Genetic cocktails and DNA mixes: Raising our HAPA (mixed-race) kids

In my previous entry, I revealed to you my heart’s desire of having two kids with Ian. As a newly engaged woman, I am really excited about the prospect of a new family life with my fiancé. And while I am set on pursuing a career over immediately having a child after getting married, Ian and I have discussed children several times in our relationship.

We are both thrilled at the thought of having mixed/HAPA kids. We think it’s cool. The Philippines has a very rich cultural background and almost everyone can claim to having a mixture of Chinese and Spanish lineage brought about by years of intermarriage within these cultures. I have no way of confirming whether I have Chinese flowing in my veins. My chinky eyes may rather be a result of having a Japanese maternal grandmother. My paternal grandfather, on the other hand, is part-Spanish.

Ian’s heritage is an interesting mixture: When we first met, he described himself to me as “quite the mutt”. Born to an American Jewish father of Polish-Austrian and Ukrainian descent, Ian has hazel-green eyes, hair everywhere :D, and an overall look similar to how Jesus was described to us back in the Catholic school that I first attended. Ian’s mother is French and Scottish. Enough said.

Now you understand our fascination. If ever anybody asks our future children what they are (which I am sure would be frequent), they would probably need to inhale deeply before answering because it’s going to be a looooong reply.

It is an amazing thing for us – the coming together of varied cultures to make one harmonious family. I feel privileged to be a part of this. It had never crossed my mind that our children would potentially have a problem dealing with their multiracial ethnicity, because it was never an issue for me and Ian. We both came from multicultural backgrounds so first and foremost we understand that it is something to be proud of rather than loathed or embarrassed. I feel like we will be responsible parents and guide our children to foster the same kind of appreciation for their mixed heritage as well.

Mixed race is God’s photoshop!

Looks like an interesting magazine! See more at http://ricepapermagazine.ca/ , for my Canadian readers! 😉

Now, I am not the authority when it comes to marriage and motherhood; as you know,  I am yet to be a wife and mother myself. Yet I do have some ideas on how to handle being a mother to mixed kids. I’ll rely heavily on instinct, or since I am about to be Ian’s wife, I’ll refer to it as “Weinstinct” (Weinstein + instinct, get it?)

Weinstinct Tip #1. It’s all about acceptance.

Have you ever wondered why your nose doesn’t look like your father’s? Why your complexion doesn’t match your mother’s? Why your sister is fairer than you and why you are darker? I suppose we all have. Procreating is almost like joining the genetic lottery: You can never guess what you’ll draw from the bowl. Chinky eyes, almond eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, straight hair, curly hair, freckles, no freckles, tan, fair, yellow skin, etc. Imagine factoring in a mixture of races and you get a very confusing DNA cocktail. Considering the mixture of our lineages, an accurate guess about such potential physical characteristics would be quite an amazing feat. Now, figuring your future children’s appearance is NOT the issue here. In fact, it doesn’t even really matter. What matters is how you’re going to tackle it when your child asks you the very same questions. Tricky, eh?

The solution is NOT to focus on the question but rather on what the question implies. Your child is wondering why he/she looks different from you. Correct. Yet additionally, he/she is wondering if it is okay to be different from you. Of course it is! But he/she doesn’t realize this yet. Your job as a parent is to make your child FEEL that these differences are indeed okay. Curly hair, straight hair, fair skin, brown skin, dark brown skin, whatever! Make them feel accepted. We all want to be validated right? I don’t know if I will do a sufficient job at this myself but what I do know is that I will try my very best so that my children would feel loved, appreciated, and valued no matter what they look like. I can only hope that it’s enough!

Weinstinct Tip #2: Own it so it doesn’t own you!

 Parents tend to be very protective. That’s their nature.  Of course we will all try to work hard to provide our respective children with the sense of security and belonging that they need. But parental protection can only extend so much. Try as we may, we are not sure whether some people outside of our homes will try to hurt them and screw with their self-esteem.

My greatest fear in becoming a HAPA mom is the thought of my children growing up in an environment that I did not grow up in. I wouldn’t really know how to deal with it. I hear horror stories of bullying in American schools, and I see the concept of “social casting” popularized by the media: the cheerleaders, jocks and the cool kids sit over here, the nerds over there, the Asian kids on one side and the losers on the other side. It’s sooo scary! I don’t ever want my little boy coming home to me in tears because he was teased for being of Asian descent. Beyond my protective shield, I am powerless, and my child is defenseless. Come to think of it, children spend more time in school than at home, and so it becomes as much of a venue for developing character as the home.  What if my child turns out to be shy and timid because he was excessively bullied in school without my knowledge? What if he acts out our underperforms or hates going to school because he doesn’t want to be smacked in the head or “labeled” time and time again? I would really hate for that to happen. I cringe at the thought of it! Harsh realities are looming, and they are out there waiting to bite when our unsuspecting children are left unguarded. You can’t be there wherever your kids are, can you?

