Friday, February 12, 2010

favorite thing friday

From the very beginning of their lives, our children have been exposed to people of different colors and cultures.


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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.


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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.


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"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?"


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

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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...

17 comments:

  1. Did you read this article in Newsweek? http://www.newsweek.com/id/214989 I found it fascinating - not only about how kids notice race, but also how they notice they aren't supposed to talk about it, and further that they don't understand vague messages like "everyone is the same". Loved your response to Elizabeth and thanks for the book recommendation.

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  2. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for talking openly with your daughter instead of panicking about racism.

    When my husband (half white, half Mexican) married me (South Asian), one of his cousins asked me why I hadn't married one of my "own" people. She was 10, and I was wearing a shalwar kameez for a wedding-related event. My husband was horrified and embarrassed, but I pointed out to him that her exposure was very limited, and we had a talk about different cultures and countries and people, but how all people make up a big family.

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  3. What a beautiful book... I will be buying one for sure. As my boys are in that same stage. I love the analogy that you used... the box of crayons is a perfect things to bring up!

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  4. I like that book! My kids are in such a diverse kindergarten class that they recognize the different races, "she speaks Spanish. he is from Chinatown. he has brown skin.", but they don't seem to care at all. Those kids are all so innocent at age 5-6. I wish I could just bottle this age up and spray it back on them in 10 years.

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  5. That looks like a book that we all need to read daily. You are doing a great job with your children. Good luck!

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  6. Awe...My daughter is a MUTT. I mean that in the most LOVING way too. She is over half Eskimo (That doesn't explain the dark green/hazel eyes, and light hair though!) and then a quarter Finnish from me...then she's who knows what after that. My son is Half Eskimo, and a quarter Finnish...and then he's a quarter black (or Dominican or whatever the PC term is now, I don't know...don't be mad cause I don't know.) My husband is half canadian and half russian (which puts my dad in a tizzy!) so, yeah... we are all KINDS of stuff up here. I am one of the VERY few people who knows that I am EXACTLY half Eskimo, and half Finnish...apparently my forefathers were discriminatory and only bred with their kind until my parents came along and ruined their plan of world domination!

    Anyway, she has been saying the same thing. And it is the weirdest thing. She says that she only likes people who are "white like her." And I have to explain that she is MORE Eskimo than I am! So, I don't know what it is about that age, but I'm going to get that book!

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  7. Have you read the book Nurture Shock? There is a very interesting chapter on race and children that speaks to what you are experiencing with Elizabeth -- totally natural and normal thing for her to feel, and excellent way to address it on your end.

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  8. loved the way you used color crayons. Worte down the name of the book it looks wonderful, our little girl is from Guatemala and one day she will notice the difference too.

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  9. I'm glad you're loving and promoting that book! Mem Fox lives here in Adelaide Australia, and she was one of my lecturers when I did one year of a Junior Primary teaching degree. She's a fabulous and thought- provoking teacher and person, and her books are all great. The adult book Radical Reflections is a brilliant overview of how children learn to read.

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  10. My 6 year old asked me as I was going to work, are you going to see your friend today?? I asked him names that he did not know, I described my friends and one woman I described her as having black skin.

    His reply NOOOOOOOOOOO she has brown normal skin.
    I loved that response.

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  11. I am so glad you posted this: we have been going through the same with our just-turning-5-in-two days daughter. Just last week she said 'I don't like ______' and when I asked her why, she replied 'she's yucky cause she's got brown skin.' I have to say that I did panick a little...This could prove to be a major problem as we live in Indonesia!
    However, I, like you, actually sat down and explained about how her colored markers were different - (we must have been thinking along the same lines) and then we did a home 'science' experiment where I took a brown egg and a white egg and we discussed how the eggs were yes, different in colour, a little different in shape and size and then we cracked them open to reveal that on the inside they were exactly the same...'food' for thought (excuse the pun!)
    It is a demonstration I do when I teach my Grade 5's about civil rights and prejudice. Even though she is much younger, I think she actually got it.
    Would love to get a copy of the book...might have to wait till we go on summer holiday though as books are very difficult to get here.
    Thanks for sharing...and making me more relieved that it could well be jusrt a stage rather than my daughter staring to go down the terrible prejudice road!
    Happy Valentines tomorrow!
    Kathryn
    x

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  12. Sounds like you handled that very well! I think I would've been at a loss for a moment myself. That book looks interesting; may get a copy for my son!

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  13. This is a GREAT post. Growing up multiracial was one of the biggest unspoken factors of my childhood, and I really didn't appreciate how my parents (my Japanese-American father and blond, blue-eyed American mother) dealt with it so matter-of-factly, and didn't allow us to behave or feel any differently than any other family around us.

    On the flip side of that, my brother married a lovely girl from Alabama, and the first time my middle sister visited him (before he married his wife), a family member of hers (age 10 at the time) asked her VERY politely, "Is this your first time in America?" It still cracks me up.

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  14. Love love LOVE Mem Fox too...we grew up on her books...Possum Magic and Wombat Divine are favourites of ours. 'Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge' is another one of her beautiful stories that I think your kids would adore. She has a gift for making our differences something special.

    Thought your response was spot on...love the crayon analogy!

    Cheers Em

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  15. We love this book too.

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  16. There is another great kids book - called "we're different - we're the same..." It is Sesame themed, but there are lots of humans drawn among the monsters... Hard to find, but worth it... We read that one a lot, because my adopted daughters are both mixed race, and sometimes the older one will tell us she "wants our skin"... We tell her we want her skin instead...

    keep up the good posts

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  17. Excellent post - great answer and great that you shared the question.

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