May 21, 2007 by multiracialsky
A couple years ago we began choosing themes for the kids’ birthday parties and asked our friends to bring a photo or drawing related to the party theme instead of a present. Dog, pig, and duck themes were easy. Skateboarders were a little harder (these stickers saved us).
This winter my oldest daughter turned five, and she wanted a fairy party. I began to casually look at fairy paraphernalia in the fall, and suddenly realized it was going to be harder than the animal themes–because all the fairies I found were White. I looked harder. I looked online. I called family members in big cities and asked them to look for me. Tucked away in a drawer I found four Folkmanis fairies I had purchased back when our almost five-year-old was still a baby; hanging in the hall, they became our decorations.
Invitations and stickers with fairies of African descent were impossible to find. Jaja drew a picture of a fairy and we scanned it into the computer where she chose colors to fill in her drawing. We made our own invitations and printed out Jaja’s fairy stickers on adhesive labels.
From Boston came this multiracial (and multi-gender) set of magnetic fairies.
I bought a doll online, and in the midwest my mom found the fairy costume to go with it. I then wrote a letter to the company that makes Only Hearts Club dolls, asking them to please add a darker-skinned African American doll and an Asian doll to their collection (in addition to their five straight-haired, fair-skinned dolls).
All of these party preparations did not cost much money, they just took a lot of time.
Anything pre-printed (birth announcements, birthday party invitations, books to track baby’s first year) is complicated for multiracial families. Often you must choose one race or skin-color, or skip anything with people all together. Rarely can I find a pre-printed multiracial family or group of people, and often the ‘multiracial’ groups are (for example) eight White children, one Asian child, and one all-encompassing brown-skinned child. I have been told I go overboard in trying to present our children with images that reflect our family’s full heritage–but I believe it is essential for my multiracial children (in a multiracial family) to see families like theirs and people who look like them.
It is a constant balancing act between honoring our family’s diverse heritage and just letting my kids be kids. For this party, I caved on the balloons–the only balloon with a fairy was blonde: scantily-dressed Tinkerbell.
I work hard to ensure my children’s home environment represents our family’s full heritage: contemporary and historical Native American images, photos of African American and African peoples, White American and European peoples, and Asian and Latino peoples as well (some of whom are included in our extended family).
I scrutinize picture puzzles, lacing cards, and matching games to be sure they represent a range of skin-tones and do not include stereotyped images of people of color. In our family of three girls and one boy, my filter includes gender as well. I actively seek out photos of boys with long hair and wearing non-traditional clothing.
I don’t have a picture in my head of who my children are going to become, who they may partner with or marry, what their children may look like, or what fashion trends they eventually will follow. I only hope they grow up to be confident in who they are, know their family and ancestral history, and believe the world is open to them–so they can become who and whatever they wish to be.