Listen, I have blonde hair (when it isn’t gray), blue eyes, and a fair face. I know darn well that my 8 month-old son, with his cappuccino-colored skin, almost-black eyes, and chocolate hair was not created in the spitting image of me. Yes, if you look really close there are resemblances. He nabbed my chin divot. He possibly has my cheeks. And some people say he has my smile. That one makes me happy.
My husband is Hispanic and I am white. We are an interracial couple. Until I got pregnant, I rarely thought about this. We’re both quirky, creative, slightly odd individuals and that’s why we work, not because of the boxes we check on government forms. But something about that round belly forced me to start thinking about it. Why? Because I wondered how our blend of cultures would impact our child. And because people are nuts about interracial kids. Really, really loco. The bigger my belly grew, the more strange, stereotypical, and sometimes downright prejudiced comments started coming our way. Here are three offenders that nearly sent me into pre-term labor:
Oooh, I love mixed babies!
Seriously? Why? What do you have against non-mixed babies? And how do you “just always seem to know” which babies are which?
We heard this one A LOT. And we seemed to hear it more in the so-called liberal haunts. Whole Foods, for example. There we were, in all our brown and whiteness, trudging around one day when I was a week or two away from giving birth. This woman stopped us and literally squealed. “Boy or a girl?” she asked. “Do you know?”
“Boy,” we both said fast. By now we’d had enough of the crazy people who act like you’re BFFs just because you’re pregnant. Fast answers seem to keep the loons at bay. But no, not this loon.
“A boy!” she exclaimed. “I have to see him when he arrives. Mark my words, he’ll have jet black hair and crystal blue eyes. The rarest combo. You are so blessed. Oooh, I love mixed babies!”
Our son had the nerve to show up without those baby blues. Does that mean we’re less blessed? Confused.
He’s so cute. Must be all that interracial DNA swirling around in there.
Yeah, it must be. My hub and I are trolls so there is no way his cuteness has anything to do with us. It’s just that magical gene cocktail that gets shaken up when two people of different races come together under a rainbow of love and diversity.
I won’t be modest here. My kid is adorable. Like, Baby Gap window adorable. If I weren’t exhausted all the time from him still needing to nurse twice a night, I’d get him an agent. Or at least send a pic in to one of those contests. College funds, people, college funds.
So okay, we have a catalog-ready baby. But while we aren’t supermodels, we aren’t unattractive either. In fact, I’d say we’re both pretty good-looking. Couldn’t that have something to do with it? Doesn’t anyone realize it’s a wee bit offensive to tell us our baby is cute and act like it’s only because he’s interracial? I’ll just say it—I’ve seen plenty of other “mixed babies,” and they aren’t all stunners. Some of them have faces that only a mother could love. Or a Papi.
You’re going to teach him Spanish, aren’t you?
Why yes, we are, even though it’s none of your business. Are you teaching your children Spanish? Oh wait, you don’t have any kids? You just like telling other people how to raise theirs? Wonderful, sign me up for the rest of your unsolicited and inexperienced advice. Dying to hear what you have to say about breastfeeding.
The decision to have a bi-lingual household is not an easy one. And being an interracial couple does not make it mandatory, just as it’s not mandatory for white couples or black couples or Asian couples. I know many Hispanic men and women who don’t know a lick of Spanish. What would you say to them?
For the record, my husband does speak English and Spanish fluently. I had dreams of writing in cafes in Paris, so I took French in school. If only I could have seen my romantic future. Before our relationship got serious, the extent of my Español was “gracias,” “senorita,” and “baño.” Raising our son to know Spanish means I need to know it, too. I’m learning gradually, but it’s tough. I struggle to communicate with my in-laws who speak and understand very little English. Do I want to be able to bust out with more than an “hola?” Do I want my son to be able to talk with his abuelos? Do I want him to learn AT LEAST two languages? Si, si, and more si’s. But it’s not like choosing between cloth and disposable diapers, although someone actually made that comparison to me once. One involves more laundry; the other demands a lifelong commitment. I’m glad you bought that Baby Einstein DVD, but that’s probably not going to get the job done.
My kid is not just another “mixed baby.” He’s not cute because he has special strands of DNA that non-interracial offspring don’t. And even though we’d like him to, he doesn’t have to speak Spanish just because he’s half-Hispanic.
The thing is, I know most mean well. It wasn’t too long ago that interracial marriages were illegal and interracial kids were scorned. People want to show you that they’re accepting and open and it usually just comes out in funny ways. But you know how you can really be accepting? By treating me, my husband, and our son as individuals, not as races. It’s really as simple as that.