'You're not half you're double': Helping my mixed-race son learn who he is
From Thailand, Naowarat Cheeptham was continuing her studies in Japan when she met her Canadian future-husband. Life's turns brought her to B.C. and to navigating Canada's diversity. Throughout 2017, we're asking Canadians, "What's your story?" Cheeptham of Kamloops, B.C., shares hers.
It was not that I sought to come and live here in Canada. The thought of working and living here permanently never crossed my young mind.
I met my Canadian husband, Joe Dobson, while I was doing my graduate studies at Hokkaido University, Sapporo, in northern Japan. At the time, I did not even know much about Canada. For me, it was just love that brought me here.
When I broke the news to my parents that I was to marry a Canadian, it was hard for my father in particular to accept the idea that I would not go back to live and work in Thailand. He was so upset and did not come to our wedding in Victoria.
(Now my father and Joe are great drinking buddies every time we go back for a visit, even with limited language between the two of them.)
I am now an associate professor and teach in the Faculty of Science, Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. I feel responsible as a role model and in the position to inspire others.
As a visible minority researcher and educator, I hope to empower our younger generations and show them that everything is possible when one is passionate and sets one's heart/mind on something no matter how one looks, what colour or gender one is or how one sounds, with or without accents!
As a mother of a child from a mixed marriage, I want to instill confidence and self-worth in my 9-year-old son as societal and inherited bias can be harsh at the best of times.
One afternoon, my son and I were driving back from our ski weekend at Sun Peaks Resort. On the radio there was an old song by Cher called Half-Breed playing. I did not think much of it.
When we got home, I was stopped in my tracks when my son said, "Mommy, am I a half-breed, too?"
He is as true a Canadian as anybody else. He can do anything he sets his mind to.- Naowarat Cheeptham
That almost choked me to tears. I put on a brave face telling him that yes, technically you are, but the word is derogatory and disrespectful, and we do not use this word for this context.
I looked him in the eyes and said you are not half of anything, and actually you are double and more than double of everything. I went on to tell him that in his genetics he has Thai, Chinese, Mon, Polish, German and British (and that's just what we know of). He is as true a Canadian as anybody else. He can do anything he sets his mind to.
I was taken aback by how deeply he thinks about what he hears and relates to who he is at this young age.
In English, Thai and Japanese, there is "half-blood" or "half-breed," ลูกครึ่ง (pronounced Lūkkhrụ̀ng) and ハーフ (pronounced ha-fu). I taught him these and reminded him once again that he is not "half," he is "double" and very rich in his background.
I am proud to be able to contribute to the continued building of a colourful yet colourless Canada when it comes to diversity. We are lucky to be Canadian.