With each passing year, there comes another parenting mountain to climb. For what seemed like ages, my biggest worries were how to get diaper money and finding childcare I could trust.
Oh, how things have changed.
About a month ago, the kiddos and I were chillin in my bedroom for story time. Out of the blue, my son Matthew said, “Mommy, I don’t want to be brown”. I was a bit shocked and asked him to repeat himself, although I heard him clearly the first time. He said it again, “Mommy I don’t want to be brown. I want to be like my friends. Why am I brown?”
Ok. Deep breath.
Of all the things I thought I’d have to tackle at this age, race wasn’t on my radar. I am thankful that my parents, although completely immersed in the Southern culture and all the good and bad that it contains, never made race a major issue for us. Our friends were of different races and economic backgrounds all of my life. My first “boyfriend” was an absolutely beautiful brown haired, blue eyed kindergarten classmate named Nathan. I still remember his last name. Maybe I should look him up on facebook! lol! Anywho…it never occurred to me that we weren’t the same and that people bled and died because of the difference in our skin color. I just knew he was cute and nice and that’s all that mattered to me.
So when my son said, ‘I don’t want to be brown” I wasn’t sure what to say at first.
I didn’t see this conversation coming so soon.
So I decided to ask more questions to see if I could determine where his mind was and just how deep his feelings were about the subject he raised. I said, “Why do you feel this way baby?” He said, “Because I want to look like my friends. They’re not brown”.
So now I knew what to do. I told him, “Baby, you’re brown because your mommy and daddy are brown”. His reply was, “Well, I don’t want to be brown”. I replied, “I’m brown. Daddy’s brown. Your Tee Tee (Aunt Sarah) is brown. Granny & Pop Pop are brown. Caitlyn’s brown. You  look like so many people that love you. Brown is a beautiful color”.
I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I didn’t want him to be burdened with a lesson in African American history and the race struggle in our society.
There will be plenty of time for that.
At that point in time, I just wanted to affirm for him that there was nothing wrong with being brown. Yes, he may look different than his friends but he’s just as beautiful as they are.  I’m sure we’ll have to revisit the “why am I different” conversation but I’m excited that my children have me to look to.
I have friends who don’t look like me. My children see us interact and talk. They are learning from me, by example, that differences are so beautiful and they make up this wonderful world we’re all blessed to live in. I’m also preparing myself to tackle my daughter’s own unique challenges regarding her skin color and hair texture. Her hair is absolutely beautiful to me but I know that there are many in our society and even within our own culture that view kinky/curly hair as ugly and unattractive. I’ve even chemically processed my hair a time or two and wear wigs that have a more silky, straight appearance than my naturally growing hair. But it’s up to me to let my daughter and son know that they are beautiful as is. It’s ok if you decide later on to change your hairstyle but it shouldn’t be because of pressure or any type of self hatred. That’s where my job starts. It’s my job to make sure self hatred ends and self worth begins.
And I will.