You’re looking forward to your child coming home. She even says she’s bringing a friend. And something in her voice makes you believe this friend is someone special in her eyes.
You’re looking forward to seeing her again — and your dreams are full of grandbabies. You’ve spent all day straightening and cooking a welcome home meal.
You swing the front door open as soon as you hear her tires on your driveway. And then…
You stifle a gasp.
Your daughter’s friend does not look at all like her, or you, or anyone in your neighborhood. He’s black, or brown, or something in between. Your mind immediately throws visions of the grandbaby out the window with the bath water, and you smear a steely grin on your face to fake acceptance.
But, inside, you’re worried. You remember a time this interracial couple would have been ostracized, or worse. You only want happiness for your daughter.
When she asks you while you’re both loading the dishwasher what you think of him, you don’t know what to say. Her eyes fill with tears, and then yours do, too.
It’s not that you’re… racist. You’re just looking out for your daughter and her future.
What should you say? What should you do?
Here’s how to address this delicate situation:
1. First, realize you’re not alone in feeling this way.
A group of parents interviewed by CNN in 2012 had the same kind of reactions to interracial dating and marriages. Sometimes, knowing we’re not alone in feeling something can help us better come to terms with our emotions.
The world we live in is more accepting than the one you may remember as a 20-something. Intercultural relationships are on the rise.
In fact, an intermarried couple’s income is usually as high as a couple’s who married another person of their race. Plus, four in 10 Americans believe interracial relationships are good for society, and more than one-third say that one of their relatives is married to someone of another race.
3. Know that the number of biracial relationships is increasing.
You may believe that your daughter and her boyfriend will face prejudice as a couple, and they will. But most people are of more than one culture these days, and the number of interracial marriages with children are increasing.
Your daughter’s interracial children will not face the discrimination you might have, or even that your children may face today.
4. Realize your daughter is in a serious relationship.
She thought about this man long and hard before she brought him home to meet you. Your opinion will probably not sway her, so why not give them your blessing?
5. Get to know him.
You might actually like him! Judge him the way you would any other man your daughter was dating. You raised her to love qualities in a person, not just their skin, facial features or hair, right? So stop your assumptions before they start and get to know the guy inside.
6. Begin conversations.
Your silence will only cause your daughter and her boyfriend or partner to distance themselves. Holidays will become uncomfortable — if they continue to come over at all.
Ask the hard questions now in a respectful manner. Expect them to be hurt by them. Expect to be hurt yourself by their comments. You’re good at this; you’re a mom. Disregard any blaming and shaming they may send your way, avoid it yourself, and get to a place where you understand your daughter’s decision.
7. And continue the conversation, too.
As you get to know your daughter’s beau better, especially if they decide to make it a more permanent relationship, express your concerns as they arise, and then listen to them both when they respond.
Ask them to express their concerns — about your acceptance, about society. And listen. They’ve probably at least thought about any challenges they may have down the road, and unfortunately, they’ve probably experienced some of it already.
Stay calm and grounded; you don’t need to be confrontational. Enter the discussion like the neutral (unbigoted) observer you are. Get support if you need it from a mediator, counselor or coach.
8. If every conversation you begin ends in an argument, drop it. Period.
This is your daughter’s life. You’ve had your say; they’ve had theirs. Hug them both, and treat them like you would if your daughter’s friend had stepped out of her car clothed in white skin. It’s just skin after all.
You’ll have the usual relationship challenges that every family does, but when you sit down and think about it, are you blaming the fact that they’re messy on a skin color? Come on now. Wasn’t your daughter’s room messy before they met?
9. Make an effort to be authentically happy for them.
Tell them you’re happy for them. Include them. Celebrate his holidays, as well as your own. Visit them as often as they visit you.
Most people find being in a multicultural family actually adds to life, not subtracts. And when you’re ready, tell him how grateful you are your daughter found him. And that you love him, too.
And oh, from someone who’s been there, fearing parental expectation and disapproval, wait awhile before you start asking about those grandbabies you keep dreaming of.
Kathryn Ramsperger, MA is an intuitive life coach and award-winning author. If your child’s interracial relationship is a constant source of conflict, please email [email protected] for a free consultation to explore her communication methods that get the conversation unstuck so that relationships can begin to be built.