Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Mom, Am I White?"


I knew it would come up some day, some how. I didn't really know what to expect. And sure enough, it happened - we had our first discussion about race. 

It was a hectic day. I was just pulling the car out of the parking lot from Maya's swimming class. We were rushing to school. It was pouring rain. I still had to pick up a sandwich from somewhere for her lunch bag. I was 36 weeks pregnant and exhausted. I was on auto-pilot.

And then came a little voice from the back seat.

"Mom, you have beautiful white skin."

Another funny observation of hers, I thought. And just as I was about to tell her that she also had beautiful skin, she said:

"Mom, am I White?"

And I said to her, simply - "No, you are not. You are white and brown. Because Mommy is white, and Daddy is brown. And you are SO lucky that you get to be both."

And then, silence. We listened to the music on the radio as we drove to school. She thought about what I said. I thought about what I said. I wondered if I should have handled it differently, if I should have told her something else. I wasn't sure. I don't know what it's like to be biracial, but I wanted her to feel proud of who she is. I wanted her to feel lucky that she has two parents who are so different. I wanted her to know that she is both - that she doesn't have to pick one side or the other.

And there it was: our first real conversation about race. It happened so randomly, in passing, with no particular reason why. A child's simple observation and curiosity. Completely out of the blue.

We don't really talk about race in our home. We talk about culture a lot. We talk about similarities and differences. We make an effort to celebrate our differences. We often look at maps together, either in books or puzzles, and point to where Daddy's from, and point to where Mommy's from. On any given day, you can hear 4 languages being spoken in our home.

Maybe it's the age, too. Maya is 4.5 years old now and makes simple remarks about people all the time - noticing similarities and differences. Like, "that lady has a blue umbrella", or "Dad has black hair, but I have brown hair". And now since the baby has joined us, she says "Veda has blue eyes like mommy, and I have brown eyes like Daddy".

When she asked me that day, I thought about the story book we read called "Mixed Me" by Taye Diggs. The story follows a little boy whose Daddy and Mommy have different skin colors. We read the book quite often, but I didn't think she understood it yet. The boy is confident and he says, "I'm a beautiful blend of dark and light. I'm mixed just perfectly, just right"... 

(My two girls - mixed perfectly, just right)

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For those of you who are raising biracial children, what was your first conversation about race?

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11 comments

  1. Ah the idea of such a conversation coming up one day with my future children is scary! What to say, how to answer? Sit them down and have a big conversation or make it plain and simple, as if saying it is not a big deal?

    I think you handled it well, but since I am not a mixed child I don't suppose I really know :(

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  2. Wow. You have handled it really well. I wish i could make my child understand and appreciate the differences better when its that time. We are not from different ethnicities but are from very different castes which itself is a big thing where we are.

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  3. Wow! So beautifully written and handled, Alexandra 💜.

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  4. your answer was so simple and my opinion just perfect! We don't have kids yet, actually we are newlyweds but when we will have our biracial kids I would love to answer for question about skin colour just like you! Because for us it's so natural, we actually even don't see that we have different colour of skin and I really want our kids look at us and other people like on human not looking at heir skin. <3

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  5. Beautifully said Alex. Veda and Maya are so sweet.

    Melissa

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  6. Simply beautiful! You are such a perfect mom!

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  7. Awwww.....love that pic of the 2 girls!
    I tell my kids they're "beige." I don't consider my marriage to be interracial as both my Indian husband and I are caucasian.

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  8. Children have such a unique perspective on race. It's sad culture will change their views on this. For example, my 7 month old baby has bright blue eyes and light olive skin. Yet, he looks just like his Indian dad, his face shape, eye shape, mouth and nose are all Dad's. No one ever comments on how much they look alike expect little kids. The fist think my 5 year old niece said was how much he looks like her Mama. She didn't even notice this coloring.

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  9. We have a 7 year old daughter - also Indian (through me) and white/Russian Jewish through her father - and one of our toddler year books that we still refer to is "Colors of Us" Its a good book to have around.
    https://www.amazon.com/Colors-Us-Karen-Katz/dp/0805071636/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1491227637&sr=8-2&keywords=colors+of+skin+children%27s+book

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  10. It sounds like you are doing a great job explaining things to your daughter and also of letting her figure things out as well. I guess it's something you have to work on and figure out along the way.

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  11. Love this post. Thank you so much for sharing... Looking forward to hearing your experiences of being a mom to two kids...

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