By: Mary Margaret Reagan-Montiel, Guest Blogger
What ARE you? I get this question A LOT. Some people come straight out and ask, while others ask subtle questions like “What do your parents do?” or “Where were you born?” Over the years, I often opted to explain myself even before anyone started to ask questions. I would usually say something like, “I bet you’ve never met a Korean Mary Margaret before, have you?” Usually the answer would be “No.” I'd then go on to say that I was adopted by an Irish/German family and raised in Minnesota. My family consists of 10 adopted kids. Usually the next response would be, “WOW.” Once the person I'd been talking to caught his or her breath, the next question was always, “What was it like?” My fine-tuned response: “It was a zoo, circus, and a mad-house rolled into one.”
Growing up in a multicultural family gave me the opportunity to live knowing that we share more commonalities than differences. Self-identity is, in part, passed down from the previous generation, but it's also something you get to choose for yourself as an adult.
Growing up, I always knew that I would gravitate toward communities where a sense of family is strong. I needed to feel like I was part of a culture, a community. So, when I met my husband, a Mexican, I felt like I was "home" again--at home as an Irish/German/Korean adult adoptee wife to a Mexican.
Now that I have kids, they get the same question What are you? My thirteen-year-old looks Hispanic and has a Spanish name. So, when I show up at school for parent-teacher conferences or to cheer her on at tennis, people always wonder. If you asked her directly she would say something like, “I’m Korean with many of my Dad’s Mexican features, but I am American.” She is proud to be different. She knows that she belongs to a very unusual family but flourishes in it. I am a proud mom! I'm so proud that my kids are proud of their heritage. I'm so glad that they are able to flourish as well-adjusted beings in an ever-changing world.
I believe that the way in which we've made our "differences" a part of everyday life has something to do with that. We watch Spanish TV, eat Korean Food, read English books, play all types of games, and have many friends from all over the world. Being intentional about including all types of diversity is key to normalcy.
We talk frequently about our family values around money, education, friendship, respect, honesty, trust, acceptance, gratitude, optimism, and self-control.
One of my favorite resources to visit for family conversation topics is the BankIt.com website. I especially enjoy their "Start the Conversation" tool because it gives you great conversation starters about living, money management, and so much more. Check it out below.
My husband and I strive to model self- love and teach our kids to love themselves. We also try to see our experiences as learning moments. As we continue evolving and opening up even more to new people and new ideas, we will continue to have more experiences to draw upon in times of sunshine and even in the times of storms.
So now when I answer the question “What are you?” I know that there is no ONE answer to this question. Its definition is continuously changing, just like me. My new, fine-tuned response: “WE are a FAMILY who values questions like this one!”