Culturally Special Families
By Alpha M. Sanford and Charm Damon
In honor of Multicultural Day, typically celebrated in October or early November, we collaborated on sharing with you a few glimpses of what happens in our own culturally rich and biracial families. Below, we describe the beauty of having two backgrounds, and how different cultures blend together in our respective families.
Alpha M. Sanford
I love my family! I think it is a wonderful combination of two worlds with different culture, languages, and beliefs but with the same values. You see, I am Filipino by birth and I am married to a great American guy, whom I adore! Everyday is never dull for us, as we do everything with two sets of eyes. If I say, I want to eat rice, he says he would like to have some baked potatoes. If I say, 10:30 – what I truly mean is 11:00 whereas, he says 10:30 on the dot. If I say, I feel cold he says the opposite.
Well, this is the grandeur of life! And what greater it is than to have two different yet not conflicting views on some things to form a family. I know mine is not that uncommon, but I know deep inside me, it is special. Truly special, as our daughter would show it through her eyes, nose, her complexion, the color of her hair and the way she talks. She does not have my accent, nor does she have my husband’s ability to drop the letter ‘r’ out of his daily discourse. She is not afraid to ask for rice and hotdog for breakfast at times or bread and butter, the next. She knows how to scream when Manny Pacquiao wins the belt and cheers when Tom Brady has a touchdown.
But, one thing that keeps us together is the set of values that we have.
We value life, peace, respect, love, nature and happiness.
We value differences and the uniqueness of everyone.
We know who we are as a family and what makes us happy – and that is the most important thing to have.
Charm M. Damon
In our biracial Asian-American family, we could say that we are quite blessed with a rather harmonious blending of day-to-day cultural practices from both worlds. Having said this, I believe that our non-traditional “culturally” rich family seems to be an exception to many stereotypical biracial families in which cultural differences are obvious, equally representing two solid cultures, but at times also creating conflicts among its members. Fortunately, our four-member family, especially my husband and I, have not had any major cultural conflicts because I met my husband after living in the States for about five years, so I was more accustomed to the American culture and practices. Additionally, I lived, studied, and worked with individuals from around the world, so I’ve learned bits and pieces of “world culture” enough to understand and celebrate differences and similarities, respectively (although the learning never stops there). And my husband reminds me every now and then that Filipinos such as myself are really a multicultural group of people with Spanish and American influences, to name a few.
In our household, I am guilty of not being the most explicit ambassador for learning about cultural richness, especially with my little ones at home. I wish I had more time and opportunity to expose them to the Asian culture more, especially the Filipino and Thai cultures that I hold dear to my heart. On the other hand, the implicit approach I use to expose them to these cultures probably serve them best at their age, so as to avoid bombarding them with unfamiliar practices. For instance, I enjoy cooking international dishes, and I could say that my children have been to various places through food and the stories I tell them when we share them (or cook together). So, let me share with you our daily family story through the food we enjoy.
For breakfast, our whole family looks forward to my homemade liege waffles, which we first shared last year at a Belgian waffle stand during one of our local family outings. Through this experience, my husband and I are able to tell our son that these waffles are special because they were originally enjoyed in a place far, far away. Being able to taste them for the first time, and now having mommy make them for him and his sister at home to enjoy for breakfast many mornings makes them his own, and gives him a piece of a place we could someday visit and create more memories as a family.
For lunch, my children and I typically enjoy leftovers from dinner the night before. Some of the most popular lunch and dinner dishes in our family are beef bulgogi from Korea, caldereta, tocino and adobo from the Philippines/Spain, soft tacos and chili from Mexico that are also now common American favorites, massaman chicken from Thailand, teriyaki salmon from Japan, and Daddy’s New York strip steaks (yes, our three-year-old loves his steaks!) Through these dishes, we are not only able to taste the world, but also reminisce and celebrate my husband and my histories growing up in two different places, inevitably shaping our values in life. The beauty of such differences, however, is that we experience various cultures through food with our children, hence creating our own “history” and “culture” unique to the Damon family – the history and culture, not to mention experiences, that work wonderfully for us as a biracial family. And hopefully one day soon, when the kids are big enough, we are able to travel around the world together, so I can in turn introduce my children and husband to the same amazing individuals I once shared the same great food and memories with while living abroad. Until then, cooking sessions and stories serve our family just as great and ever so deliciously.
If you have a biracial, multiculturally rich family, what daily routines do you have that celebrate the beauty of your special family?