Are Those Your Kids? And Other Questions People Ask About My Family
In years past, I've been so sensitive to questions about my children's complexion, hair texture or likeness to their daddy. I think I have finally embraced my family and have been able to not internalize others ignorant comments. The change didn't happen overnight.
The initial reaction to questions about my daughter's complexion or my husband's ethnicity was a myriad of feelings: fear, embarrassment, anger & frustration.
I was angry because I should be able to run errands in public without having to explain the ins and outs of my family tree. I was fearful that one day if these questions continued, my children would be embarrassed. I was frustrated because I thought our country was farther along and more progressive than this.
I wrestled with these feelings for the few years as a parent.
When my oldest was born, she came out white. I had a c-section, so the only thing I was concerned with at birth was that she was healthy. I counted to make sure she had 10 fingers & 10 toes, and a part of me wondered why she was so pale.
I was still on a euphoric high after giving birth to my first child, so her skin color was an afterthought. Until it came up OVER....and OVER.....and OVER again.
When I was finally brave enough to take her out of the house, I proudly paraded my baby around in the cutest outfits in her closet. I gave myself a huge pat on the back for breastfeeding and running errands. When daughter was a little under a year, a young black cashier asked me if she was my baby. I said yes. He asked me about three more times. By the fourth time, I was offended, shocked and annoyed.
So what her skin color was lighter than mine??? She was caressing my face and calling me mommy. Wasn't that enough??
I found myself wishing her skin was darker. As she got older, her skin did get darker in the summer and returned to a lighter complexion in the fall. My husband and I joked that she was truly biracial-white in the winter & black in the summer.
When my oldest was 1 year old, her curly locks got tighter & longer. With a complexion & hair color the same as her father's, people were curious about her curly hair. They always complimented it while looking at me curiously.
In February 2013, 9 months before my second daughter was born, I decided to get rid of my relaxed hair and embrace my naturally curly hair. When all the relaxed hair was cut off, I suddenly felt naked. I finally realized what India Arie was singing about in her song, I Am Not My Hair. I realized that I was more that my straight hair.
Now that I have a head full of curls, no one asks where my daughters get their curls from. And I have to admit that is empowering. Our hair is one of the features that unites us.
Race has been such a sensitive topic in our country for quite some time. Especially given some of the recent world events. Luckily for me, I was sheltered from alot of hate due to my military upbringing. Race was just used as a normal adjective, not a judging one.
My hope is to raise conscious world citizens who are confident in who they are--mixed race and all.
As a middle school counselor, my job is to help students feel confident in who they are, and to assist them in navigating the world around them. I decided to take this same mindset home when parenting my children. Why should I let the fear of how others think be projecting onto my family??
When I made that conscious decision, my mission as a mother changed. I decided to focus on the things we have in common and to openly discuss the things that are different. I don't want my children to shy away from conversations about race. I want them to feel confident in who they are and empowered to own the conversation IF they choose to discuss race.
In our home, race is just an adjective. It does not define who a person is. We don't cringe when someone uses a color to describe someone (unless it's discriminatory).
As much as I try to understand how my children feel, I will never be biracial. I am a black woman raised by Jamaican parents. All I can do is be educated & empathetic. I can seek to surround my children with diversity through books, travel & life experience.
I'm so glad that there are brave individuals of color & multiracial descent who are accomplishing great things in mainstream media. My children will be able to dreams about who they will become because they will see successful people who look like them.
You can follow along with Deidre Anthony on Instagram here.
And you can go check out her blog here.
Diedre Anthony is a full time school counselor, mother and wife. In her blog Are Those Your Kids? , she focuses on her experiences of raising her biracial girls in an interracial marriage. Her posts are filled with helpful tips about raising children, diversity, curly hair as well as entertaining stories, and anecdotes. Several of her posts have been published by the Huffington Post.