What a lucky little girl. Now we have been reveling in the fun of your earliest steps. When J & P were your size, it was the lure of “Mommy” and my outstretched arms that evoked the most steps from each new walker. Now, with Daddy staying home with you most days and a “little big brother” (xiao ge – 10yo) and a “big big brother” (da ge – 12yo), we set you in the middle of us all, and you triumphantly step and fall into the loving embrace of each of your most trusted “adults” in turn. What a delight to watch your brothers’ pride in your awesome feats.
As usual, I arrived home yesterday after my day at Salmon Bay, gathered my armload of belongings from the front car seat, and made my way to the back door. As I put my key into the lock on the door, I knew what I was setting into motion. Each day, you’ve come to know that in the afternoon, the sound of the bolt moving aside means, “Mama’s home!” Whatever you’re doing stops. My first glimpse of you at that moment always melts me with the purest joy. From the middle of the kitchen floor, you move toward me with frantic, breakneck speed using the special crawl you’ve perfected. Left leg tucked under, hands spread wide – here she comes! Yesterday was the same. You pulled yourself over the pile of sandwich bags, containers and kitchen tools you’d spread all around. But this time, you stopped. Still outside the reach of my outstretched arms, you sat back, smoothly pulled yourself up onto your feet and rocked gingerly until you settled into balance. A small smile lifted the corners of your mouth as you raised your shoulders and moved so perfectly each of your legs in turn. You walked to me!
My 10-year old son, P, reported with amusement on a conversation he and his friends had in the carpool on the way to soccer practice. My husband was driving my son and two boys, one an immigrant from Somolia and one Oromo. We’ve known these boys only for a few months now. B, the Oromo boy, ventured to ask my son, “Is he your real dad?” My son, who probably hasn’t thought much about his racial identity yet, says that he replied, “Yes! Who else would be?” B quickly said to the other passenger, “See, Z? I told you that’s his dad.” My son said he asked, “Did you think someone else was?” B responded tentatively something about P not looking much alike his dad. P says he laughed and went through the list of physical differences we have talked about at home – noses, hairy-ness, and other. P says that he ended with, “And my hair’s black and his [gesturing] is” and B filled in, “Gray!” which caught my husband’s ear. At 43 and only the start of a bit of silver around his ears, this is a subject of some teasing in our family.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, my family traveled to a small town on the east side of Washington State to visit friends. While there, we attended the town’s day-after-Thanksgiving pre-Christmas community chili gathering. Many of the town’s residents were in attendance at this festive annual event. It was the first gathering of this size that I’ve attended in awhile at which no other people of color were present. It was the first time my children had been at such a gathering.
The family-style tables were crowded by the time we were looking for seats, so we set the kids up at one table and we adults found space at another. Later I learned that my twelve-year old chatted with a friendly man next to him. He reported that, “Mom, he asked, ‘Where are you from?’ and when I told him Seattle, he said, ‘No, where are you originally from?'” and it was the first time it occurred to my son that based on his appearance someone assumed he couldn’t be from Seattle. It’s amazing to me that it’s taken twelve years for this to happen. I think the world must be changing – or at least some of it!
Friday evening after nursing our 9-month old daughter and lovingly lowering her into her crib at the precisely 7pm she goes to sleep each day, I grabbed the car keys and a jacket to go (late) to pick up our 12yo son and his friends, stop quickly for burritos, and chauffeur them to the school dance. With a car full of soccer cleats, socks, shorts, water bottles and sweatshirts, I returned home to enjoy dinner with my husband, our 10-year old and also the first hour and a half of a great movie. At 9:45, I returned to the school dance site and brought a carload of boys to various homes, returning to our own with three for a sleepover.
By 9 in the morning, as the boys surfaced from their basement slumber, the baby had already been up, dandy, fed, played with, and was moving toward being ready to nap. The boys’ delight in interacting with her and laughing at the “kiddie hip hop” we play for her was wonderful. This girl will grow up quite differently from her brothers.
Please share your stories of parenting a variety of ages under one roof!
My husband is Caucasian and lived a very mainstream upper middle class background. When we married and had a Chinese banquet as our wedding dinner, his lovely grandparents, who traveled across the country to be with us, had never before eaten Chinese food.
Now, my husband is the devoted father of our children, who really don’t look much like him. When he started taking our oldest son to toddler gymnastics class on his own, a couple of people made clear they assumed he had adopted our son. It has been amazing hearing his feelings on 1) what that’s like and 2) what it’s like to parent a child whose race is overtly of a minority racial group when he himself grew up with a majority identity.
Please write to share similar experiences.
I have heard from a few separate sources that as biracial children grow older, if their appearance has been more like one parent during the early years, they might look more like the other parent starting during adolescent years. I’d be interested in hearing about the experiences of families out there on this phenomenon.