Thursday, September 9, 2010

They're real and they're fabulous!

"Where is she from?" (insert awkward "Um, we're from Connecticut."

My children are mine. They are not adopted. I have the stretch marks to prove it, just in case you were wondering.

They are biracial and multi-ethnic. Their father is from the Philippines and that makes them half Pacific Islander. I am American with roots in Poland and Sicily so they are also half Caucasian.

I never gave it another thought until well after they were born. I would be out with them alone and I would catch looks from folks who just assumed they were adopted. Then every once in a while someone will say something. I know that these folks who actually have the nerve to say something are probably well-meaning but it's hard to swallow some days. Even a pediatrician, upon meeting us, made some comment that sent me into a tizzy. I assumed she was probably trying to figure us out for medical reasons, but it ruffled my feathers all the same.

I continue to struggle with this even though I know it's all ego based. I mean, after you have duplicated yourself, what's more appealing for your ego than when someone says, "Ooh! She's the spitting image of you!"? I forget that they don't look like me until I see photos of us together. When I look at my kids, I see myself. Elijah looks more like me than Marley but there are days when her hair is wild and she has a certain twinkle in her eye and she looks like me. My son has my father's head shape and has since he was about a year old. He has the classic Polish large forehead, just like me. And we are so alike on the inside that there is no mistaking he's my son. My daughter was born with a blond streak in her very dark hair, another gift from my Polish heritage. She is starting to develop a more defined nose line....sooo hoping she doesn't end up with my ski slope!

It's when I look at photos that I start to see what other's must see. Here is this fair, blue eyed woman with two dark skinned, dark haired and dark eyed children. They can't possibly be hers... It's not my business to care what other's think until they open their mouths, especially now that my daughter is starting to notice how she looks and understands when someone comments on her appearance.

We've never hidden the fact from them that they are different than most kids in their school. We live in an extremely un-diverse community and try to expose them to as much of the world as possible. For the most part, they don't feel the discrimination that I am hyper sensitive to. But there is a fine line with discrimination and most people who don't approve of our multi-racial home know how to dance on that line.

When my son was in first grade, there were a few multi-racial boys in his class. They were typically lumped together as a group and often were held back from activities and such until the rest of the class had gone first. Both kids have been called by the name of another of the few "brown" kids in school. Apparently, to us white folk, all the brown kids look alike.

And I know that I may seem overly sensitive, it's just that it's not my kids' faults that they are different. It kills me to see them on the receiving end of such callousness. The worst and one of our most memorable experiences was last summer at a gift shop near the beach where we vacation. My daughter bought herself a hat with her own money. The clerk looked at her, then at me and said, "She's beautiful! Where is she from?" I know it was meant as a compliment but on the receiving end it hurt, especially for a 7 year old girl.

I wonder when this world will catch up. It's 2010. When I had to fill out the demographic forms for school last week, I had to "Pick One" from the "Race" box for them. So what do I pick? Asian (which is easier for most people to understand)? Pacific Islander? Caucasian? There is no "multi-racial" box, even in 2010.

It helps that we are light hearted about it. The kids like to sing to their father "Secret Asian Man".... When they see a lot of kids that look like them they'll refer to it as an Asian Invasion.... And it eases the tension that they don't even care that they are different. The best was when I took them to the Polish Deli a few months back. We had a good laugh at all the Poles who couldn't help but stare at these two kids who were so excited to see all the food their great-Babci used to cook.

So we pray for Grace as a family to use these experiences as learning tools. We continually try to raise them as good citizens of the world. They make me laugh. They keep me on my toes. They are my teachers. I pranam in deference to their divine lights.

I am grateful every day that they both chose me for their earthbound mother.

1 comment:

  1. Even though their skin and hair are a different shade, they have your smile!!!!!!