The tip then is NOT to keep your eyes on your child and extend your protection all of the time (sure you could but that’s still not quite enough), but also to let your child learn to protect himself. Strengthen your child’s inner core: educate him, talk to him about his heritage, encourage him to be aware of the many cultures he has, allow him to accept himself as you have, let him embrace his mixed-ness and carry it as a badge of honor. That way, it (being multiracial) can never hurt him. Instead, it becomes a source of pride. This may seem easy but it isn’t always implemented. Some parents carry within themselves a colonial mentality or an inferiority complex and more often than not their children do “inherit” it. But that’s a separate issue entirely.

Going back, Tip # 2 then leads us to tip # 3 which is of a similar theme:

Weinstinct Tip # 3   Expose your children to the world: Travel!

  It has been said that travel is the greatest form of education. The best way for your HAPA children to get to know their heritage is to experience it. Traveling is a wonderful opportunity for them to explore these other aspects of their identities, and at the same time it provides a venue for them to cultivate appreciation for it. I certainly dream of one day taking my children to visit exotic locations, cultural heritage centers, historical places, etc. both in Asia where I came from, and in North America and Europe where Ian’s family is from. I would have them wander the cobbled streets of European countries with me, run-hop along metropolitan boulevards, explore the thoroughfares of third-world countries and bathe under the tropical sun.

  Sure, you can also take your children to places that are not in the long list of their genetic origins. It’s also healthy to know more about other cultures. I actually feel like taking my mixed family on an adventure, trekking on roads less traveled, and marveling at the sights and being amazed by the varied but equally splendid sceneries that the world has to offer. I would have my children become acquainted with different modes of transportation: the Japanese bullet train, the Thai tuktuk, the Philippine jeepney, the small Parisian cars—hell, even the not-so-reputable New York City subway. If this world is a big, big university and the streets are classrooms, then that is where my children should be.

Weinstinct Tip #4 Teach your kids to care.

 Where I don’t want my children to be is on the couch sitting all day playing video games and watching dumb TV. We can all agree that the last thing a parent would want would be for his or her children to be spoiled, stuck-up, obese reality-TV-show-watching spawns. Children need to be aware that the world doesn’t revolve around them, that there are issues we have to care about, and that amidst the wonders of the Earth there’s also so much injustice and suffering going on. If my children are going to be students of life, they have to study the most important subject in the world: The Plight of Humanity. Now this doesn’t only apply to HAPA kids, it’s for everyone else too. I think that a big chunk of what being a parent is about is teaching your children to be productive and contributing citizens of the world we all live in, reinforced by an understanding of justice and a sense of empathy.  Ultimately, I think those values are what brought Ian and I together. Values that we would surely want to inculcate in our future children and hopefully they would pass on to their children as well. Such values are not only about interaction with people from within or outside of your own culture, race, etc.,  but also about just generally being a person who exercises fairness, equality and respect to his fellow men,  because at the end of the day, whatever color or race we may be, we are all from the same Earth mother.

 Okay, perhaps I have been sounding a bit too preachy (or hippie \m/). And so this concludes “How to Handle your HAPA kids 101” in four (4) easy Weinstinct steps:

A-ccept

E-mbrace

E-xpose

C-are

But the most important one of them is Care. Ciao!

Pink tutus and metal shirts: Daydreams of Our Life Ahead!

Waiting for the next steps of our K1 visa application does require a lot of patience. Receiving our first Notice of Action (NOA1) meant for me and Ian that we have done our best and that our fate is in the hands of the government. It’s nerve-racking, as the rest of the Fiance and Spouse visa applicants would know. It involves a lot of hoping, praying, but also a lot of forward-looking, dreaming, imagining…

I won’t spare you any details: When I think of my future life with Ian, I imagine two cute, bubbly, healthy and sometimes naughty little HAPA children-a girl and a boy.

Hapa

ha•pa (hä’pä) adj.

