Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thoughts on being in a mixed-culture marriage

 A picture from last month- the relevance will be clear if you stick with me all through this post. If you look closely, you can see that Vivian is wearing American flag leggings and her shirt says "all american girl", while Ethan's wearing his Canada hockey jersey :)

Our census form came yesterday and I immediately filled it out- because I have a secret love of filling out forms.  I'm not kidding, I love them! No idea why, maybe it just appeals to my organized personality in some way. Daniel doesn't mind, as he hates filling out forms and being expected to remember things like his own birthday or social security number.  I swear, there's an entire section of his brain that he just downloaded to me when we got married and immediately erased. Because I know he was functional and had to keep track of things for the 38 years of his life before I showed up, but now I'm around to remember for him :) It works.

Anyway, yesterday I was filling out census forms and putting in everyone's name and ethnicity. And again realizing that my kids are going to have a lifetime of checking multiple boxes in the ethnicity/race section of forms. I'm just glad they live in a time where checking multiple boxes is an option. I know that hasn't always been true.

Then today I was drowning out the kids' coughing and sneezing with my iPod (mother of the year!) and listening to a Family Life Today podcast while I wiped noses. The episode that I was listening to was an author who is in a mixed culture marriage, and she has done a lot of research into that topic and mixed-race marriages as well. 

To be honest, I sometimes forget that I'm in both a mixed culture and mixed race family.  Other than the whole Canadian/American thing, that's too big of a culture gap to miss- my husband rarely watches football, but the TV is often on curling or hockey!

Honestly, in a lot of ways this hasn't been a big problem for Daniel and I so far. We live in Seattle and a huge number of our friends and people in the community are also in mixed culture/race marriages.  And despite being raised by families who spoke different languages and lived on opposite sides of the world, our parents' backgrounds had a lot of similarities and we were raised largely the same in many ways.  And then there's the fact that Daniel has been living in "my" world for a long time.  Since they emigrated to Canada when he was a young boy, he's been watching the same music and TV that I would have if I was his age (yes, we have a 10-year-age gap on top of everything else!), and our pop cultural references are more or less the same.

Our families never questioned our marriage or gave us a hard time about marrying someone from another ethnic background.  So, like I said, it's been pretty easy.

Honestly, the biggest challenge has been in a couple of areas. One I've written a lot about here - my challenges with his family and understanding them.  I think Daniel's total immersion in "my" world plays a role in that- when we're here at home he eats the same food as I do and speaks the same languages and understands the same things, then we visit his family and it's like being on a different planet- and my husband suddenly is one of the aliens. He speaks a different language and eats completely different foods and is part of this world that I don't even remotely understand.

The other major area of challenge is also on my part- my worries about raising kids that accept both parts of who they are. On my side, they're something like 15th or 16th generation Americans, and on the other side they're the first generation born in North America.  Ethan's great-great grandfather on my side of the family was born just blocks from where he was born, and on the other side his great-great-grandparents were born somewhere in China, in an entirely different world and society. But both parts of the family history are important for the kids to know. I think a lot about this as they're getting older.  It's especially challenging because Daniel's from the "just assimilate with the country you live in generation" and he's lost a lot of the information that I want to pass on to the kids about traditions and cultural references. And even with language- although Daniel's truly bilingual, it doesn't occur to him to speak Chinese to the kids, because that's not the language that he speaks unless he's around his parents.

I'm glad to be a part of this new family- even though I don't understand it at all. I'm praying for wisdom in my relationships with my in-laws and for helping the kids learn and respect who they are.  It's still strange to be checking boxes for ethnicity for my kids that I don't check for myself, but it's a fun kind of strange, and I know it's going to be an interesting journey for us all. 

1 comment:

Mommyto3andahusky said...

Gave you an award on my blog! ;)