All throughout my pregnancy with Amia, Matt and I had one big question on our mind: what was this kid going to look like? Of course nothing mattered more than a healthy baby, but we couldn’t help but ponder at times. But I feel the reason why we would spend countless hours wondering is because we were continuously reminded of the obvious – we were going to have a mixed baby. The more that I think about it and as the years have gone by, and especially since having Aliza, appearance is such a prominent topic of discussion. I’m going to save this topic about looks for another post because let’s be real, it’s a thing, a real thing. Somewhere in society, we all created this theory that mixed babies are the most beautiful. Reality check: all babies are beautiful. So, let’s park that thought for now.
For this post, I decided to highlight 5 considerations/compromises/realizations (whatever you want to call them) that would nicely and concisely iterate some of the parenting challenges we’ve encountered so far all while being an interracial couple.
- Naming our babies
The days leading up to Amia’s due date, Matt and I were struggling to decide on a name. We were trying to find one that would best incorporate both the Indian and French cultures. Matt was adamant about the pronunciation of the name, mainly because he wanted it to be pronounced the same, whether you are speaking French or English. We also wanted to keep the spelling of the names as simple as possible. It wasn’t until a few days before Amia’s arrival that we decided this name was a top contender. Sure, you could argue choosing a name for a child, irrespective of ethnic background, is difficult – but we felt compelled that the name should have some flare to our respective roots. And the same discussion was had when we were deciding on Aliza’s name. Choosing names for our babies was very important to us. In my opinion, a name holds a lot of power; it’s sacred. It’s unique to oneself. It’s your identity. It’s how you introduce yourself to the world. I want my little warriors to carry their names with pride and joy – all while recognizing the significance and valuing their roots.
2. Religious beliefs
I am not a religious person. I grew up exposed to Hinduism and Sikhism. As a family, we celebrated many of the major religious festivities. My parents set-up a small “mandir” (place of worship) in our house. This is where we gathered as a family during prayers. If you were to ask me to recite “aarthi” (songs sung in praise of the deity) at the end of a “pooja” (a prayer), I very well could. What changed? I educated myself. I don’t believe in some of the principles. I don’t believe in the practices that are imposed. I do believe in a God. I’ve turned to the more spiritual way of belief. My parents don’t necessarily appreciate or agree, but they’ve learned to respect it.
When Amia was born, the question came up if we were going to baptize her. Matt is baptized. We didn’t feel obligated or pressured to baptize Amia, but we had an extensive conversation about it. Our conclusion was to hold off. If this was something she wanted to do later in life then it would be her choice. The same applies to Aliza. We don’t go to Church; although we have all the right intentions to bring the girls. We do go to the Mandir and Gurdwara. I’ll explain why. It comes back to my parents being religious, hence the blurb above. They still host prayers and as family, we have to attend. I acknowledge that Amia and Aliza will be exposed a bit more to these institutions out of…convenience? It’s hard to justify this – I’m not saying it’s right, but on the other hand, we’re keeping my parents happy. If we had more opportunities to attend Church services, we would. Matt and I are really trying to find that right balance to make sure not one religion is taking precedence. At the end of it all, our goal as parents is to make sure we’re raising genuine human beings. We hope to instill enough knoweldge that they will decide and know what’s best for them. We have vowed that we will never force our decisions; we will never impose our wishes or desires onto them. Should they choose to follow a religion that fits their beliefs, we will support and respect that decision.
3. Cultural norms
So, typically in the South Asian culture, women are regarded as the one to cook, clean, attend to their husbands, care for the children, and the list goes on. I never conformed to being this “typical” South Asian woman. I’m quite the opposite and in our household, things are different. I would say that Matt does 90% of the cooking around here. No one attends to anyone. And when it comes to taking care of the children, it’s split equally. Our family does not fit into any sort of cultural norm; we’re making our own. My girls will never be raised to believe that they are the sole caretakers of a household. They are currently being raised to understand they are equals in this world. Matt of course respects this otherwise we wouldn’t be together; and I feel he recognizes it more so now since having two girls. I hear it from time-to-time that I should be a better wife given my roots, but I just look the other way and proceed, very well knowing Matt has my back.
Another area where Matt and I tend to find ourselves in a bit of a dilemma is holidays. Matt’s side of the family is big around Christmas traditions. My side, not so much. Yes, growing up my parents would do their best to celebrate the mainstream holidays, such as Christmas by purchasing a few gifts and putting up a Christmas tree. But that was the extent. Since having kids, Matt and I have had to juggle expectations around holidays. I have adapted to how Matt’s family celebrates certain holidays and I understand that our children will take part in those ways. For example, it’s a family tradition of his to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas eve, to open gifts after Church, and to stay up and play games with the family. It’s cute. I enjoy it. I have no reservations. I guess where I’m getting at is that we do our best to make sure we’re conforming to what we’re comfortable with, as well as create our own traditions. We always reason and work something out with the families to make sure both sides are pleased. And again, at the end of it, we make sure it fits with our family.
Matt grew up in a very lenient household. His parents were never overly strict. Their rule was that you could be out, but just make sure you’re safe. Me on the other hand, I had a curfew. I wasn’t allowed to just step out my door without informing my parents on my whereabouts. So, if we compare how we both grew up, it’s very different. Matt’s approach to parenting is the hands-off style, because he’s influenced by how he was raised. Let the kids roam free and explore – they’ll figure it out. The more they are exposed to testing waters, the more rounded they will become. To a certain extent, I agree. But it has to be within reason. I’m not comfortable with my 3 year old wandering in a park play structure by herself while we watch from the benches. I like to know where Amia is at all times. I’m the parent who calls the daycare about the slightest little concern. That’s just me. And I believe I am this way because this is how I was raised. I know as the girls get older we’ll have to evaluate how to handle certain situations so that Matt and I are both in agreement. For now, we do run into our daily disagreements about how to go about certain parenting decisions. But that’s parenting, right? Irrespective of backgrounds. And this brings me to my last item.
5. Who are we kidding? This is a never ending list…
We know that this is just the beginning. We never show our girls that we’re different than other families. We have our own qualities that are special to us. We feel fortunate that we can celebrate so many festivities and that our girls are exposed to different cultures. Matt and I are continuously striving to find the right balance and we know we have a long way to go. The key is that we have to remain open with each other and that means communicating our feelings and emotions. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as parents our priority is to raise our girls as kindhearted human beings. We know questions will come up as they get older and we will be transparent and open with them. Matt and I are both proud individuals; we love our roots and share little pieces of it with our girls everyday. I never used to buy real maple syrup – Matt was insulted when I told him we grew up eating Aunt Gemima syrup (fact: French Canadian’s are big on their maple syrup!). And truth be told, I enjoy the real stuff. I’m guilty of playing non-stop Bollywood tunes around the house during our family dance parties. I live for Bollywood, so sometimes Amia watches a movie with me. Matt and I have elements and experiences that we have brought into this marriage that I feel will only make our children well rounded. We’ve adjusted to each other’s norms, the cultural and traditional ones. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re managing with a few bumps along the way. We know this is the path we continue and we’re fortunate to do it together.