1 Of mixed racial heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. 2; If an individual has one parent whom is Asian/Pacific Islander, and one parent whom is of an ethnicity outside of Asian/Pacific Islander, they would generally be considered Hapa. 3; Damn good looking people

2 a Hawaiian word that was originally part of the full phrase: hapa haole, which was a derogatory term for someone half Hawaiian and half “white foreigner.” Today, the phrase has been shortened to simply “hapa” and generally refers to anyone part Asian or Pacific Islander and, generally, part Caucasian. However, the definition of “hapa” has come more and more to mean “half” or “of mixed blood” in which case many different racial combinations are beginning to fall under the umbrella of “hapa”.

white + asian = hapa

http://www.urbandictionary.com

 

I would imagine Ian and little Adam (Yeah, guilty! We’ve already named our future babies. Ian would try to deny it but don’t believe him ;-P) coming home from basketball practice. They would be sticky with sweat, even stink a bit; I imagine my thick brown-haired kiddo rushing to me, excitedly blabbing about his and his father’s latest conquests. “Mama, Mama, you should’ve seen me!” Fully supportive of my child’s bragging, I would say, “I’m sure you did well. I wonder who taught you to shoot like that”, secretly eying my exhausted husband who is beaming proudly from the corner.

Other times, I see myself picking up our little girl from a Saturday bonding spree with the folks in Katonah. My girl throws open the door as she hears me parking, her curly hair flying with the wind as she runs towards me while greeting me with a torrent of her freshly learned French phrases from her session with Nena Weinstein. She’s eager to show off. I wouldn’t understand what she was saying but I would be very proud nonetheless-my little French-speaking Princess.

Speaking of Princesses, my mind turns into a flurry of pink. I imagine walking hand in hand with this future darling daughter in the aisles of what would be our favorite mall looking for her pink Princess Ballerina costume. I picture her sticking out her round tummy as she tries an item on, scratching and complaining that the glittery tutu is making her itchy, her tiny tiara falling off her head. The saleslady gives me that mean “Watch out” look and I pray to the heavens we get to be out of that place as quick as lightning.

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I smile to myself in reverie. Ian tells me that he likes my musings so much because they are so vivid that when I describe these images, the richness of detail sometimes makes him feel like he is actually experiencing them. Of course, I usually customize my imaginings to something that would fit both me and Ian’s personality. Including his influence into my daydreaming leads to other interesting fashion options for our future daughter!

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“That sure is Ian’s daughter!”
 

Some would say too much imagining can’t be good. It sets you up for expectations and possible frustrations—

Such as, what if my daughter wouldn’t want to learn ballet? Or what if my little boy wouldn’t actually be good at sports? What if I get two girls instead of a boy and girl?   (This would be the realization of my worst nightmare – A girl alone is hard work; two would be the death of me!) Would I be devastated? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

I only know that the waiting part of it and not knowing what lies ahead can send one’s brain to overdrive, and can drive you crazy if you don’t know how to deal with it effectively.  For now, this is how I handle it. These imaginings of a future ahead makes me yearn for it more, makes me want to start this life right now…but it also aids greatly with the waiting.

And so, the waiting becomes bearable. It encourages me to be patient. It tells me that life isn’t going to be perfect, but I have a good feeling that it will be beautiful and worth the wait after all.

Open Your Eyes – No More Mona Lisa Smiles!

Have you seen the movie Mona Lisa Smile?

Starring Julia Roberts, this movie was about Katherine Watson, a free-thinking art teacher who moved from California to Massachusetts to teach in the very prestigious Wellesley College for women. Set in the early 1950s, the movie showcased the beginning of a decade where women were privileged enough to avail of a college education. The girls were portrayed as being smart, prepared for class, diligent and disciplined in their studies. In fact, when Katherine first started at the school, she considered it an honor to be teaching the country’s leaders of tomorrow. Boy, was she in for a big surprise…

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The title of the film refers to the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), a Renaissance artist and inventor. One of the reasons the painting is so famous is because of Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile: is she really smiling? The technical term for this painting technique is sfumato, which means soft and blurry. If you look directly at her smile it seems to disappear, when you look away it reappears. The poster for the film is of the four main female characters gazing at a painting: they have similarly indefinable expressions.

http://www.filmeducation.org/pdf/film/MonaLisaSmile.pdf

The war had just ended and the face of America was changing.  Marriages and birthrates were booming. And the women of the 1950s weren’t just majoring in history, economics and/or pre-law but also in the art of husband-hunting as if back in the time of Jane Bennett and Mr. Bingley. Cookery, housekeeping, interior design, poise and social graces were equally as important subjects as chemistry, mathematics and language. Of course! A woman must be prepared to cater to her husband and home’s every need! It seemed that college was merely a holding area for women until an eligible bachelor propositions her for marriage. Then she leaves school and, how did they say it in the movie? Ah, “set up house”, that’s it.

