How Will Your Children Racially Identify Themselves

In the last six years of my marriage, my husband and I have done what we can to blend two cultures. We have asked loved ones for advice and observed to see how other interracial families did it. We wanted to glean everything we could because blending cultures has always been extremely important to us. We wanted to try and have a lot of it figured out before we had kids.

We had our first child a few days before our second year anniversary. We still had so much to learn about bringing two cultures to one family. We realized we would learn it along the way. We would learn how to blend cultures as our family grew.

We have learned so much since we were married. We’ve learned a lot about traditions, cultural expectations, where to have grace, where to give a little, but we are still pondering one thing in regards to our children. How will our children identify themselves racially?

We now have three biracial children, three little boys who are half Indian and half white. Their racial identity has come up a few times as they’ve begun to ask questions about life. My oldest son asked me why he wasn’t black like daddy or white like mommy. I had to explain to him that he’s both. He’s so special that he has a little bit of mommy and daddy in him. After that, he loved going around to people telling them that he is a little bit of mommy and daddy!

It came up again this year. My husband, kids, and I went to go and see my husband’s side of the family. Every one was excited because we had recently had another little boy. No one had met him yet and they couldn’t wait to get in some baby cuddles. When we got there, our little guy was instantly handed over. Everyone started calling him our little Indian boy. They said that he looked the most Indian out of all of our kids and deemed him the little Indian boy.

I didn’t think anything of it at first. I agreed! Out of all of our kids, he looked the most Indian. He has the sharp little nose, dark skin, and beautiful dark eyes. The more it happened, I started to realize something stood up inside of me when they said that. He isn’t just Indian. He’s white and Indian. He’s both. He’s a beautiful blend of both.

That’s when it hit me. Our children will be faced with a choice. The day will come when our children have to racially identify themselves. What will they say? Will they choose a race to simplify and avoid questions? Will they choose the race they identify with the most? Or will they say they are mixed?

Their response will depend on the way we raise them. If we allow a competition between races to occur, they will be prompted to choose one. If they are embarrassed about being different, they will choose one.

We, as their parents, shape how our children see themselves. We have to raise our children in an environment where the cultures in their lives don’t compete; rather they complement each other. You can’t try to make your culture more important than your spouse’s. We have to show them the beauty of the cultures in their lives.

We do this through hands-on experience. We make food from both cultures, although we try to make more Indian food at home because they are exposed to American food everywhere they go. We dance around in our house to Bollywood and American music. We watch movies from both cultures. Some of our favorites are Bollywood musicals because our kids copy the dance moves! We take our children to different Indian festivals in town. We take our children to art museums to learn about history. We want them to see the beauty of each culture and become passionate about them both.

Each family may have a different preference when it comes to how their children racially identify themselves. In our family, it’s very important that our children embrace both of their cultures. When the time comes and they have to racially identify themselves, we want them to proudly say, “I’m White and Indian.”

You have to talk about this as a family. How do you want your children to racially identify themselves? Do you want them to blend cultures, choose a culture, or something new? Your decision needs to shape the way you teach your children.

Brittany Muddamalle is the mother of three boys under four years old. She has been in an intercultural marriage for six years. Her and her husband are currently raising their children in American and East Indian culture. She is also the writer of The Almost Indian Wife blog. Her hope is to make a change by sharing her experiences with her own intercultural marriage and raising biracial children.

Check out her blog: The Almost Indian Wife                                                      Facebook Twitter Google+ 

Teaching Children to be Proud of their Cultures

I’m realizing more and more how much we all want to blend in. We like the idea of being unique and one of a kind, but we also want to be accepted by social standards. A little unique is ok, but too much is just weird.

Schools are even starting to feed into this “let’s all be the same” philosophy. They don’t want people to stand out as being the best or the worst at anything. I’ve even seen schools that give out medals to everyone on a sports team so no one feels like they didn’t do a good job. What about the person that did the best?

People are scared to let kids feel different. They want them all to feel the same so they don’t risk the child that doesn’t feel like they fit in.

My husband and I don’t want to teach this to our children. They are different. They aren’t like all the kids around them. They are unique. They are biracial. They are Indian and Caucasian.

This “let’s all be the same” mentality teaches kids to stifle what makes them special. I want my kids to celebrate what makes them unique. I want them to be so proud of these differences that they share it with all their friends.

Instead of asking ourselves, “How can we make sure our kids fit in?” let’s ask ourselves, “How can we help our kids to be proud of who they are?”

My husband’s cousin taught me this lesson a few years ago. He had been teased in his elementary school about being different. His friends were teasing him because his mother came to school in Indian clothes. He had a choice right then. He had the choice to be embarrassed and hope his friends would forget about the incident or he could stand up for himself.

Can you guess what he chose to do?

He went home that night and told his mom that he needed to wear Indian clothes to school the next day! His friends were pointing out a huge difference in his life. His mother is East Indian, which means he is different than his friends at school. He is Caucasian and East Indian. He had piles of Indian clothes for all of his Indian events. He, by no means, needed to do anything. He could have ignored them. Instead he decided to take pride and show off something special to him.

The next day at school, he wore his handsome Indian clothes. Instead of being mocked by his friends, they all surrounded him and said how cool he looked!

