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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mack Truck

So here are a few things you should know about me. I like to sweep problems or inevitable problems under the rug. I don't like to think about them and let them clutter my space. That being said I don't sleep well cause said problems come out of hiding during the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. Second thing you should know is that when confronted put in a uncomfortable situation or when I am mad I cry, which only leaves me more frustrated and mad cause I should be yelling or saying my point in an educated manner and instead I am crying and weak.

A fellow blogger mommy posted this on her blog a few months back this is information I already knew and also know it is true that children notice differences because I work in a very diverse neighborhood and the children I work with are 6 and 7 and believe me differences are noticed and talked about. Sometimes in a constructive mannar and sometimes not so constructive.

These are Aimee words I do not have her permission to use them so hopefully she won't be mad. I edited out portions that had to do with her family.
judges others based on skin color.
That is what new studies reported in Newsweek's "See Baby Discriminate" article by By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman NEWSWEEK say (this article is in the latest Sept 14th magazine which stopped me in my tracks at the supermarket today and is linked below)
The article, in my opinion, is a must read for ALL parents of young children. Children as young as 3ish understand race differences. By 5ish, they understand the racial hierarchy of our society (don't believe in this heirarchy? In domestic adoptions, fees even vary by race. Disgusting and embarassing if you ask me.) Research shown in this article now finds that babies as young as 6 months react differently to pictures of varying races.
The article goes on to state that roughly 75% of white parents of white children DO NOT talk to their children about race. They either are unsure how, or feel that talking about people's color instills racism by calling out our differences. The studies in this article, not surprisingly, point out that this is not the case. In these early years (3 - 5) you have an ability to affect how children see the world.

If your wondering why all this is relavent here goes. Being an adoptive parent in a transracial family is one of those things that I have swept under said rug. Sure Lily and I talk about her beautiful brown skin and we find similarities between ourselves and we talk about mommies freckles but the truth is the talk in my household is minimal at best. I think I am a good parent my child is happy and although snarky at times she is overall a happy kid. I am embarrassed to say that I feel inadequate as the mother of a child of a different race. Although I am embarrassed to admit that I know I am not alone.

What brings this about is that Lily and I were at the park today and Lily was happily playing by herself as only children learn to do. A little boy was hiding under the play structure and he was complaining about not being able to find a friend and his mom said why don't you play with the girl in the pretty skirt to which he replied mom I can't play with her she doesn't have white skin like me. He was also around 4 and those were his exact words. To which his mom replied that is a mean thing to say we don't talk like that. Lily thankfully did not hear this conversation. The ladies husband came over they whispered to eachother and decided it was time to leave the park. Now I wish I had a sensible rational reaction to this but instead my eyes welled up with tears under my sunglasses thankfully and there it is my inadequacy was dragged from under the rug in the daylight hours. If Lily had been in earshot of this child my reaction would have been very conterproductive.

So has anyone read a really good book about this topic. About how to have good constructive conversations about the topic of race before these instances happen. I want ways to empower my child so perhaps she doesn't end up crying alongside her mother next to the twisty slide. And even if tears are shed alongside her mother at least a constuctive honest conversation can happen after the watershed where the mother in question doesn't feel like a complete failure to her beautiful girl.


aamayna said...

Wow. Of course I don't mind you taking that from my blog. I am so sorry you had to experience that. the other day in the library there were some 6ish yos trying to figure Mayna out (they were african american). I heard "no, she has white hair. And look at her mom". They were trying to put her into a racial category and they just couldn't figure it out. So yes, they definately notice and talk about race at a young age.

I wish I had an answer on that. I find it easy to talk about color in a positive way at this age. I have no idea how to start to prepare her about the fact that she will meet people who aren't as open minded to her brown skin and may be mean. It gives me a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

As far as books...I want to see what others say too. Only adult book I have read so far is "In their own voices - transracial adoptees tell their stories" by Rita Simon. It just gives adult perspective to growing up in a white home. I know there is also "Im chocolate, your vanilla" that may help.

