Fat Babe Talking: Why I Won't Let My Children Forget About Their Non-British Heritage
From time to time since my husband and I became engaged, I've thought about us having children. Not with any kind of urgency, mainly just the possibility that in the next five to ten years we could have one. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my own overthinking.
Will I be a decent mom? What am I going to do when they become angsty teenagers?
My kids are going to be British with little British accents calling me 'mummy'. No, I don't like that. I'll be 'mom'. Definitely 'mom'... Is it going to be weird for them that I'm American? I mean they'll be American as well technically. Will they realise that? Will they appreciate that they're Puerto Rican even though they'll probably be pale and afraid of the sun? Will they be proud of all the aspects of their heritage aside from the British and Irish ones?
My mind is a very complicated place...
But I stress about that last thought more frequently than anything else. And why is that, you might ask? Because I don't want my kids to experience the same struggle with their racial identity that I've dealt with my whole life. Only within the past couple of years have I been proud enough to boldly say I'm Latina. Before then I plainly identified as 'just white', because I got tired of people challenging and degrading me.
'I don't believe you! You're not Puerto Rican!' they would exclaim. On numerous occasions, I even produced a picture of my mother to confirm my claims. And this type of behaviour wasn't just reserved for strangers, even my own family gave me this treatment.
On numerous occasions my father would find me listening to Salsa music and ask me why. 'Because I like it?' I would respond confused. 'Christine,' he would always begin, 'Look at you. You're not really Puerto Rican.'
Because of his hatred for my mother, he tried to get me to reject that part of me; and for a while that worked. I kept flashing back to family gatherings with the Latin side of my family and recalling all the times they treated me as an outsider for being a different skin colour or 'acting white'. From then on, whenever I was amongst a group of other Latinos, I was always hyper aware of how I was acting and overthought how I was being perceived.
Quite frankly, it was a horrible way to live. I should never have been made to choose to be one or the other - I should have been encouraged to be proud of being both. And that's what I want to do for my children. I want them to grow up with Salsa and Reggaeton music. I want them to celebrate Thanksgiving. I want them to learn about the histories of those places and one day take them there. I want them to be proud of who they are. Maybe they won't be tanned and maybe they won't be amongst lots of other Latinos or Americans, but I want them to appreciate that that's part of what makes them them and that's part of what makes them beautiful.