three good friends who are girls who are African American, Hmong, and white. His guy friends are Hispanic, white, and Asian. Our youngest son has had four "best" friends for the past three years -- one is white, one is African American, one is Hispanic and one is biracial.

Our two boys who are Caucasian don't have a large number of friends who are their peers, but one of Dominyk's best friends was a Hispanic kid in Elementary School and Tony's best friend in school this year is Native American.

We have done things over the year to celebrate the culture and history of our kids and have and will continue to cultivate relationships with people of color. But we have also been a place over the past 6 years where children and teenagers of all races have eaten around our table without us really noticing or focusing on the fact that they are "people of color" because our kids are "people of color" as well.

I certainly want my children to be comfortable in their own skin and to understand what it means to be Hmong, or Hispanic, or Biracial, or even Caucasian. But I also want them to embrace life in a way that embraces all people and sees all of us as members of the human race.

Am I going by the book when it comes to transracial parenting? Probably not. But does it make me smile when I look around the table and see the choices my kids are making as they choose their friends and who to invite to dinner. And possibly we are reaching the goal, even if it isn't by the book.


Vanessa said...

My (bio) daughter is half Filipina and really hasn't shown much interest in her dad's culture at all. (Though she will tell you proudly that SWAG is "somethin' we Asians got!") Most of her close friends this year are white, but she's been friends with Vietnamese, Mexican, Filipino and black kids in the past. When she was around eight or nine (she's 13 now) I asked her if she thought of herself as more Filipina or more white, and she said "Neither, I think of myself as me," which seemed like a pretty well-balanced response.

DynamicDuo said...

Our girls are eastern European - white, but they have never seemed to see color as an issue. Many of the "good" kids they hang with are from other races, they definately like the african american boys....
Alot of this I believe stems from the parents attitude, if we don't show preference neither will they.