Meet Ren! Born in the Philippines, adopted at 8 years old, and embraced by a large Irish and German family from a small town called Westfield, Massachusetts. Ren is now raising 2 boys, 3 goats, 1 dog and a cat with her husband Rick in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Q: Can you share a little about your background? What was your upbringing like?
A: My upbringing was a story of a melting pot family. I was born in the Philippines and adopted at the age of 8 with my biological sister. My mother is Irish and my father is German. My mother is the youngest of seven and my father is one of eleven. Needless to say, it took a little bit to adjust from being an orphan with no family, to being showered with love from probably one of the biggest families in town. I was immersed in my new family's life right away, from language to food, habits to schooling. But the fascinating part was that my parents did everything they could to keep the Filipino culture alive in our home. It was really amusing to see my mom bake irish soda bread for breakfast then make a delicious pot of chicken adobo (a Filipino staple) for dinner. She even got ahold of a parol, which is a star lantern that is traditionally hung up during Christmas in the Philippines. It was these efforts from my parents that instilled in me just how important embracing cultural traditions really are.
Q: How old are your boys and what do they like to do?
A: Jack is a very observant and empathetic eight year-old. James (Jamie) is 5 and is inquisitive and energetic. Both are explorers and enjoy fishing, swimming, and karate.
Q: What’s a typical day in your life look like?
A: I work from home and morning time is somewhat of a chaotic scene (no matter the amount of pre-planning) Jack is very independent and can make simple breakfast and is proudly teaching Jamie how to make toast or add berries to cereal. This is great! Especially when I am running around trying to get ready for work, feeding our goats (we have three), and prepping meals. By 7:30 am, we are out the door for preschool and bus stop. After work, kids are picked up and ready for karate, swimming, or fishing with Dad. On days that they don't have after school activities, they have time to decompress, play, and relax before dinner.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?
A: When we don't have to travel back to our hometown to see family, we try to do spontaneous outings. We are beach bums in the summer, for sure, and have grown accustomed to following the tide chart and explore during low tide. We sometimes even take our Nigerian dwarf goats to the beach and just walk and take in the ocean air. My kids are sushi and seafood aficionados and though not a weekly thing, we will head out of town and find new seafood joints and make it an adventure.
Q: Were you raised with traditions or values that you are consciously trying to incorporate into your own parenting philosophy?
A: I instilled the value of having dinner together at the table. My husband and I have found that this is a good way to connect with the kids and each other. Even quiet dinners, when we're all too ravished or tired to speak, we are present. That, in and of itself, is of significant value. Reading is another pastime I valued and carried on from my upbringing. Bedtime reading is our favorite. Old National Geographics, I-Spy books, the atlas, Shel Silverstein; you name it, we read it.
Q: As a mother to multicultural kids, are there specific ways that you’re exposing them to their own culture as well as other cultures?
A: We love to travel but since 2020 travel has been a challenge, I've used the power of cuisine. In hopes to expand their palates, I try to make different types of food from different cultures and expand on it. Living in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a city dubbed as America's Hometown, we're surrounded by history, not just about the Pilgrims, but also the Wampanoag American Indian tribe. I think it's important to know about the place that you're living in, and it's another way to expand and encourage new ways to think about your surroundings. It is a challenge to seek an Asian community in a vastly white landscape, but I am always striving to find groups and festival events celebrating Asian heritage and culture that I can expose them to.
Q: Have your kids ever experienced prejudices that they’ve shared with you?
A: My eight year old did have a conversation with his now close friend on the school bus one morning. His friend made a statement that Jack didn't look like he's "from Plymouth" and asked where he's from. Jack simply replied that he was from Western Massachusetts. His friend said "Oh, so you're a lot of western mass and a little Plymouth. Well I'm a little Plymouth and a whole lot of Lebanese". As I listened to this comical conversation, I understood the root of that question. He saw me giving a hug to Jack before he entered the bus and was inquisitive with why Jack's mom looks different than his. This moment marked the first time I remember Jack being questioned in that way. His answer was organic and innocent, the way that an eight year old's mind comprehends. Where he used to live, to where we live now, was his form of identity and it opened up conversations about skin color and self discovery.
Q: Do you talk about racism with your boys?
A: Growing up and raising a multicultural family, it's inevitable and important. I believe that acknowledging and embracing the differences in races is a much more impactful way to open minds than just to say everyone is the same. People are proud of their culture and their heritage and there should be room for people to explore that. I want to make sure they understand the differences between inequality and inequity.
Q: What excites you the most about motherhood right now?
A: Discovering and observing what my children are learning from school and organically through play. I'm a big advocate for having them figure out what they enjoy most and then nurturing that. It's a little bittersweet, but I do enjoy seeing them being more independent and having them show me things they can do on their own, or asking how things are done so they can do it on their own the next time around. Their ever growing need to be independent is dependent on me letting go slowly.
Q: What is something that you struggle with most parenting?
A: As anyone with children can attest, parenting is a struggle in general! It is a juggling act where most of the time the work is behind the scenes; truly unseen. House maintenance, laundry, meal preparation, and keeping a schedule are among the long list of things that parents do out of love... and maintaining sanity. However, it can often feel rote and cyclical. Making it a point to do spontaneous activities together, and sometimes individually, helps to quell the parental angst.
Q: What are your coping strategies for the hard days?
A: Deep breaths, good music, pray, forgive (or apologize), and move forward.
Q: What’s something that your younger self needed to hear that wasn’t said?
A: You are enough.