Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The tough questions

I thought I'd piggyback on this post from a few days ago.

My boys are not asking about skin color yet--like why their skin is so different from Mom and Dad's, for example. Anna has said things though, like the time a couple of months ago at the breakfast table when she out-of-the-blue announced that she wanted her brothers to be "peach" like her and how she doesn't "like brown." Conversations like this ALWAYS take me by surprise and I have to admit I always worry if I'm saying the right thing. That particular day I told Anna that I LOVE Yosef and Biniam's beautiful brown skin, and that God made their skin brown just like He made her skin peach, and that He's creative and doesn't want us all the same. (She didn't buy it and maintained that she wished their skin was peach like hers.)

I just read this post over on Shelley's blog. Even though I'm not there yet with the boys, it seems like this is one of the hardest parts of navigating transracial adoption. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing strange for us about having two brown-skinned sons--we're not "color blind" by any means, it's just that it feels natural and wonderful--but when it comes to talking about it with small children, it's tricky.

One of the keys I think is to not be alarmed by the things kids say. When my nearly-four-year-old daughter says she likes peach over brown, she's not talking race, she's either simply talking color preference, or what she's really saying is that she loves her brothers and wishes they all looked the same. It provides a big opportunity to affirm God's plan and how He made all of us special. I know the questions will get harder as the kids grow, but for now I try to be open and comfortable talking race with my toddlers.


Kevin Heldt said...

And then just the other day Anna was telling me that she didn't like her lighter hair color and wanted everyone (in our family) to have dark hair "like brothers."

Such a girl: her "fashion" preferences changing by the hour... :)

Anonymous said...

You know, I think a big part of the whole "multi or bi-racial family" thing is having a couple of similar members; for example, in our family, we have two from Columbia, one from China, and two from Nigeria, etc...plus the two white parents. It's such a good learning tool when you can point to different family members and say, "she's peach, he's tan, he's brown, she's pink..." and have some repeats among them.

On a second note, we've been adopting for years and the issue of race as race, not just as toddler color-differences, has never been a big one for us. There's such a difference between making children racially and culturally aware so that they don't forget their heritage and making the issue of race so prevalent that they can't help but feel different (in more of a negative way). We adopted all of ours as babies, though, so they have no memory of being anything other than "American".

I guess the overarching point is that it's different for every family, but I think, as you said, it's not really something to worry about when your little kid points out skin tone differences.

-Eve, mom to 8 in Virginia

graceling said...

Yesterday at the doctor's office, my 5 year old wanted to know why one child was in a wheelchair. I honestly don't know why, but like I told her, God loves "different."

We read Mem Fox's "Whoever You Are" which I highly recommend. It really focuses on how we may live in different places, eat different foods, look different, and sound different, but inside we are all the same.

I then asked my daughter about flowers. Do all flowers look alike? No. Why? Because it's so much prettier to look at pink, yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and green flowers than just one color of flowers. It's the same with people. God is creative- He is an artist. And he like to use lots of colors. And just like Abigail may choose to color the cat in her picture green, God can make people any shape or color He wants!

Rachel said...

I just love graceling's illustration about flowers. I see a children's book in the making!

Jeannett Gibson said...

Little Ana...so sweet. I can totally understand being thrown off guard by it all. Not only because you don't know what to say...but that when you finally gain the composure TO say something, you hope you didn't say it wrong or that she will somehow pick up on one soundbite and repeat it all out of context. Tough stuff. But good tough stuff, you know?

By the way, check out my comment on Tim's blog. I think you'll approve.

Jacquelyn said...

Zak mentioned that he didn't like brown people about a year ago, and then we went through and pointed out the fact that most of his friends from school were brown and his uncle is "brown". Like Anna, I don't think he has a concept of race (his uncle works in the sun all day and is very tanned) and I found out later that what he really meant that he liked blue eyes better than brown eyes. I think at this age they are just noticing differences and simply expressing them as likes and dislikes.

Joy said...

gee, why do conversations like that take you by surprise? doesn't everyone have conversations like that over breakfast? in all seriousness though, those are tough questions and i love your point that at 4, anna isn't talking about race. i think as adults, it's hard to imagine it not being about race. even eli has noticed that his skin and abe's and esther's are all different colors and he wants skin like abe's. i an only imagine that as adoptive parent, as much as you prepare for questions, they still kind of stun you. you guys are doing an amazing job raising your 4 beautiful children and God put your family together Himself. i always appreciate what you have to say about adoption--you always say it so well!


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