What is it like to raise children of mixed races? When does skin colour make a difference? Discover how this creative woman teaches her children to see colour.
I am white, Canadian.
My husband is black, Ethiopian.
The first time I traveled alone with my new baby, I heard a woman on board the same flight say, “she must have an interesting husband.”
I’m not sure if she genuinely meant what she said or it was racist; she definitely felt my darker baby and I were something she could remark on, loudly enough to be heard by me a few rows over.
I’ve traveled several more times with my (now) two girls. Some times it’s with my husband and some times it’s just the three of us. When we travel together, I imagine it answers some questions for some people. Because when it’s just the girls and I, I’ve been asked if they’re my children. But it’s not all bad – we’ve got many compliments on the girls’ hair, too.
Mixed families are different. When we’re in our home country of Ethiopia, many locals comment on the girls’ hair as well with some speculation as to whether their father is habesha. Once a smartly dressed woman approached my girls, bent down to meet their gaze and asked with a big smile, “are you half-caste?”
I’ve drawn my oldest the Venn diagram of this half-caste business: two circles of culture intersecting to make a third, totally subjective, culture. I told her “Mommy doesn’t know how it feels to be in this part of the circle and Daddy doesn’t know how it feels to be in this part of the circle. You get to decide what this part of the circle means to you.”
She knows she’s different. She’s the one who struggles with Amharic in Ethiopia. She’s the darkest kid in her swimming lessons in Canada.
One of the best times of the day as a parent is when the kids go to bed. And it’s not just about the quiet but it’s also about listening in on the sweetest, most tender times. One night, our youngest daughter was crying because the other kids at school (in Ethiopia) called her “ferenj” (which means foreigner). And my oldest told her, as a way to comfort her I suppose, “maybe their eyes don’t work and they think you’re white.”
We talk about the colour of people’s skin at our house. I still will have conversations about what “white” and “black” means and where and how those constructs came about. For now, the girls like our explanation: Coffee and milk mixed together makes a macchiato. So they are macchiato kids.
We see colour at our house because it is an essential part of our identity. And our kids are proof of a love story that crosses cultures.