Exploring Similarities & Celebrating Differences in Multi-racial Siblings
Today's blog is written by author of Annie and Khalil, Jeanette Opheim.
If you are a parent, you can appreciate the pleasant surprise of your child(ren) randomly sleeping in one morning. You’re suddenly met with an unprecedented amount of time to either enjoy a quiet morning, or you are scrambling to finish as many tasks as possible before the little pitter-patter of their feet can be heard from down the hall.
I myself am normally an “enjoy the quiet morning” type of parent, but one morning when my children slept three hours past their normal wake-up time I found myself eager to do something productive. After completing all of my normal household tasks I realized that I still had a quiet house all to myself. I had been toying with the idea of writing a children’s book for some time, and had dozens of drafts sitting in my Google Drive that I felt just weren’t good enough to take to an illustrator. So, using the deep slumber of my children to my advantage, I sat down and tapped out a first draft into the Notes app on my phone in a matter of minutes. This was how Annie and Khalil came to be.
My family is uniquely composed. My son came into our life through adoption, and our daughter followed his arrival only five months later via the biological route. We went from a hopeful couple to a family of four in only a matter of months, and life has never been the same since—in the very best way. Our son is a different race than our daughter, and very quickly we started noticing people doing double-takes and shooting us curious stares whenever we were out and about. Curious stares turned into imposing and sometimes rude and invasive questions, and it did not take me long to realize that these questions would soon be directed toward my children by peers and adults when my kids became old enough to speak. I wanted to provide them with a tool to respond to these types of questions in a way that would give the curious strangers enough context without feeling like they had to share parts of their story they were not comfortable with.
I understand that our family’s visual differences naturally generate curiosity, and I am happy to discuss when they come up in conversation and enlighten people. However, when the questions turn imposing (“Why did his birth mom give him up?”) or comments are rude (“He’s not your son because you’re white and he’s black.”), I find myself biting back plenty of choice words.
If you are a parent that finds yourself in a similar family composition as my own, then you may be familiar with the intrusive stares and questions that come your way when you’re out and about with your family. You may have some witty responses of your own, and if you do please reach out to me and share them! I am always looking for new ways to redirect the conversation.
If you’re looking for some ways to divert questions yourself, my best advice is to hit them with the firm-but-friendly approach. Shut down their prying, sprinkle a little bit of wit into your response, and hit them with a non-disclosing grin or wink at the end. And, if you’re someone that sees a family that just does not make sense to you, before you react or say something, stop and ask yourself how important is it to disrupt their day so that you may understand their composition? Will your question potentially resonate in a harmful way in either the parents and/or children? If you do not ask them that question that is simply gnawing at you, will you go on with your life and be all right? Truly contemplate the impact of your presence before approaching a family (or duo, or couple, friend group, etc.) and hitting them with your curiosity.
My children are siblings through adoption, brother and sister through love, and best friends by choice! It’s magical to experience the deepening of their bond as they grow up alongside one another. My book is specifically intended for children in similar multi-racial sibling dynamics, but Annie and Khalil is truly for everyone. It is a great way for families to learn about and grow empathetic toward unique family compositions that may not mirror their own. It is worth noting that this book is based on my own personal family dynamic and that my family's experience as a transracial family is not a representation of all transracial families.
I enjoy knowing that I created a book that provides children in multi-racial sibling dynamics representation within their own personal bookshelves, and I am humbled by and grateful for the positive feedback I have received since Annie and Khalil released in February 2021. If you have a similar family composition, or are close to a family that reflects my own, this book is the perfect addition to the bookshelf. It recognizes the characters’ similarities, explores their differences, and celebrates their unique and unconditional bond.
Becoming an author was a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl, and it has been incredibly rewarding to self-publish a book that has resonated with so many families.
About the Author
Born and raised in Maryland and with an unhealthy addiction to Old Bay seasoning, Jeanette Opheim now lives in Nashville with her husband and two two-year-old children (who keep her humble daily). Annie and Khalil is her first published book and she is currently working on additional writing projects.