Grab a seat, make some tea and put your feet up. this is going to be a long one…
I have been meaning to share this sensitive post for a while now, but as with all my life experiences, I only share those I have thoroughly healed from. As parents we know that our children’s life stories and experiences unfold in unique ways, and It does not matter how ferociously we cuddle and smother them with unconditional love and protection in the home, sometimes that love is not enough to protect them from the nasty and painful experiences of this world. And one of the most difficult roles I have had to play as a protective mother, is forcing myself to stand aside and bare painful witness to my babies being bullied by society and trust that I have geared them with enough self-love and protective emotional and mental intelligence type ammunition that allows me to stand aside and confidently let their lives unfold.
My prayer for my children is that God grant me the serenity, clarity, discernment, wisdom, tenacity and strength to raise well-balanced and positive future contributors to society not tortured and tormented misfits who suffer from anger and inauthentic expressions of self because they don’t feel like they belong. – Pumi RM
I have an almost 17-year-old beautiful daughter and a handsome son who’ll turn 10 next month. Let me say this. I do not see nor treat my children as racial beings, they are my children. They are my heartbeat and my world revolves around them. But because society can be cruel and children can be downright nasty beasts, I had to gear my children up and inject them with the kind of gentle mental strength, confidence and tenacity to help them deal with and be able to face the not-so-nice side of this world and still remain unchanged, strong, loving, friendly and respectful human beings. Now obviously, I had to go through a few not so nice encounters before deciding to impart this protective tool of self-love to my babies. Something happens to a parent when witnessing the world be cruel to her offspring, I could not believe how ignorant and inconsiderate humans can be, and being part of the last generation who lived through the apartheid era, I thought I had seen it all. little did I know… These are a few of the most hurtful encounters my children and I had to live through…
This one makes me cry… My daughter was five years old, and we had recently moved to Hong Kong from Abu Dhabi. We lived in a lovely secluded island a twenty-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong main island called Discovery Bay. I thought it would be great to live out of the hustle and crazy buzz of main land Hong Kong, and Discovery Bay was love at first sight. Getting off the ferry, the air seemed fresher, the beach was lovely and a beautiful mix of expatriates from all over world. I also noticed that every second woman I walked past was pregnant, which told me that was a great and considerable place to raise children. And the fact that the islands rule did not permit any of us residents to drive or own cars on the island, we drove around in golf carts. That assured me my daughter’s safety on the road, so needless to say I was sold.
All residents met down at the plaza on weekends. This place was surrounded by restaurants, a supermarket, a movie rental store, a ballet school, other lovely shops and a great play area for children of different age groups. One Sunday afternoon after having had our lunch, hubby, our daughter and I decided to spend the rest of our Sunday at the plaza so Angelface could ride her bike and get to play with other kids her age. We got to the plaza and saw how excited yet shy she was… The mother in me boosted her confidence with a slight nudge and shove ushering her to go play with other kids. She walked towards the loud crowd of chirpy happy children separated by their chosen groups of friends. Hubby and I looked on smiling hand-in-hand as she walked towards the one of many circles of friends, We were beaming with pride that our shy and soft-spoken little girl was actually taking the first step at initiating friendship in a foreign country. Then the saddest thing happened, as she approached this one group, the kids looked at our baby and split up leaving her standing all alone only to regroup about a meter from her while pointing fingers and giggling at her. Hubby was tearing up and filled with anger. He wanted to immediately save our baby girl from the humiliation. I held my tears back and asked him to let her be and allow her to navigate the embarrassment and rejection her way, as hard as it was to watch. She moved from one group to another and the same thing kept occurring. I noticed right there and then that moment that my daughter and I we the only two black human beings in Discovery Bay. What killed me even more was the fact that the parents of these children just looked on as their children mocked our baby girl. She started crying and hubby ran to her, took her in his arms and gave her a tight squeeze. When people ask me how it was for me living in Hong Kong, I reply, I hated it. and this is why.
Second incident sounds funny now, but it sure as heck was not funny then. I was at Queen Marry Hospital in Pok Fu Lam road, induced into premature emergency labour at seven months of pregnancy with my son in a ward filled with almost ten (if not more) male and female student nurses watching me squirm in pain while pushing our son out, making me feel like a human lab experiment with my legs wide apart and my jewels hanging out for all to see. I honestly think they had never seen a black woman’s port-of-entry before, hence they hurdled up into my ward to make sure that my vitals were not heart-shaped. One shocked female nurse yelled in her chinese/English dialect with her eyes wide open and her hands on the side of her head as hubby cut our newborn’s umbilical cord, HAAAAA HAAAA CHO-K-LATE LADY! CHO-K-LATE LADY! CHO-K-LATE GIVE BIRTH TO WHITE BABY!!! HAAAAYYYYAAAAAA! I relied, VOETSEK WENA MSOO… NTHO EJANG DINOGA LE MAGUNDWANE! NXA BLOODY SWI.. and other english phrases that had my frantic hubby try calm me down. I swear, if I wasn’t getting stitched up, I’d have jumped out of my hospital bed and sat on her face. Mind you I had not even seen my baby yet. That was my introduction to the mean and not so thoughtful and insensitive world of a parent to a mixed race/biracial child.