           The film shows the 1950s ‘ideal’ woman as one that is pretty and house-proud, and emphasizing her husband’s career over her own. Women have historically been portrayed as ‘trophies’, as an appendage to a man; their own existence is only qualified by the presence of a husband.
 
http://www.filmeducation.org/pdf/film/MonaLisaSmile.pdf

It makes me glad that I get to marry in 2013 and not in 1954. It wouldn’t have worked out for me. I’d be out the door the minute my smart-ass 50s husband starts yelling for me to get dinner out of the oven because he can’t, he’s busy reading the paper.

Ha! On second thought, just a few years back, I was actually mere inches away from being another Stepford Wife. I barely escaped without a scratch.

You see, I am an ambitious woman. I knew from the second I started walking that I wasn’t going to be a Plain Jane. I would go to graduate school, pick a career path, excel at it and climb my way to the top. It’s good for a woman to be independent: to pursue her interests, set up her own priorities and even have her personal finances in order.  I honestly believed it to be the right thing. But a few years back, I was in a situation where I thought I wanted to be a full-time housewife and spend every waking day devoting my life to managing a home: cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, making sure my husband is well and happy, etc.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with being a full-time housewife especially if one is really passionate about it. After all, it isn’t easy work. In fact it’s a very challenging job. Being a housewife is both an art and a noble sacrifice, but I don’t like the stigma that’s attached to it.

I was born and raised in the Philippines, a country with very patriarchal views. Working women are generally accepted and encouraged. Yet women having jobs or not isn’t the issue here:  It’s the double standard. Men are expected to be breadwinners: work hard and provide for the family. For women, working is optional. And yes, you may pursue a career, but if something happens to the kids, your in-laws would tell you it’s your fault. It happened because you were away working when you were supposed to be at home. You have to do this, you have to do that, because you’re a woman.

Somebody used to say this to me all the time and I got sick of it. I bailed. I never really found out if he meant it or not. Maybe he was kidding. Nonetheless, I believe that no one should think this way anymore, even jokingly. This is the 21st century and women have come a long way from being portrayed as pin-up bimbos. As a person who has a great degree of understanding and respect for what women are capable of doing and achieving, I WILL NOT HAVE IT.

50s-ads-1 Sexist-Vintage-Ads-e1319678862361 221008052015_sexism_ad_455x290 sexist-ads-from-the-1950-s-feminism-23226983-468-312

There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife or at being good at housework. I am very good at housekeeping and child care, as I was the oldest among a brood of four. But I also think that the decision to stay at home and watch the babies is as much the free-willing decision of the wife and not just of her husband. These days, no husband or mother-in-law can tell you that you cannot pursue Medicine because you are getting married. These days, a woman SHOULD be able to be what she can be and pursue her dreams.

So, to the ladies out there: Choose only a partner who will allow you to maximize your true potential, who will not limit you just because he’s too insecure and afraid that you will outshine him. Ack! The thought of those bastards just made me vomit in my mouth. Do NOT choose a partner who will refuse to let you spread your wings; choose one who will willingly be the wind beneath them instead.

I was prepared to settle. I never thought I would ever find my wind.  But I did, and so now I have soared higher and discovered greater horizons.

I understand it must NOT be easy to challenge conventions. In the Allegory of the Cave by Plato, the prisoners, after years of being in the dark, were reluctant to come out into the light because it hurt their eyes. They feared the light was blinding. Even people who undergo eye surgery experience trauma from the recovery of their eyesight. Sometimes too much information (as in the eye processing what it can see and sending brain signals) can be traumatic, the sensory overload causing headaches and vertigo so that the now seeing person may even wish he were blind again. Similarly, new knowledge and new perceptions are overwhelming, especially when we are so accustomed to what was there before.

allegory_of_the_cave

Katherine Watson hoped for her students to be the CEOs, Presidents, statesmen, trailblazers of the future but she was disappointed to find out that they actually felt they were destined to be the housewives of the former- and that they believed and accepted that the housewife role is the one they were born to fill. They could have been so much more, and Katherine was frustrated to see so much potential go to waste.  I really hope you don’t make your teachers feel the same.

It is time for a change. It is time to open our eyes and settle in to the new vision that we have.

We are NOT in the 1950s anymore. These days, a woman must be able to express when she is unhappy and/or dissatisfied, say so when she feels disrespected or belittled, protest when she is undermined or discriminated against. No more Mona Lisa smiles.