Meet Tracey Steer
Tracey, Martin, Oliver and Ava
I first learned of Tracey through her famed former blog, Grumble Girl. She is a writing goddess. Read on to learn her thoughts on raising good humans after the jump!
How do you identify yourself racially?
Where were you born and where have you lived?
I was born in Jamaica, but we left when I was a baby – I was seven months old when we moved to Toronto. I moved to Montreal in 1996 when I was 25, and I’ve been living here ever since.
Why do you live where you are currently? Did having a multiracial family factor into your location?
I moved to Montreal because my husband (then-boyfriend) was from there. Though he tried to relocate to Toronto a few times, the work was just better for him in Montreal, so I moved instead. He is caucasian and French-speaking. We’ve lived in the same house since 1997, and folded our two children into it. We’ve not considered living anywhere else – we’re happy here!
How did your families respond to you being in an interracial relationship?
My family had no issue whatsoever – many in my famlily tree are inter-married – all but one of my cousins are biracial. My mother-in-law was concerned at first, but with time, she seemed to worry less. She was thrilled to the bone by her two grandkids.
Do you know any other multiracial families? Is your community mixed?
We know a handful of multiracial families, but we’re not necessarily close. Most of our community is caucasian.
Do your children speak the family languages?
Our children both speak French now (they go to French school) though we primarily speak English at home – we always have. I don’t speak French very well at all.
Have you explained to your child what their racial makeup is?
I’m still talking about it with my youngest child – she has a fairer complexion than her brother does, so I still sense her confusion about being black, or being half-black. She seemed to count herself as being white, like her father is, but I think she has a better understanding of things now. She’s seven years old.
Was there any conflict from outsiders specifically because of race or the differences in complexion with your child?
Yes, that happened often enough when my first child was born, and I’d just tell people I was his mother, and the asker would quickly shut up. But, as we have remained in the same house and neighbourhood from the time I moved to Montreal, I know my neighbours quite well – people know who I am… who we are… people don’t ask questions or make comments anymore. Maybe it seems clear that the children are biologically mine. My son looks a lot like me. People say my daughter does too, though she really does look more like her father to me. When we go places together, we certainly look like family… down to the way we dress, maybe. We kinda look like a team, or something, when we roll.
How do you teach your child about their ethnicity through traditions or customs?
We don’t do any of that. Probably because I never did growing up, either. We’re just… living on the planet with other humans. That’s all.
Do you find you consciously lean to one side more than the other?
I don’t think I lean either way, really. I don’t want to make race much of an issue in our home (which isn’t difficult at this time) because I want to model equality and inclusiveness. That said, I’m not naive about how a lot of the world views young black males, and I have an eleven-year-old brown boy in my house… I’ve got new thoughts to consider that make me feel uncomfortable, but I’m trying to hash them out by talking with my friends and other people in my community. I reckon it’s a process.
Growing up, our family didn’t celebrate anything other than Christmas and Easter, and even then, we weren’t what you’d call ‘hardcore Christian’ about it. My husband’s family is Catholic, and they’d go to Mass at the holidays, but they weren’t part of a congregation, per se. We’re not actively Christian in our home together. We’re just trying to behave like good people should.
How do you celebrate your holidays?
I’ve become secular over the years, so the holidays are never religious – only family-centred – but we’re not a large family at all. (My kids are the only two grandkids on each side.) We usually stay in Quebec for the holidays, so we have dinner with my husband’s family on Christmas Day (as we do similarly at Easter,) but it’s really about getting together and having nice meals. I enjoy art-directing the hell out of Christmas by means of decor and foods, friends, parties, etc. I LOVE IT ALL.
How does your culture factor in to your parenting?
Well, given that my parents are Jamaican and they were fairly strict when my sister and I were growing up at home, I’d say I’m much more strict than a lot of other mothers I know. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose. But, I often question my methods and intentions, and issues around child-rearing come up in conversation with other mums often, so we compare notes… talk things out… it’s really great to have a community of other mothers around me to bounce ideas off of. Like dealing with bedtime, or what gets packed in school lunches, or guidelines around allowances, and items like that. My culture (now) is really shaped by where and how I live. And life is good!