MUM SAYS What I’ve learnt from raising a biracial child

Raising a child with two identities can come with some unique challenges, so it’s all about keeping an open mind!

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“One of the things I love most about living in Singapore is growing up in a melting pot of cultures. We are introduced to people of different races, religion and cultures from the get-go. To many of us, it’s more the norm rather than an exception to have friends and extended family members who are of a different ethnicity.

Mixed marriages in Singapore are at an all-time high these days as one out of five unions is an inter-racial one. Naturally, this has given rise to a slew of interracial children. So many in fact that in 2011 double-barrelled race options were introduced in birth certificates to correctly reflect a child’s mixed parentage.

I am married to man of a different race ― well, a different continent altogether! Together with my Norwegian Caucasian husband, we have a 3-year-old biracial child together. Unlike in some other countries where people do a double take when they see the three of us together, in Singapore, nobody so much as blinks an eye.

It’s great that the Lion City is so accepting and encouraging of mixed families, but parents still have a strong role to play in ensuring that their children are able to identify with their mixed parentage when they grow up. I think it’s especially important when a part of your child’s heritage doesn’t belong to any of Singapore’s four main races.

When our son was born, my husband I both decided we would incorporate the practices and traditions from both sides of our family in raising him. It was important to us that our child be aware of his biracial roots.

Little did we know that we were in for some lessons of our own! Here are a few things I’ve learnt so far from being a mum to a mixed-race child…

"I never knew how envious I could be of parents whose children are a carbon copy of them – until I had a mixed-race child who looks nothing like me."

YOUR CHILD WILL MOST PROBABLY NOT LOOK LIKE YOU 
I never knew how envious I could be of parents who have children that are a carbon copy of them ― until I realised that my mixed-race child looks nothing like me. I would never change anything about my exotic half Norwegian, half south Indian kid. I am in constant awe of his olive skin and chocolate brown hair. That said, sometimes I do wish he looks more like me, so I wouldn’t have to correct strangers when they think I’m his nanny. Or try not to feel offended when family friends and relatives mention in passing that my son looks nothing like me. 

MULTI-ETHNIC NAMES CAN GET CONFUSING
In a bid to truly reflect our child’s ‘NorIndian’ (Norwegian-Indian) heritage, my husband and I named him Andreas (Norwegian) Dhiraj (Indian). We use it interchangeably and thought it was going well so far until a few weeks back when my son blindsided me with this question. ‘Who is Dhiraj, mummy?’ he asked. ‘Errr…that’s you, darling. It’s your name,’ I answered puzzled. ‘No! My name is Andreas!’ my munchkin replied, getting all defensive. ‘Yes, your name is Andreas Dhiraj. You have a Norwegian name and an Indian name.’ I replied. He didn’t look convinced, although he didn’t probe any further. At that point, it dawned on me that my child was only identifying with one ethnic name. I certainly never saw that coming, which brings me to my third lesson…