Mixed Identity: Parenting Multiracial Teens

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It was so easy when they were little. Any staring was obviously because they were so darn cute, self-esteem was built or broken based on the order in which they were picked by the kickball team captains (and they were never picked last), childhood friendships were based on the love of either playing with dolls or playing in the mud, and “going with” a cute boy or girl was just about bragging rights – innocent and untainted by the boundaries of any society outside of recess.

Time passes, children grow, things change. Don’t get me wrong, not all growth comes with pain. As a matter of fact, with the exception of having to say goodbye to the smaller versions of my children, it has mostly been a blessing-filled journey. Every new stage of their lives excitedly filling the void left by the previous one. Every new year bringing new adventures…and insights that the brand-new mother of interracial children version of myself hadn’t even thought of.

My oldest is sixteen now, he is a junior in high school. I wish, for the life of me, that I could clearly recall that last time he crawled into our bed to cuddle with his mama and daddy. It was a nightly thing that became a weekly thing that eventually…just ended. Our second child, a daughter, is a freshman now. Somewhere in her fourteen years she put the baby dolls and Hooked on Phonics away, replacing them with make-up and fashion magazines. I’m not sure when that happened either…it just did.

Now I guide them over new bridges and as much as I try to act like I am leading them, sometimes I am really just an observer, learning with them as they grow. They are both active, both athletes, and both beautiful (they don’t even realize their true beauty yet, which only adds to their appeal).

Bear with me now, here’s the part where I just sit back and learn.

My son has chosen friends who look more like him. Although he has acquaintances that are white, every one of his close friends are black or biracial. Every kid that comes over to hang out or spend the night, every kid that he goes to the All-City Dance with, every kid that he goes off campus for lunch with, every one is black or biracial. Girls (and believe me, they are all starting to pay attention), the ones that he prefers are not white…but they are not black either. He likes the girls that are mixed, like him. He doesn’t differentiate between the particular mix – just mixed. His new girlfriend is Filipina, Indian, and white.

My daughter has chosen friends who look more like me. Although she also has acquaintances that are black and biracial, every one of her close friends are white. She had a few other brown or black girls hang out and spend the night when she was much younger but, currently, every girl that she is close to is white. The boys that pay attention to her are of every shade but, so far, the only ones she has also been interested in…are, or appear, white.

Of course, there’s the matter of the two years Tony has been on this earth longer than Dev…maybe those two extra years of development will bring with them more diverse choices for her, or maybe not. There’s also the matter of their sports of choice. Tony is a football player and, on that field, he is surrounded by a lot of other brothers…Devaney is a volleyball player and, at least where we live, there aren’t a lot of other sisters on the court.

Whatever the reason, whether internal or external, whether temporary or permanent, my children will always choose their own friends and partners. My children belong to and have connections with both worlds, and their life-decisions will be reflected in that. The best and most honest thing I can say about all that I’m witnessing is this:

The similarities or differences between my kids and the people they choose to surround themselves with matters to me none…as long as their hearts are a match.


Donna Sparrow

Donna Sparrow

Donna is a married and happy mother of five mixed-race children. She and her husband Antonio are college sweethearts who also raised his seven siblings, many with special needs, for nearly two decades. Along the way they have navigated the ups and downs of being a blended, black, white, and brown family. Donna celebrates each day of blessings and embraces her family’s “interraciality” through poetry, anecdotes, and glimpses into her beautifully chaotic life on her blog www.ThisNest.com. The Sparrows can also be found on twitter @ThisNest
Donna Sparrow
Multicultural Bloggers


  1. says

    Interesting. My daughter is turning 7 this Friday and most of the kids / parents / families that we're friends with and that will be attending her bday party are either mixed or in the mixed experience. I guess it's not surprising because she goes to a bilingual immersion school in California where most of the students are mixed – or at least in the mixed experience. Somehow our closest friends seem to be more on the mixed end of the spectrum then on the mono cultural / mono ethnic end of the spectrum. I guess mixed families and friends of a feather tend to flock together. 

  2. says

    Donna this is such an interesting post! My son is in 6th grade and he too mostly chooses friends who look like him. He really has only one close white friend and we joke that they are brothers because his parents were in lamaze class with us, so they knew each other before they were born. But really, that's it for white friends. My middle daughter is drawn to make friends with Asian girls or mixed girls. My youngest has three best friends–one is black, one is mixed black and white, and one is a mixed Muslim–Sudanese and white. I am with you–it doesn't matter who they choose to hang out with as long as their hearts are a match. It's just very interesting to me–not only to see who they choose to be friends with, but also to be the only white, European-American person in the house when they have friends over. It is such a gift, and such an eye-opening experience!


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