Celebrating Multiracial Heritage
Biracial and multiracial families surprisingly still have few resources to support learning and teaching about multiple heritages. Dianna talks about how ignoring our differences rather than embracing them doesn’t give children the opportunity to define their own sense of self.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family. What kind of community and culture did you and your hubby grow up in?
I’m mama to a beautiful 2-year-old girl Olivia and we just added another little peanut, Charlotte, to our growing family. I’m Vietnamese and my husband Kyle is a mix of Finnish and Chinese descent. I’m an accountant and Kyle is an entrepreneur in the medical services industry. We live in Toronto, Canada, a city known for its multiculturalism — and Drake and The Weeknd.
I had quite a multicultural upbringing because of the area I grew up in and the group of multi-racial friends I surrounded myself with. My parents were immigrants and they often reminded us of the importance of our Chinese heritage but also encouraged us to respect and adopt the Western values of Canada as well. My husband, Kyle, had a very similar upbringing. However, his parents had arrived in Canada at a much younger age and had assimilated to the culture by the time they had children.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in raising multi-racial children?
It’s a challenge to preserve the cultures equally, to make sure that not one culture is seen as more important than the other. Kyle’s parents have been here for so long that I think even with him, his Finnish heritage gets lost amongst his Chinese/Canadian heritage. Living in Canada, it’s so common to see children of mixed heritage, I hope that my children won’t have to deal with cultural identity issues.
I hope that my children won’t have to deal with cultural identity issues.
When it comes to heritage, how do you explore and honor your family’s multiple heritages and cultures?
I’m a big foodie, so exposing Olivia (and eventually Charlotte) to different foods, not just of our actual heritage but of other cultures too, has been important. Reading books and talking about their mixed heritage as well as celebrating the holidays associated with the various cultures is a must. I eventually want them to also learn at the very least, Mandarin so they can converse with their grandpa “Gong-Gong”(which is Mandarin and Cantonese for grandfather on the mother’s side). When they are older, I also plan on taking them to Finland and China on vacation to learn about their roots.
Do you think mixed children are reducing racism?
Honestly, no. Racism is taught and while I believe it can be changed, I don’t think that simply seeing a mixed-race child increases tolerance for different cultures in the mind of a racist. I think even in biracial families there can still be some members who are not accepting of the couple and their children. The child’s first point of view comes from those raising him or her and it’s those values and ideals that get passed down. I feel the burden is on the parents, especially us millennial parents who are currently raising the next generation, to teach children to have the utmost tolerance and to be accepting of every race and culture. I honestly believe world religions and cultures should be a mandatory subject in all schools so children are given the chance to be educated and understand that differences exist, but no one is better than the other. I took world religion in high school and it gave me a deeper understanding and respect for religion that I didn’t have before.
I feel the burden is on the parents, especially us millennial parents who are currently raising the next generation, to teach children to have the utmost tolerance and to be accepting of every race and culture.
Can you share a time when cultural differences became a challenge? How did you overcome it?
I actually first faced it during my pregnancy. Chinese and Western approaches to pregnancy are quite different but at the end of the day, the number one priority in both cultures is the baby’s health. My family was constantly emphasizing how I needed to take it easy, rest, not lift anything heavy – they treated me like a porcelain doll. In Chinese culture there is a belief you need to keep your body warm and that certain foods like watermelon (which I love so I ate all the time against my father’s wishes), can have too much of a cooling affect on the baby. In North American culture there is similar sentiment with regards to not doing anything too strenuous, but like most modern day moms-to-be, I still wanted to feel useful and stay as fit, so I was working out as much as I could and carrying groceries. Food wise, as long as it wasn’t on the list of foods not recommended during pregnancy I treated pregnancy as a free for all. Of course I tried to have as much of a balanced diet as possible, until the ice cream cravings started at which point I think it was ok to give in!
Who or what do you consider your daily inspiration? What keeps you going?
As cliché as it sounds, Olivia, Charlotte and Kyle are my inspirations. Olivia and Charlotte remind me, especially at the most frustrating of times, to be a better person and stronger woman. I have to model the qualities I want my girls to grow up with. The self-respect I have for myself and others and the confidence and positivity I exhibit will be reflected in my girls. Kyle keeps me grounded and always finds a way to make me feel beautiful, even if I’m covered in baby vomit and haven’t had a chance to shower in days. He reminds me on the best and worst days, that I’m a wonderful mother, wife and an amazing person.
I have to model the qualities I want my girls to grow up with.
What’s one general pregnancy secret or piece of advice you wish you’d known?
Don’t try to wax yourself down there when you are 30 weeks pregnant. Just kidding, but honestly, just go to the salon.
No matter what, you are still priority number one. Take care of yourself and don’t feel guilty. You performed a miracle of life, you should never forget how special and important you are. When you take the time to do something for yourself, even if it’s only for five minutes, that will make your day and keep you calm. No matter how easygoing your child may be, a shit storm will come and you will have days when you want to just give up. Build in that time to keep yourself sane.
What are the top 3 things you are researching these days? And why?
- Schools – finding the right school for your child is such a daunting task. There’s the big debate between private or public. You want your child to go to the best school but, more importantly, you also want to find the right school for your child.
- Sleeping Issues – it seems like no matter how well Olivia is doing with her sleeping, troubles always seem to creep up. Trying to understand why she went from a perfect self-soothing child to a crazy wild thing gives us hope that she’ll eventually get over whatever it is that is bothering her. The latest issue has been a combination of night terrors, teething, developmental milestones and sickness, not to mention transitioning into her big girl bed with the arrival of her younger sister Charlotte.
- Skincare products/treatments – I was not one of the lucky ones who had glowing clear skin during my pregnancy. In fact, my second pregnancy brought on terrible hormonal acne and because you shouldn’t be using the typical acne fighting chemicals, it was tough trying to find efficient products to balance my skin. Even after the hormones have settled, I’m positive I will have remnants of the pregnancy acne and some scarring which I’m hoping to minimize as much as possible.