How to Overcome Competing Family Structures In An Interracial Marriage
I think we can all agree that family dynamics are often challenging if not downright insane. But when you add the interracial component to them a whole new breed of dysfunction is born. Yes, there’s the whole, food thing we talked about last time but if you thought eating strange food was the only challenge in a mixed marriage, well…. Um, I don’t know what to tell you.
I remember when my oldest daughter was just a baby. We lived in Guam with Marianne’s parents. Me, being the husband, tried to take control and implement my family traditions early on; instituting what I believed were the proper standards. However, my wife and her parents had a very different view of what a family was and how a family should be structured. And thus the conflict was born.
I believed that a baby should sleep in a crib, alone and mommy and daddy sleep in bed together. BUT, that’s not how they do things in the Asian culture! There, they all sleep together like a liter of cats, sprawled out on top of each other. They don’t get that there must be boundaries, and they don’t believe in privacy. Oh no, they all get involved.
I fought them on this “issue” for a while, but every time Stephanie would cry one of the three of them would find a way to pick her up and hold her! Completely undermining my desire for raise “independent” children. Needless to say after a while I just threw up the white flag and let Marianne and her parents keep their family structure over mine. I have to tell you that I don’t regret it either.
Stephanie and later my son Branden slept in our bed in between me and my wife for their first five years. Now, I have three small children that sleep either in my bed or in my bedroom. Now before you get all judgmental and start sending me emails about how I’m going to make my children to dependent on me allow me to point out a couple of facts.
My daughter Stephanie is now 21 years old and although she lives at home with us, she works with kids with Down syndrome at a school here in Houston Texas and she’s heavily involved in ministry. Playing guitar and singing for the youth ministries at Lakewood Church. She writes amazing articles and writes music too! She is a driven woman, well rounded and adored by her peers. And she’s on a mission to succeed!
My son Branden is almost 16 years old and he is also heavily involved in the church working with the lighting crews and he runs the camera at Lakewood church. He’s already lined up to get a job and is very independent.
So, I learned the hard way that developing a strong family connection early in life isn’t a disadvantage in any way; but in fact an advantage. In our house even when we fight and I’ll admit that some of our fights are knock down drag outs in the end we’re a family and that’s what matters. You see, on a foundation of love those fights never develop into anything more than passionate (sometimes diving into dysfuntional insanity) disagreements. We know we love each other, even when we can’t stand each other (I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about!). We know it’ll never devolve into hatred or bitterness because of our strong foundation. In this case I’m thankful that my wife and her parents never gave up on their way to structure our family. I can honestly say that I am very thankful.
The fact is that my family as well as many American families are driven by independence which often leads to very little family connection. While most of the Asian and Hispanic and I would say even some of the European cultures are driven by a close family connection, first. By melting these two cultural differences together you get what I believe to be the perfect combination. You get close family ties and individual members who are driven to achieve more for their lives. It’s a win-win!
As more and more racial barriers fall to a shrinking world, new challenges are emerging but new benefits are too. If we take time to allow for some changes in our lives (like giving up all my bed space), we may find that what we thought was best, wasn’t. So the next time you want to take a stand for what you believe is the right way to do things, why not try out multiple ideas and see which works best for everyone and trust that God will guide you along the way?