Third incident, I was home nursing myself and our newborn son. When hubby and our baby girl decided to go to the plaza to hire a few movies for our then regular Saturday afternoon movie marathon tradition. I was surprised to hear them back so soon, because they normally took way too long. First angelface ran into the bedroom crying, as I was trying to hush her down hubby flew in huffing and puffing with his face red and ripe as a cooked lobster, he was fuming. He finally told me what happened… They walked into the movie rental shop and like many kids, our daughter shot straight to the kiddies movies section and hubby headed to the adult section. hubby noticed a group of older kids laughing at our daughter on the other side of the shop as she yelled “daddy, daddy can I get this movie” or “daddy, daddy come and see”. He also noticed those kids move closer towards our baby girl chanting “he is not your daddy, he is not your daddy, he is not your daddy” before yelling at them and telling them where to bugger off to. He then explains seeing our then six-year-old girl shrivel up and cave in trying to hide the hurt she felt in her soul to protect her dad from feeling like an outcast for choosing to raise a black baby girl. Witnessing that, killed him inside, he said. That was my introduction to how my daughter would be bullied for being a black child raised by a white man.
Last one. This one killed me. Living in Bahrain, both my babies were found to have traces of swine flu or one of the other bird flu’s that required patient/s to be quarantined. Don’t ask me how they contracted this flu, angazi nami *shrugs*. I opted to quarantine my babies at home and both were left with strict instructions to not leave their bedrooms for the duration of their recovery, and left my then helper responsible to ensure my babies got given their food and meds on time while I was at work. Meds were obviously separated to avoid cross contamination. My daughter had her batch and my son had his clearly marked. I came back home from work that evening, to find my son full of energy and my daughter weaker than when I had left her that morning. I went to the kitchen to check the meds and found my daughters batch was still sealed and my sons batch opened and obviously administered and assumed that she gave them meds from the same batch, which is something I would have honestly overlooked given my instructions relayed earlier. I then ran up to my daughters bedroom and asked if she had eaten? she replied, “no mama”. I asked if she had been given her meds? she replies, “no mama auntie does not like me mama, she said I must get out of bed and make myself food and stop pretending to be sick”. I was livid!!!!! She was fired instantly with a one way ticket back to the Philipines. That was my introduction to the realization that some people would choose to like one of my children and dislike the other based on their skin tones. Imagine the hatred society would have instilled in my children had they both been girls or the self hate damage we would have to deal with as parents long after sending that nanny packing. This experience influenced my decision to quit my job and be a stay-at-home mom. My children come first, I can always make money but I only have one shot at raising my children.
I have countless other incidents I could share, but I think you get the gist of how sensitive a topic this is to me. It is these unfortunate incidents that had me raise my children to never bow down to any form of bullying and or intimidation. At no point of mothering my babies did I ever think I would be that mom that instills self-love, self-protection, self-appreciation as well as mental and emotional strength to my babies as a form of teaching them to protect themselves from this harsh world.
Lessons I have learned and continue to learn…
- You need to have a sound mind, hard skin and a soft heart to raise transracial global children.
- Racial prejudice is a universal human unfortunate phenomenon. Universal racial education had to become a norm in our home. It is not just a black and white thing. I pulled global examples from the Nazis, white slavery in Greece, the segregation the Hispanics faced and continue to face, The stolen land from the Native Americans, The Aboriginals and their racial segregation, the Apartheid segregation and torture Black South Africans went through and many other unfortunate examples. I had to teach my children at an early age that “some people just wont like you, and you have to be ok with that. and for everyone that does not like you, make sure to love yourself even more.”
- Raising positive, healthy and strong-minded children in a transracial global environment requires that the parents ensure that their children are well aware of their cultural blueprint. imvelaphi yomtana ibalulekile empilweni yakhe and the sooner we teach our children to embrace themselves fully from an early age, the better it will be for them to be able to handle hardship and such attacks.
- My husband is not big on talking about the German Nazi history, and I totally understand. But that did not stop me from getting my children involved in the German history as well as my South African history. but I did so in a neutral and respectful way. It is very important for me that my children understand racial segregation in a universal way that equally balances our family cultural knowledge which in turn will help them accept their identities in a positive way.
- I let my children talk freely about the different skin tones and hair textures we have in or outside our home. I don’t care where we are or who could hear us… “Mama is dark brow, Thando is dark brown, Daddy is yellow and I am light brown” my son used to shout out loud. And hubby became our daughters hair mannequin during family time out in the living room.
- Often times strangers can seem quiet intrigued by my family, which leads them to asking awkward questions or passing negative, rude or inconsiderate statements, from “so tell me, how is it like to sleep with a white man”?? to having a stranger approach both my children in my presence and flat-out ignore my black baby yet complement my mixed race child on how beautiful he is?! I mean which sane adult does that?!?! And then I have to be the one to stand there and reply rudely and sarcastically “YES! BOTH my babies are beautiful, thank you very much now goodbye!” before I keep it moving. Can you see how cruel society can be?!
- I have learned that the choice of school you pick for your child is very important. My daughter has been to 14 different school around the world. We have put her in Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, French, Greek, to an all girls school just to name a few. She never settled in well and her grades were not great either. The fact that she was the only back child in most of these schools was hard for her. She never fully felt like she belonged even though she had made friends. She is in a Art School now with students from all walks of life and diversity, and boy did she blossom over night! Its like two different people, day and night. REPRESENTATION really matters. never doubt that!
- Prepare your children to answer question about their racial background, place of origin or the “Why is your father white and you are black” questions. Teach your child/children to exercise patience with such enquiries, because it is their way of educating those who would genuinely love to learn a thing or two about ‘their world’ BUT also teach them to disengage as soon as it starts getting intrusive, rude and uncomfortable.
- Our home is home to diverse cultures and we are proud parents who find it important to impart such knowledge to our children. The best thing I have done as a mother to my children is create an environment where we can talk about anything and everything with respect of course. This has helped them continue to be proud of their diversity and different cultures.
- Lastly, create a secure family identity with positive family values that embrace your diverse heritage, draws attention to positive personal identity, cultural depth and integration as well as LOVE. Your children will thank you later.
That is my two cents worth…