This week I address a divorced mother’s worries about her daughter becoming the only brown member of a Multiracial blended family.
I am a divorced mother (White) of a fifteen-year-old, Biracial (Black/White) daughter. My ex (divorced 7 years ago) lives on another coast and sees our daughter summers and every other Christmas. My daughter and I have had a nice, calm life together, sharing an apartment in a diverse city.
Two years ago, I began dating a man (White), a widower who is raising his two young sons (both younger than my daughter). We fell in love and, in the last year, have become very serious, enough to consider merging our lives. He and his boys live in a suburb in a house big enough to accommodate us all. My boyfriend is pushing for us to get married, but I have serious reservations on account of my daughter.
I am not comfortable with the arrangement because 1) Their town is somewhat diverse, but has a very small Black population and hardly any multiracial people. 2) My daughter is settled in her high school and I don’t want to disrupt her. 3) If I marry my boyfriend while my daughter is still young enough to live with us, I am concerned about how she’ll feel being the only brown one in our blended family of five.
My boyfriend has been very good with my daughter, though understandably she is reserved around him. The children have not met yet and we have not told them that marriage is on the table, though my daughter suspects. My boyfriend says that I am worrying for no reason and that we’ll all be happy once we’re under one roof. He backs off when I say I’m not ready, but I can tell he is getting impatient.
Am I being silly and overprotective? Or are my instincts correct?
You are neither being silly nor overprotective in weighing the pros and cons of your would-be blended family. The reservations you’ve expressed are cause enough to put on the breaks.
Why would you move to a place where your daughter would be one of very few Black/White Biracial people, as well as the only brown person in the family? (See my column on Moving for Diversity’s sake.) And why would you disrupt her high school situation if it’s going well?
Trust those astute instincts of yours. If this relationship is truly solid, it will survive past your daughter’s high school graduation, at which point you may feel more comfortable taking steps to “merge.” She is your child and your first priority. Your boyfriend, who is a father himself, must respect that you are a parent first. At this point, he needs to come second.
It sounds as if your boyfriend is minimizing your worries about taking your daughter from her comfort zone: her own school and diverse city. Perhaps you need to be more assertive about advocating for your child, educating your boyfriend on the needs of teenage girls in general and biracial children in particular. He must learn that, when and if he marries you and becomes your daughter’s step-father, he and his sons will cease to be simply white. You will all be members of a Multiracial, blended family.
When You Marry, he will no longer be Simply White, he will be a Member of a Multiracial Blended Family
Of course, if your man is truly a keeper, and you decide to become a blended family after your daughter goes to college, there will still be matters to address. When she comes home for the holidays, when the five of you take vacations together, she will still have the experience of being the only brown one.
For example, when outsiders assume she is her step brothers’ au pair or nanny, it may seem laughable to the boys. But to her, the misunderstanding may be deeply hurtful. Again, when the question of racism comes up in any other context, will your boyfriend be dismissive? Or, will he take it seriously, knowing that it is relevant for a family member? Will he understand that you’re a Multiracial blended family, not a white family with one outlier Biracial child?
At every stage, even when she’s out of the house, be prepared to acknowledge your daughter’s feelings about your union with this man. Provide her with an ear whenever she needs it. A blended family can be a beautiful thing, but it is important to go in with wide open lines of communication.
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