Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"So I'm A Melting Pot Mom"

Story submitted by reader and mommy blogger, Gina Chen

So I'm a melting pot mom. I never thought of myself that way or even heard that term until I read this blog. But it fits. My husband is Chinese, born in Taiwan. I'm a white American with a background that's Italian, Irish and English.

My children, Ian, 8, and Chloe, 5, are biracial. I felt thrilled when I got the long-form Census in 2000, soon after my son was born, and I could check "mixed race" for him. Why? I'm not sure. I guess I was just glad to celebrate that he's not one race or the other. He's just him. So is my daughter.

I don't really think of them as biracial. I think of them as themselves. I realize my husband stands out a bit in the Upstate New York city where we live that's very white and has few Asians. It's not something I think about. He has encountered incidences of racism - been called "a damn Jap"once. But for the most part, our melting nature isn't in the forefront of our lives. We just live.

That's why it surprised me when a little girl at my daughter's after-school program asked me if Chloe was adopted. I paused for a minute,wondering why she would ask that. Then I realized. Of course, Chloe must look Asian, and I'm white. The little girl who was asking is Chinese, and she's adopted. A reasonable question. I didn't mind her asking - it's just I don't really know if my kids look Asian or not. That seems dumb I realize, but it's true.

When I look at them, I see parts of both my husband and me. They are really a perfect mixture of the two of us. They both have straight black hair, but then again so does my sister. Their skin is olive, but so is mine. My daughter is a dead ringer for me when I was her age, before my hair turned curly. My son's eyes are big and brown just like mine, but his facial expressions remind me so much of my husband it's uncanny.

Until this little girl asked if Chloe is adopted, I wasn't really sure what the outside world thinks when they see Chloe. I guess I still don't know. But I do know what one little girl sees. I wonder what Chloe and Ian see when they look at themselves in the mirror.

They know their heritage. In fact, it was so important to me that they know they are Chinese, that in their early years I sort of forgot to tell them about my background. They know some basic Mandarin - how to count and say "Thank you" and "Hello." We celebrate Chinese New Year, and they each have a Chinese name. I also make sure they know where my family is from in Italy, and they can say a few words in Italian.

When they grow up, I don't know if they'll self-identify as white or Asian or biracial. I don't much care, as long as they believe in who they are.

Gina Chen, is a mom of two from Syracuse, NY. She blogs about being a mom at

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