As for kids books, here are my faves:

"Whoever you are" by Mem Fox (my is amazing)

"Elmer" by David McKee - about an elephant who wants to be "elephant color" but is patchwork color.

"Colorful World" - CeCe Williams - for older kidsand it actually addresses being mis-treated due to the color of your skin

"The Colors of Us" by Karen Katz

"Its OK to be different" by Todd Parr. Love this one as it touches on all differences including disability, race and adoption.

I will check back to see what others say..I need ideas too.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I am writing from the East Coast and must keep it brief since I am exhausted - about to turn in for the night. I quickly, though, wanted to share a few comments based on my experiences with my daugher, who is 6, and who herself has darker skin. (She is Kazakh, and has a beautiful complexion that varies in tone all year, from very dark in the summer to somewhat lighter in the winter.) From a very young age, Emma has been very aware of her skin tone and how it "compares" to others. Her closest friend when she was three was Irish and had almost translucent skin, and once told Emma that they could not be "twins" because her skin was too dark. This of course, was devastating for Emma (and for me as her mother) but I am certain this was not racially motivated in the manner in which an adult would take it, but rather had more to do with simplistic observations. At the time this lead to many conversations about (in Emma's words) who matched who, how Emma's skin did not match mine that much, but mine did not match Daddy's (my husband's - he is fair and pale, I am lighter but in an Eastern European way with dark hair and dark eyes), how the post man had the darkest skin, how Emma's skin matched her friend Ming's skin, and so on and so on. Somehow, through all of this comparison, she felt better. I don't know if it is because of that episode or not, but to this day, when Emma describes a person, very matter of factly, she adds in about their skin color, eye color etc. (She also observes though, how the talk, how they walk, and other mannerisms. I once was describing a person's baby sitter and Emma asked me if I meant the girl with the eyes "like this" and when I replied that I had not noticed her eyes in that detail Emma looked at me and said, "Were you looking at her feet instead?" The reason I am rambling on like this is that over these three years (between that episode and now) I really have come to think that for many children, race is more descriptive and not as emotionally charged as it might have been as an issue when we were younger. I am not naive - I know that is not always the case and of course, it also depends on what else the children hear at home, in the media, from their neighbors, etc. - but I have also tried to be careful to not project too much onto every comment I hear out of children's mouths. On the other hand, I also try to be sensitive to Emma's concerns. She identifies herself as having brown skin (whereas an observer might not.) She picks brown crayons and brown construction paper at school when making self portraits, for instance. I guess somebody might look at that and say that is a sympton of the racial situation in our society- people are either caucasion, or not, in the eyes of many and Emma has picked up on that. But, it might just be a child's concern with detail - the white paper isn't right, the pink paper isn't right - so that is the color she chooses.
Well, I am afraid I have not provided anything informational here - or answers - but I'll continue to check in to see what others say.

--mother to Emma

Leah and Maya said...

I will be no help becaue I might have been angry but later crying as well. Kids are great BUT kids are also brutally honest in everything they see and say. I haven't gotten into it with Maya either because we talk alot about eye color or hair color and who has the same, or which of her other friends have brown eye's and who has green eye's like mommy. I guess I dont' want to make too big of a deal about it because in first and second grad I went to a very diverse school my friends that I hung out with all the time were white, chinese, japenese, and black and I never knew there was a differnce as a child I didn't see them as any differnt, so in a way I dont' want to tell her she's different when really she's not, so I guess until I run into a problem I am waiting to talk about it becasue for now she's sees that everyone has different features some match and some don't, it might help as well that she's fairly light skinned or that she's so young she's not around school aged kids. If there's a problem she will have 2 big fair blue eyed boy cousins to protect her as well at school.

Hannah said...

It's funny because I live in a small, not overly diverse country town and I expected to face a lot of ugly comments but thankfully they have been few and far between. Unfortunately the ones I faced have been from people who say they love me and my children.

