Every night, as she holds her brother's tiny hand to begin a prayer, my 4 year old daughter reminds me of the importance of our dinner table to her biracial identity. As a place to commune, where my soul is lovingly marinated, sautéed, then presented as a meal, where my husband gets briefed on the details of our day despite his work day stress, the dinner table is a place my children see their parents together - focused, united and holding hands in prayer...
"Dear God, thank you for my mom, my dad and baby brother. I love you so much, God. Oh, and I forgive Bobby for making fun of my hair today. He made me sad, but he's still a good boy. In Jesus name we pray. Amen."
Turns out, a little boy in her preschool class made fun of her thick, curly hair. He said it looked funny. A few months later, she came home asking why her parents "don't match."
I consulted with her teacher, who lovingly asserted that kids this age are color blind and don't associate race with racism, to which I disagree to an extent. If there is a difference, kids will find it, and my little girl's request to "not be different anymore" is a constant reminder that her biracial identity is developing and I wonder if the world we're offering her - one lacking substantially in diversity - is the right environment. I'm probably doing a million things wrong in raising my biracial kids, but there is one place I know that we're getting it right.
At our dinner table, I'm serving up so much more than a home cooked meal. It's a place where we connect with food cultures; where my kids inhale Cuban Arroz con Pollo, dim sum or all variations of pasta. Every Saturday morning, from high above, a skyscraper of blueberry pancakes, made dutifully by her dad, just like his dad used to, lands in front of my daughter's face, teaching her that good men carry traditions, too.
At our dinner table, a haphazard remark on the beauty of black skin made surely to test my resolve, prompted me to change my vernacular on raising mixed kids. It was as if she didn't know - that I had never told her - so when the words "that black girl is bad" for no good reason, all I heard was self hate. Because our society doesn't always tell them, I sat my 4 year old down at our table with the glossy pages of ESSENCE magazine and showed her all the (overtly commercialized) beauty that lives in dark skin. I walked her to a bookcase, listing the various black authors that have penned literary works of arts that changed my life, my identity. And when I asked her to think of her Aunties, wondering aloud if she thought they were beautiful, her eyes lit up. Because surely, these women who show insurmountable amounts of adoration and kindness to my children have to be at the core of what's beautiful in this world.
Yes, I'm proud of my heritage and work diligently to pass on my Latino culture, but my daughter is also African American - and so incredibly beautiful. That day, and many thereafter, in a space held stable by the thick spindles of our wooden table, my daughter hears the words that her biracial identity craves. "Black is beautiful and you are black."
At the very least, however, what we do at our dinner table is what so many families do at theirs': connect. In a society where mealtime is more disjointed than ever, being visible and accessible for our children creates a myriad of benefits for their identities. And for the biracial experience of my children, specifically, it's the place where they consistently find the summation of their two very different parts gathered to share a table of food, love and wholeness.
Dinnertime is about the universal human desire to experience and connect, which is why I am honored to partner with Barilla, a family company for more than 135 years, and their Share The Table initiative. Sharing the table together is an important part of fostering meaningful relationships and building healthy, strong families - families of all kinds. Families like mine. Barilla wants to inspire and support all families to share more meaningful meals together.
Share what happens when you connect with your family over a meaningful meal at #ShareTheTable. For every #ShareTheTable post, Barilla will provide ten meals to Feeding America, on behalf of local member food banks, up to one million meals. Visit ShareTheTable.com for more information and to be inspired on what we know is true: as parents, we're serving up so much more than just meaningful meals when we share the table together.