When the "other culture" is an absent parent - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 04-05-2008, 07:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Cross-posted in Single Parenting

People have always asked, "What is she?" about my daughter's ethnicity(half Nicaraguan), and she's now 2.5 and nearing an age of being able to understand these types of questions. A couple weeks ago someone asked us if she spoke Spanish and I realized she has no involvement in her father's culture and will realize it in the near future.
For those of you who may have dealt with anything like this, how did you handle this? I don't want her to repress her ethnicity or feel awkward about it since her father is absent from her life, but I also don't even know enough about her culture to help her embrace it, and it would feel weird to teach her about it. I just feel like a huge chunk of her ancestry is being ignored, and I'm feeling confused about avoiding that.
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#2 of 8 Old 04-05-2008, 10:50 AM
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I have no ideas but I am in the same boat. I will try to explain it my daughter as she asks the question. Just in an easy no judgment way. He was not ready to be a father. He had his own demons. Mommy and him did not get along well...whatever just keyed down to her level.

I watched how MY Mom responded to my questions as a child. I was always afraid to broach the subject bc she got so upset and nothing really got talked about...She took everything he said or did very personal. As such I have no relationship with my Father. I believed her "truth" for years. Her truth was very clouded bc of her own hate. With my own I vow to be truthful even if the truth is not pretty but not to put my own point of view in, only truthful facts. ie He was addicted to drugs, he had a hard time maintaining a job. Not that he was a low life drug using bum. YKWIM

As for getting her involved in culture affairs, what about taking her to festivals or to Spanish speaking areas of town? Is his extended family worth having your daughter around? What about books in the library?
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#3 of 8 Old 04-05-2008, 11:51 AM
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I've been teaching ds some Janpanese, but I don't know much myself, so it's a little tough, especially since it's hard to find people around here who speak it. I feel very awkward about talking to him about his "father" in general, so I just introduce Japanese words and some foods as I would anything else, without telling him why. We have three "learn to speak Japanese" computer games that he like to play, and the book "My first 1000 words in Japanese" that he likes to browse the pictures in, but it's no substitute for actual cultural interaction, which I regret in some ways. Someday I'll take him to Japan, or send him there on his own when he's old enough. Maybe I'll encourage him to take a job at a Japanese restaurant when he's a teenager... I think it is important to maintain a connection to that part of his heritage that I don't share and yes, it is a challenge. His biodad is profoundly absent.

We don't get asked much about his appearance, so far he looks mostly like me. In fact, someone once said, "oh, he's your son, allright, look at those eyes," which I thought was hysterical since my eyes are blue and his are brown and almond shaped. : he has my cheeks, maybe that's what they meant.

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#4 of 8 Old 04-07-2008, 05:52 PM
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You might find some suggestions on the Adoption board - and as an adoptive mom to an AA son, I'm eager to hear your suggestions!
This is something that most trans-racially adoptive parents think about a lot.
What we are doing:
Try to find classes that are actually diverse - I'm happy when we have biracial kids in our classes because I think it shows DS that other families love across color lines.
Try to find areas of town where he's in the majority and I'm in the minority (turns out this is really tough for us to find.)
I read books and magazines that feature folks of his heritage, so that he grows up just seeing them around and seeing that I value people who look like him.

Best of luck!

PS What a supremely obnoxious question "What is she?"!!! "Well, I was hoping for a puppy, but it turns out she's a little girl!"
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#5 of 8 Old 04-17-2008, 03:30 PM
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Being in a fairly similar situation, I will say this. Educate yourself a bit so that when the time comes, you will have something to explain to your child. Take time to seek out festivals, books, encyclopedia entries and whatever else you can that gives you an better idea. Foreign language CDs or classes could also be helpful.

I plan on library books and talking about the other cultures that helped create my dd. That way, she isn't left wondering about why we look the way that we do and why some other kids may say she isn't Black enough and so forth.

I find that it is as much educating myself as it is her. Hope this helps!

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#6 of 8 Old 05-17-2008, 06:17 AM
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as a german,scottish (mom's side) AA (dad's side)...daughter, whose dad was absent until a couple years ago (i'm 26 now). i'm just going to say; be honest. if you don't know you don't know. you don't gotta fake the funk. we are all people. we are all figuring out how to live in this melting pot.

at this point in life, i have found that we are treading on new waters still. we are making our own way. as long as you don't deny that side, i can't see any wrong. just be real.

tradition is re-born here. it's a beautiful thing.

i am sure i may be in the minority here but if my german/scottish mother had tried to go out of her way to do special AA things with be it would have been odd. she answered any questions i had. left the door open constantly and was herself, and that's exactly what i needed from her.

anything i've needed outside of that i sought and found. she could not have done that with out it feeling contrived. your job is to love, there are some things you as a parent can't do.

: the sun is always shining here. loving life with DP and DS
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#7 of 8 Old 05-17-2008, 07:05 AM
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I get the same question from people all the time. I'm white and my son is half Zambian (southern Africa) so he's much darker than me. I worry about when he gets older and wants to know more about his African heritage and i don't know anything about it. Makes me sad
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#8 of 8 Old 05-17-2008, 02:25 PM
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My situation is not exactly the same as my girls' dad is here with us but he works very long hours during the week and I am constantly trying to integrate their Thai culture/heritage into life here. I am constantly on the hunt for anything Thai, I have found some good books from the library and do a lot if interlibrary loan for kids books of Thai folk stories or on Thai holidays. I agree about seeking out places for your kids that are culturally diverse so they are exposed to lots of different looks/ideas but, if you are not in a city, it is difficult. Not much advice to give I guess! I also try to read as much as I can about the culture and then just have that aspect of their background be a normal part of conversation with your kids. My older daugher is always pleased to pipe and tell anyone who will listen that she comes from Thailand!
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