A Czech and a Jamaican walk into a…. relationship. And BAM! There we have it — my reality in a nutshell. Building my relatively new multiracial, multicultural blended family has been quite the ride: challenging, but worth all the energy, inspiration and personal transformation that the experience has brought about.
The key to making things work has been clear, open and respectful communication and a willingness to self-examine and adjust, while staying authentic and standing one’s ground about the key values that must remain uncompromised. As my sweetie and I say, if he and I can’t work through our differences, how can we ever expect the rest of the world to do the same?
In our case, in addition to the divergent racial realities we experience in this society (he as a black male, and I as a white female), the contrast between our upbringings and home community cultural values is quite vast. Our parenting styles mirror those which guided each of us, and they are nearly polar opposite! The parenting of our children from previous relationships, in fact, has been the hottest point of contention.
My style veers towards the permissive side of the spectrum which gives the child the time and freedom to construct his own internal moral compass experientially through empathy (of course, not totally without guidance). This parenting tendency reflects how I was brought up and is, in a way, indicative of the degree of the privilege, which has applied to me since childhood, to be generally relatively safe, and sheltered from strife.
My partner’s parenting method is authoritarian, bent on instilling strong discipline and ethic as a means to survive and thrive in a sometimes harsh world. His is a form of tough, protective love, “a strict and clearly defined” style, as he calls it. You could see how these vastly different philosophies could drive us nuts, but we are on a journey together, determined to respect one another and find meeting places somewhere in the middle. In fact, an interesting pattern is developing where we, the parents, are adopting a little of each other’s tactics as we evaluate which are useful for our particular circumstances. In short, we are really mixing it up in the mixing bowl that our family is.
What I am most excited about is that we are learning from each other and drawing on not only the richness of what was passed down to each one of us, but also from each other’s worlds. My hope is that this, for our children, rather than confuse, will open new doors and encourage new ways of seeing the world and interacting with the people in it.