Little children have a way of loudly speaking out whenever they notice characteristics in people that are different. Within the past few months, I have discovered that their outbursts can be cause for serious embarrassment.
When we saw a wheelchair bound man waiting in line at Target last month and the three-year-old loud questions and observations began, I leaned down and said to the children "Isn't he beautiful?" When we saw a woman who had obvious burn scars across her face while at the zoo, and the three-year-old loud questions and observations began again, I leaned down and repeated "Isn't she beautiful?"
One day last week, while I was swinging Henry in the baby swing at the park, an African-American woman was pushing her five-year-old daughter in the swing immediately next to us. We exchanged brief pleasantries when her daughter - looking over at Henry - leaned back and said "Mama, that baby looks like my baby brother Omar." The mother laughed, and then said "I suppose maybe a little bit, but your baby brother is black."
I thought that this little girl was just trying to be funny, but when we came home and I was flipping through a photo album of our family members with the children, Carolyn began enthusiastically pointing to a picture of my bald, pale skinned, 100% Irish brother-in-law and shouted "Mommy, look there's Doctor Johnson!!" This caused me to take pause because Doctor Johnson is our African-American pediatrician.
Not much escapes our children, but it makes me happy that they are more aware that their uncle's glasses are similar to their pediatrician's, that they don't even notice the vast difference in their skin tones.
It also makes me happy that when we were in the airport last week and saw a little person, a woman who was standing next to us at the sink in the restrooms, Elizabeth looked her square in the eye and said "You are tiny, like me!!"
And then she sweetly added, "You are bootiful."