So what did his parents do? How in the world did they raise their child to be proud of his heritage?

They made sure both cultures were present in his life on a daily basis.

If you want a child to be proud of their culture, they first have to understand it. You need to teach them the values and traditions of both cultures in their life.

My husband’s aunt and uncle taught their child what type of Indian clothes to wear to different events, how to eat Indian food with his hands, the correct Indian/American names to call relatives, American/Indian holidays, famous food from both cultures, Telugu/English, and so much more.

As he learned about both cultures, he started to understand what made them special.

They shared what they love about both cultures. 

He also learned what made each culture special to his parents.

His mom shared memories she had from growing up in India. She was able to bring it to life when she took him to India and gave him hands on experience. It wasn’t just a story for him; he was able to see the mango trees from her childhood, taste the food, ride in a rickshaw with his whole family, nap in the middle of the day due to the heat, and attempt to speak Telugu to his new friends.

His dad has also been able to bring him back to his home-town. While there he has shown him his favorite places to eat, schools he attended as a child, his family home, and meet his friends.

As his parents have shared their childhood and cultures with him, he has been able to experience them both first hand. Those memories turn into his own passion for not only their culture, but his.

As a child starts to fall in love with their culture, they start to realize how special it makes them. They are able to take something their parents hold dear to them and see what it means to them. They start to see how their cultures have made them into the person they are becoming.

How have you taught your child to be proud of their culture?

almostindianwife@gmail.comBrittany Muddamalle is the mother of three boys under four years old. She has been in an intercultural marriage for six years. Her and her husband are currently raising their children in American and East Indian culture. She is also the writer of The Almost Indian Wife blog. Her hope is to make a change by sharing her experiences with her own intercultural marriage and raising biracial children.

Check out her blog: The Almost Indian Wife                                                      Facebook Twitter Google+ 

Is It Possible to Balance Two Cultures Perfectly?

I met my husband in California during a program with our church. We were just two young kids falling in love. We were lost in our own world. The scope of our differences didn’t really come out until we were engaged. We decided to have a half Indian and half American wedding. We had this grand idea of a perfectly blended wedding, which would lead to a perfectly blended life.

We did pretty well bringing both cultures in, but the more we strived for perfection, the further away it got. I finally got to the point during all of my wedding planning where I decided to just let the pieces fall where they may. It ended up being just what we needed.

Our wedding was beautiful. I married my best friend. Afterwards, I sat there, during the reception, holding my husband’s hand. We were watching two cultures collide beautifully. Americans and Indians were dancing together to Bollywood and American music, wedding traditions from both sides were coming together smoothly, and everyone was having a great time celebrating.

Then I realized that perfection didn’t matter. All that mattered was my husband and I were bringing two cultures together into one family.

Fast forward almost six years later and we’re still using what we learned during our wedding. We now have three little boys. We have often felt pressured to raise them with one racial identity. Instead, we want them to know how special they are to be raised in two cultures.

Sharing both cultures with our boys has been hard. We both want to share our traditions and values, but choosing what tradition to follow can be difficult. It requires a lot of communication, open mindedness, and grace for my husband and I. As we are faced with decisions, my husband and I have to decide together what’s best for our family. Often times, this means choosing which culture’s way of doing it works best for that situation.

The biggest thing that helps our family is encouraging our children to fall in love with both cultures. Looking to see why we love both cultures helps us make our decisions. One reason we love Indian culture is because of its emphasis on family. That means if a decision comes up about family, we know right away what we would do.

Indian culture has taught us that we should always step up when our family is in need. When my husband was little, his mom was in nursing school. She had recently moved to the US with her husband, who was working full time. She needed help and her parents immediately stepped in. They raised my husband in India for two years, while she finished school. A few years later, his mom was pregnant with twins. She had a rough pregnancy and was put on bed rest. Her sister stopped everything in her own life and moved in with them to help. Indian culture shows us that family needs to be one of the most important things in our lives.

American culture is around my family daily. Our children are able to learn about it every day by just walking out the front door. In addition to traditional American values that they are exposed to daily, my husband and I go out of our way to share my family’s traditions and values with them as well. One value I have been able to share with my children from my culture is independence. My mother was single for half of my childhood. Being raised by a single mother taught me the importance of independence. While this can be a conflicting value at times with Indian culture, I think it can be a big benefit as well. My children are able to learn how to take care of themselves and those around them.

The values of each culture helps to lead us in our decision-making. The worst thing you can do is to make it about an “even trade.” We do this for my culture and this for yours. If you make it about being even with your culture, it turns into a competition.

Blending cultures perfectly is impossible. It’s the wrong thing to pursue. All you can do is take it one situation at a time and do what’s best for your family. The more our kids fall in love with both cultures, the more they naturally make decisions based on both.

almostindianwife@gmail.comBrittany Muddamalle is the mother of three boys under four years old. She has been in an intercultural marriage for six years. Her and her husband are currently raising their children in American and East Indian culture. She is also the writer of The Almost Indian Wife blog. Her hope is to make a change by sharing her experiences with her own intercultural marriage and raising biracial children.

Check out her blog: The Almost Indian Wife                                                      Facebook Twitter Google+