Welcome to the October edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Body Awareness.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing how they activelyinfluence their children's body awareness and how they experience their own! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
My daughter is a NativeAfrItalPuertoLankin. (Go ahead, I know you are curious. Click the link. I'll wait.)
All caught up? Good.
Raising a mixed race child present a unique and often times complex set of challenges. The day I found out I was with child, I knew that one day I would have to answer the question of “why daddy is dark, why mommy is light, and why I am something in between.”
Children don't see color. Not immediately anyway. Daddy is daddy. Mommy is mommy. All those other people in the world are just other people. No one is light skinned. No one is dark skinned. People are just people. Period.
But then one day the switch is flipped and suddenly, you catch your toddler gently caressing her skin and then looking at your skin with a slight note of curiosity. No questions are asked but you see a wave of realization in your child's eyes.
Out of this comes the doppelganger effect. In Tiny's case, every dark skinned man of average build “looked like daddy.” No man with cocoa skin or tanned skin would be compared to her precious daddy. Nope. Only those men with really, really dark skin would be acknowledged as looking like daddy.
(To be fair, around this same time, Tiny was also comparing bald men to her Papa and short haired women to her “GiGi.”)
A short while later, Tiny proclaimed “daddy has dark skin. Mama has light skin.” There was no mention of her own skin. With her expanded vocabulary, Tiny could accurately describe the skin tone of the two people she was closest to. I made no comment. I just smiled.
And then one day…
“Why is daddy's skin dark?”
Crap. Why did Rasta Daddy have to be at work with Tiny threw me this curve ball. I knew it was coming. But still…I was ill prepared.
I mumbled something about God and how that is simply what God wanted us to look like. I mean, Tiny was almost 3. I didn't think she needed me to orate on the need for certain skin pigmentations based on geographic locations, climate, and proximately to the sun.
Tiny was good with the answer for a while. But then she brought in the big guns.
“Mama. Do I have light skin or dark skin?”
Wow. Just wow.
If you are not raising a multicultural child whose skin tone is different than BOTH parents, then you cannot comprehend how complex this question gets. My mind was racing with all of the various responses. I didn't want to have verbal diarrhea that would deeply impact how Tiny viewed her skin. I didn't want to say the wrong thing. I wanted to be politically correct. I wanted to celebrate all the cultures that come together inside my daughter, the cultures that create her beautiful, beautiful skin. And here is what came crashing out of my mouth…
“Does it matter if you have light skin or dark skin.”
Good one mama. Because a three year old is sooooooo going to get on this train of thought with you. But to my surprise…
“No. It's just skin.”
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I hugged Tiny and told her that everyone has different skin and no two people share the same one. It is what is in that skin that is important.
I feel good about how Tiny views her skin. She is still such a wee one and I don't want her to worry about how light or dark her skin is right now. I want her to just enjoy being a child, a child with beautiful skin and a beautiful spirit.
Neither my husband or I use skin color as a qualifier when describing someone. It is simply “that man” not “that black man.” It is simply “the young woman” not “the young white woman.” At the end of the day, skin color does not define the person and I refuse to ever allow Tiny to think that it does. I want her to wear her skin with pride, anywhere she goes. I want her to see it as a piece of the whole, not the defining piece of who she is.
I am sure one day Tiny will again inquire about skin color. After all, Rasta Daddy and I are at opposite ends of the rainbow. But for now, I continue to model an indifference to skin color and instead focus on the person inside.
How do all of you deal with your child's sudden awareness of the diversity of skin tone in this world? Any challenges in addressing it?
Visit Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Know Your Body – Momma Jorje shares one way she encourages body awareness and autonomy in her children. You can also follow Momma Jorje on Facebook.
- Fat is Just a Word – Laura tries to actively debunk the negative connotations of the word ‘fat' after a shocking discovery, on Authentic Parenting. You can also find Authentic Parenting on Facebook and Twitter.
- Your Body is Beautiful Now – Lauren at Hobo Mama offers your body a love poem. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook and Twitter.
- Does Your Daughter Feel Beautiful – DeAnna L'am of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women and Girls writes about how Moms can model self acceptance and a strong body image for their daughters.