From the very beginning of their lives, our children have been exposed to people of different colors and cultures.
As I've mentioned before, our pediatrician is black. Our dentist is Filipino. Our neighbors are Mexican, Polish and Japanese. But even though our kids have had all of this amazing exposure to different ethnicities, a few weeks ago, Elizabeth said something that stunned me.
We had just received a letter from our Compassion child, Charity, and as Elizabeth was looking at the photo of the little Ugandan girl we've sponsored for the past year my daughter said, "Mom, I don't think I like Charity anymore."
Her comment took me by surprise. "What?" I asked. "Why don't you like Charity?"
Scrutinizing the photo of our African friend for a moment she said, "Well. She's different." Then she looked at me and said, "I like people who have my colored skin."
Thankfully, I didn't totally panic and immediately fear that I had a pint sized racist on my hands. Instead, I realized that my five-year-old was beginning to recognize that people are in fact different.
(And to an almost equal degree, likes to get a response out of me.)
I tried to find a way to explain to explain the differences and yet, similarities, across humanity in a way that my young daughter would understand.
"Elizabeth," I asked. "What would you do if you only had one color in your entire box of crayons? Wouldn't it be terrible if all of your pictures that you created could only be ONE color?" She looked at me intently and said, "No. Because I really love the color PINK. Like my skin! I would make all of my pictures PINK!"
"Ah yes!" I continued. "But just think about the rainbows that you love to paint. And the sunsets. And the butterflies and the trees and the clouds and the oceans. Those aren't all PINK are they?"
She pondered this before answering, "No." I smiled and added, "Well, it's the same with people. People of all different colors are what make the world beautiful." Then I hesitated for a moment before asking, "Did you know that your pediatrician Dr. J, has the same color skin as Charity?"
It was my daughter's turn to be stunned. She shook her head slowly because it hadn't even dawned on her that our pediatrician, a man that she adores and had seen earlier that very day, was a different color from her.
When the triplet's were born, our good friends Mike and Donna, sent the children a book written by Mem Fox entitled, "Whoever You Are."
This is one of my favorite books in the children's collection and after the exchange with Elizabeth the other day, we've been reading it almost daily.
Of most importance to the children is the realization that blood is the same and pain is the same. So whenever we talk about Raymond and Rita, they are very upset over the pain and suffering that the people of Haiti have endured.
Since our children have also learned that regardless of your skin color - joys are the same - they have decided that they want to make everyone in Haiti a chocolate cake.
Because surely a chocolate cake will make them very happy.
Edit: I should add that my children truly love this book. They like the story and they are drawn to the colorful images and characters. It's safe to say, they've devoured this book from cover to cover. LITERALLY. I think I saw Henry chomping on one of the pages.
That's just how it goes. The books that we enjoy the most - are the ones that are damaged the greatest. So we'll be getting ourselves a new copy soon.
Or maybe two...