PostRacialist

Tales From A Multi-Culti Life: The Blended Baby (Guest Post)

By Halfmoon Circle

A+B=C?

Having a child on the way gives one an anticipation of the unknown that is one of a kind. There are always the obvious questions to be asked. Whose facial features will it get? Who will it be mannered after? Will traits skip a generation? And so forth and so on. But I think there is a special kind of curiosity when these questions have a cross cultural element to them.

If the idea of picturing the offspring of two ethnically homogeneous people feels daunting than adding a little melanin to the melting pot makes dribbling a football feel easy. One soon seeks out every person with the particular mixture they themselves have conjured up, for us my wife is black and I’m white, to get a better road-map of what to expect. This little survey ends up at a surprising but predictable result. It is as unique as the individual themselves. I cannot speak for all the multi-cultural families out there but at the onset of my wife’s pregnancy the only definitive thing I knew was that my daughter’s hair would not be straight and her complexion would be darker than my own. So as the pregnancy wore on so did my anticipation.

More after the jump.

My wife was certain she would look like either me or her grandmother, based on an old tale that the baby will look like who got on her nerves the most. It truly didn’t matter to me. I focused on the technical nuts and bolts of getting her through the pregnancy and just prayed for a healthy mommy and baby at the end. But I was beside myself with excitement. Another thing I didn’t know was that all babies, regardless of race, come out pretty pale. I’ve been told that many a dark-skinned dude has had to be taken out of the delivery room and explained this before they dialed up a paternity test. But a first time father does not think on these things. As a matter of fact I don’t think he’s supposed to think. And that was my mindset the day my daughter was born; curious, stressed and excited to the max.

Having said all this nothing could have prepared me for that day. What came into my world that day was more beautiful and precious than anything I could have imagined. She came out with a head full of straight black hair already made up like a little pixy. I was actually surprised at how light she was (didn’t know about the pale baby thing yet). My wife told me later she couldn’t believe that was her daughter. She was pretty damn pale. The hair thing was a shock too. It has now blossomed into shoulder length hair that goes from kinky to cork screwy, depending on which angle you look at her. My wife’s mom told us to look at her cuticles for an idea on how much she’ll darken. In my survey of mixed folks I had heard this before with some believers and some not. What shocks me, and still does, is how looking at my daughter is not a dead giveaway of the racial ingredients involved in making her. She could pass for anything I think. As she gets older it gets more obvious but I think there will always be a question. I must have really grated on my wife’s skin because according to EVERYBODY, to quote my wife’s aunt, “It looks like you just spit her out”.

It would have been nice to stay in this insulated world of perpetual celebration. Where the idea of race was more like the pieces of life’s puzzle we were gradually putting together. But as I’m sure ALL multi-cultural families know (or at least in the South), the public spotlight is always on you. Even friendly admirers can make you uncomfortable. It’s hard to determine if they are looking at you with delight or disgust. And then there was the fact that I couldn’t deny my daughter if my life depended on it but my wife was frequently asked if she was the nanny or if that was her baby. Questions like this are devastating for a new mother. I think it took my wife some time to find herself in our daughter. I saw it immediately but she always thought I was just trying to comfort her. Her family would always ask if she was darkening up when they called. That pissed me off at first. But now I think it had everything to do with my wife. She really was having a hard time with the lack of resemblance. I didn’t realize the impact this could have. I also think that this is a unique situation for parents of mixed kids. It’s not that a parent wants to see their race stand out and be dominant in their child. But of course they at least want to be able to appreciate parts of their child that are unique to them. There is also the thought that if a mixed child looks so overwhelmingly like one parent they will identify with that race and that race only. Then there is the fear of traditions and customs not being passed on. What parent wants to forgo their family history and customs because their child came out too light/dark and chose a side? One day they might not have to pick a side but that day isn’t here yet. I love this quote from Danzy Senna.

There are consequences if you choose and consequences if you don’t.

But the positive far, far, far outweigh the negative. Having a mixed child is also very liberating. Especially for millennial children of divorce like myself who aren’t exactly comfortable with passing on all the traditions of their own upbringing. It is a new fork in the road that a family gets to chart on their own. And the darnedest thing is that for all the anticipation there is no way to predict what a child will become. All you can do is love them and work your butt off trying to give them what they need and just pray…..pray,pray,pray,pray they make good decisions. That, my friends, is universal. Some days when I look at my daughter I know that one day, when she’s old enough to reason on such things, my race will be the last thing on her mind. How I have treated her throughout her life will affect her. The way I have treated her mother will have an impact. Have I tried to make her seem like the most important thing to me? This will matter. But you know what will not matter? Who has to wear the most sunscreen on what I hope will be many trips to the beach we all take as a family.

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20 thoughts on “Tales From A Multi-Culti Life: The Blended Baby (Guest Post)

  1. dilettante says:

    "Then there is the fear of traditions and customs not being passed on." whew!!! Thank God you didn’t say ‘culture’ (I’m presuming you and your wife are both multi-generation American born and bred) ;-)Congrats & all the best!

