“Kelly! I miss you!” Frankie screams as she throws her arms around me. Honestly what feels better than getting a genuine hug from a 4 year old? Absolutely nothing. 

The Poydras are my shit. I love this family. I’ve known the dad Myles since we were both 16 year old rebellious beach kids. I would tell my mom I was going to bed, wait 30 minutes, tell my poor younger sister to NOT SAY ANYTHING, slide open my window, and jump the fuck out. I’d run to the street and hop in whatever car was waiting for me. I’d party with Myles and his bad friends late into the night, and then sneak back home. I usually got away with it, except for one time… “Uhhhh Kelly your mom is outside yelling.” Dammit Mom. 

The Poydras had kids young: Riley was 18 and Myles was 22 years old when they got pregnant with their first daughter Ayva. Riley and Myles were my first friends who were parents. I got reconnected with them when Ayva was around 3. She's 9 now. I’ve seen them juggle parenting, careers, social lives, personal hardships, the birth of their second daughter Frankie, and everything else that comes with living. Year after year I’m inspired by how they balance it all, and especially how smart and loving their daughters are. 

Ayva is intelligent, observant, and kind. She’s the definition of a fully functional mini adult. Frankie is a firecracker: fearless, funny, and quirky. Call me biased but these kids are special. They are good humans and the world is a better place with them in it. 

The Poydras family is an incarnation of The Ziran Way. They are a blend of cultures, identities, and lifestyles. Ethnically, they are mixed: Riley is White/Mexican and Myles is Black/Japanese. Culturally, Riley grew up with fun-loving Punk rock parents while Myles was raised in a strict military household. Socially, Riley is the radiant life of the party while Myles hangs back and observes. Yet these two compliment and balance each other. I balled my eyes out at their wedding. They've created a beautifully blended family. 

Diversity and melding different cultures is the core of Ziran, and why the Poydras family are our Muses.

I'll ride with this crew 'till the end. 

Myles you are half Black + half Japanese. You grew up skating, surfing, and living the beach lifestyle. How did it feel growing up brown in a town with virtually no people of color? 

Growing up I identified myself as a punk-ass kid who ate barrels for breakfast and k-grinds for dinner lol... With that being said my younger brother and I were two of the three half Black, half Japanese kids in the South Bay and grew up very in tune with our roots.

My mom is from Kawasaki City, Japan and my dad is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and they taught me at young age the importance of not only being proud of where I come from but knowing what it took for me to be who I am. Growing up, this lesson came alongside all the “Be honest’s,” and the “Be respectful’s,” and the “Work hard’s,” and with just as much importance, if not more.

My mom made sure of this “cultural awareness” with annual visits to our grandparents and cousins in Japan or by doing things like only allowing Japanese to be spoken in the house, and attending Juku on the weekends, and even getting my ass kicked in kendo where I fought competitively for years for the City of Gardena.

Of course as a kid I hated it, but as I grew up that pride became more and more of my own and today the core values I’m instilling in my kids stems from my parents’ pride and diligence in cultural awareness.

Riley you got pregnant with Ayva when you were 18 years old. What was that like? What major lessons have you learned being a young mom?

Honestly, it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I know that is cliche or an obvious answer but it forced me to be a more responsible and accountable person. I feel like I didn’t have much personal direction in life. Having my first daughter so young gave me purpose and meaning. 

What has parenting taught you guys? 

The value of time and how much you can really love a human being. 

How do you both juggle parenting and working full time? 

We've had amazing family support over the years. Before the girls began free public school, emphasis on FREE, we mostly relied on family members and close friends to watch our kids which alleviated the huge expense of childcare. There were a couple years we had to pay for it, but that’s just obviously one of the many expenses that comes with having lovely children :) Childcare costs blow!

Ziran means natural, spontaneous, and free. Pushing away outside influence and embracing your own. How does Ziran apply to your lives and parenting? 

We are definitely spontaneous! Not extravagantly spontaneous but we like to get up and go do whatever we feel like as a family together. It’s such a great feeling when we feed off of each others' happiness and everyone gets a bit goofy which feels free! 

It’s really hard to push away outside influences especially when kids have such easy access to YouTubers and TikTok and things like that. They get all these crazy notions from seeing what everyone on the internet has. But ultimately we are a positive family who cares about ourselves and our day to day life. It comes through in our kids' behavior and how they embrace themselves and others. 

Keep up with The Poydras: @riley_poydras @myles_poydras

Words + Photography: Kelly Wang Shanahan @theziran