"I really want my kids to feel like it’s okay to ask questions and to understand that there are differences... If we pretend that we all are exactly the same, we’re not helping them grow."
MIKA ON RAISING HER DAUGHTERS (3,5)
PORTLAND | OREGON
A mother’s emotional capacity
My parents got divorced when I was about seven and my mom had full custody of the kids, so most of my life I was raised by my mom. She had spent the first few years after I was born to raise me and then had my sister who is four years younger. She knew that the marriage was probably not the right fit for her long-term and wanted to make a better life for our family. After the divorce, mom tried to find a career that she could support a family with and found a career in advertising sales. We moved around the country a lot for her job. She was mostly a single mom for most of my childhood. Although my mom worked a lot and was busy with travels, we managed to stay really close with her.
There were certainly challenges for my mom and I know she wished that she had more time with us. You can never do everything perfectly as a mother or father or as parents. There's always sacrifices and things that you have to choose to focus on. But I always felt like my mom really prioritized her relationship with us. So even when she didn't have physical time with us, she spent a lot of emotional capacity when she was with us. She was always available to us and making sure that we kept that connection both when we were little, but also all the way through high school and college.
Even now, I consider my mom one of my very best friend and somebody that I can call to talk to about anything. I certainly didn't have that bond with my dad as a younger child. It's important to me that our kids have that with both my husband and me, and I want them to feel that connection and that bond.
Being a mommy
I don't think it would've mattered to my mother what I wanted to be or do with my life. I think she just wanted me to be happy and to feel fulfilled and to be a successful human being. That's what is important for me for my kids as well. I want them to know that the whole spectrum is available. I want my daughters to be strong and outspoken and confident and I want them to be whoever they want to be.
For awhile, when you asked my kids what they wanted to be when they grow up, they would say they wanted to be a mommy. And for a long time I thought, what is that about? They want to be a mommy and do what? And then I realized that to Maddy, being a mommy is exactly what I’m doing. Having a job, traveling, and raising a family. She wanted to do that. That's what a mommy was. She thought of it as this whole broader package. I am constantly reminded that there's so much more for me as a parent to learn.
Openness and embracing differences
At Alice’s school, they spend a lot of time talking about what it means to be a human. They read a lot of books about mixed-race kids or people who don't identify as female or male. There’s a teacher there that identifies as a ‘they.’ The teacher taught them about proper pronouns and allowed the kids to ask questions. For my three-year-old, that is totally normal. She just doesn't even think about it. She just says my teacher likes to be called a ‘they.’
I just think it's really neat that my kids are exposed to this and can have a discussion around it. One day, they had a conversation in the back seat where Alice and Maddy talked about what they wanted their pronouns to be and whether they were a she or a he or a they. And Maddy said she was “she” and Alice said she was a “she.” Maddy said, “Oh Alice, sometimes I think that maybe you're a ‘they.’” In her five year old brain, Maddy is kind of a girly-girl and has long hair. She thought Alice might be a “they” because her hair wasn't very long and she isn’t too ‘girly.’ Alice just said, “Nope.” And they just moved on to talk about other things. I thought it was so cool to have a three- and a five-year-old have a conversation about their gender pronouns and how they felt about it.
I think this overall direction of openness is cool. Sometimes I feel we all get a little overly sensitive. I really appreciate that their teacher was open about being transgender. I know that not everyone feels comfortable doing that. I really want my kids to feel like it’s okay to ask questions and to understand that there are differences, whether around physical disabilities, race, etc. If we pretend that we all are exactly the same, we’re not helping them grow.