  2. steph T says:

    Thanks so much for the great post! I’m a multi culti baby who started out as the only kid of the bunch that looked like dad’s side. Now all three of us look just like mom’s side. I know it bothered my dad for a while that as I got older his only lookalike didn’t look so alike anymore. And now I couldn’t deny mom’s Irish side if I tried.Just wait until the grandkids come! that’s opened up a whole new can of worms!

  3. Marie says:

    Thanks for this. I’m expecting a baby and feel guilty sometimes that I think about the baby’s appearance. I’m black/white mixed and my husband is white. He doesn’t think about the baby’s appearance at all either. It really doesn’t matter for me as a mom but the whole issue of how other people will "race" – that is classify – our baby does make me nervous. I’m determined to share whatever traditions with our baby that she’s interested no matter her skin tone but it does bother me a little that some people are already assuming she will be rather pale and therefore are calling her white already. I’m hoping our daughter will have more freedom to self-identify but as a mixed person I know how hard that is. Great to be able to talk about this!

  4. swiv says:

    ^^^^^ what’s the issue with people already thinking she’s white? she’ll be 3/4 white anyway. she’ll have as much freedom to self identify if she has any kind of backbone. why worry about what other people think?

  5. sarah says:

    Interesting Post! I am currently expecting, and understand the sentiments in the blog. My husband is Black, I’m White, and my husband has expressed concern that the baby have "tint" to him. My husband is already a few shades lighter than all of his siblings (but the spitting image of his Dad), and I know that he worries the baby will look too much like me. Maybe worries is the wrong term, but I know that it is in the back of his mind. My sister is black, and her husband is white, and their three kids all ended up paler than I have been in my life, with the oldest having blond hair / blue eyes. If he didn’t look exactly like my sister in every other aspect, you wouldn’t believe that she was his mother. In fact, the one time my husband made his comment about hoping the baby had some color was after we received a fresh email with pictures from my sister. I guess it just adds another thing to think about into the mix of thousands when you are expecting a kid…

  6. kaikou says:

    what’s SOP?If and when I choose to have a baby, I know that baby will be multi cultural and ethnic. congrats.

  7. dana111 says:

    SOP=Standard Operating Procedure. I have no idea why "swiv" brought up paternity test in regards to this particular article. Maybe paternity test should be SOP if you are having random sex with random people while in an undefined relationship, but this gentleman is speaking of his WIFE, not some strumpet he met at a bar.

  8. swiv says:

    "I’ve been told that many a dark-skinned dude has had to be taken out of the delivery room and explained this before they dialed up a paternity test."^^^^^ the reason i brought up why paternity tests should be SOP. not from husband’s or wife’s request, but the hospitals general procedure. maybe my question is naive, or i’m just don’t worry how people will want to define my child. it’s probably the latter. you can’t help what other people do.

  9. Doyenne says:

    Those crazy genes don’t really follow any rules where physical appearance is concerned. I turned out a fair bit more pale than my mom, despite the fact that my dad is black. No one ever tried to make me "choose a side" and I’m fairly certain that I’m the awesome (if I do say so myself) person that I am today because of it. I was just allowed to be, and my racial mixture was never made to play a very huge part in who I am. I’m thankful for that.

  10. Lisa J says:

    This makes me think about an interesting piece that Jack and Jill Politics put up the other day that was a portion of an article from the Atlanta Constitution Journal. It was about a white couple who adopted a little girl from Africa and the husband has gone out of his way to learn how to care for his daughter’s hair and he does an AMAZING job of putting her hair into lovely little braids. It is impressive and shows his love by going out of his way to be culturally competent in caring for his girls hair. It shows that if he is going to make such an effort on that he will most likely do all he can to make sure she knows about her African heritage and about black people in this country. Here is a link to the original article http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2008/06/14/braids_0615.html and here is a link to the JJP story, they have pics that don’t come up with the article http://www.jackandjillpolitics.com/2009/07/daddys-little-girl/#more-13227

  11. rachel says:

    touching story. glad he realizes the impact of his actions as a father will have on his daughters self esteem. congrats to this couple on their daughter!!

  12. Lili says:

    It is not only mixed babies who may not resemble a parent. My husband and I are both black and our two kids look nothing like me, LOL! They both look like a their Dad or his Mom. People always comment on it and some even express sympathy for me that my kids do not have my features or coloring at all. This is of course so hilarious to me – they are my kids, very much a part of me and I love them; who they look like is irrelevant. People who are obsessed with color and stuff like that need to dig deeper and explore what issues they might have. I agree that it must be annoying for strangers to ask if you are the nanny but as far as I am concerned they are just being delibrately malicious – I mean think about it : why would a stranger even outrightly ask such a rude question especially these days when interracial pairings are increasingly common? It’s obvious (to me at least) that they already suspect strongly that the kid is yours but want you to confirm it – so in a roundabout way they ask that crappy "are you the nanny" question. Next time – just say yes. It would be interesting to see how they react then.

  13. Tena says:

    I was pregos when this article was written and i wished I would have read it. I'm black and have a white husband and I hear comments from his family like "is his hair going to be kinky?" or " darn it he has brown eyes, he did not get his dad's blue eyes!" My family feels he looks white, but to me he doesn't, plus I don't really care. I do have to admit I was livid over the brown eyes comment. But good to know my baby is not the only one being picked apart.

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