I don't know if it is possible to totally prepare our children for the people in this world that are full of hate. I guess I don't focus too much on the issue of color. I teach my children that they are beautiful by their actions and outlook on the world. I think it such a tough line to walk. I don't want to teach my children to be hyper-sensitive about their color and what others think of it but I also don't want to teach them to just put up with someone who is ugly to them.

Dmitry was at the park a few months ago and some little boy wanted his attention so he started yelling "hey black kid" over and over. Dmitry finally looked up and answered him...I wasn't bothered by it and neither was Dmitry. If I was to be offended by that wouldn't that be teaching my son that someone calling him black was an insult? I don't want to teach him that. It is just such a fine, hard to do perfectly right line.

Lilysmom said...

Hi everyone, Thank you so much for your perspective as I navigate how to better handle a situation If and when it occurs. I just wanted to say that I was not upset that the boy noticed a difference between the two of them I was upset that the difference = that he could not play with her. It made me sad. I think that a lot of you are right children are just making observations and trying to figure out the world. Their comments are mostly, probably not racially motivated but even so the fact that at such a young age that would be a reaction to have made me upset. And lastly thank you Aimee for all the book titles I will definetly look into them. One of my favorite childrens books is The human Race it is a silly and cute play on the word race and how a child percieves it as an actual running race.

Rhonda said...

This is such a difficult situation for so many of us. We haven't experienced the negativity yet but I'm sure it will be coming. I have read quite afew books and to be honest I still wonder what I will say and/or do when the time comes. I think sometimes we try so hard to do the "right" thing that I know I overanalyze it!! We just had the "heaven" talk yesterday after a bunny died at the preschool and I'll tell you what, I most definitely wasn't prepared for that! So said, we'll talk about it later and then after being home, dinner done, baths done, we sat down and talked a little about heaven and all she really put into play was that Jesus is in the big sky! Too cute. I am liking right now reading the "strong willed child" as that fits my youngest to a "t"!!!

First I have to say, I absolutely LOVE the magazine subscription "Adoptive Families" and they always have areas broken down by age group and gives ideas based on that when talking about adoption or about race.

I also enjoyed :
Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina (talked alot about adoption in general and alto on attachment and bonding and basic parenting an adopted child)
Talking with Young Children about Adoption by Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher

Raising a Daughter by Jeanne Elium and Don Elium - I liked it because after raising two boys, it gave me some general concept on differences with gender and then I always look to understand is this happening due to issues with being "adopted" or is this just normal behavior!

With Eyes Wide Open - a great workbook for parents adopting international children - by margi Miller/Nancy Ward and Children's Home Society of Minnesota

Adoptiion Parenting- by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae - really liked this and I go back and forth to different areas to adoption parenting and has alot of practial approaches......

"I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla" by Marguarite Wright. It is a great book about how kids learn to identify race and color and when they put it all together.

Have also enjoyed reading the Trasracial Adoptees tell their Stories - great book

For kids:
I've the following that I've used on various times -

The Day we met you by Phoebe Koehler - explains adoption in general to young ages.

Rosie's Family - An adoption story by Lori Rosove and pictures by Heather Burrill - great book for home and school

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza - started reading this at early age and both girls love it.

How I was Adopted by Joanna Cole - haven't sat down to read it yet but looks great.

Why are all Families Different? by DK Publishing - I really used this early on with my oldest son who has many special medical needs and physical appearances so this was great with him and will do this as well when we talk more about race/color and etc. with the girls.

All Families are Different by Sol Gordon we've been talking about this with the kids and used it with our second son when he was embarrassed at having a "different looking sibling" and basically talks about how all famlies are different in every type of unique ways, some you can see and some you can't.

We see the Moon by Carrie A. Kitz - I love this book and it's a great introduction if I ever get around to starting the girls' lifebooks!!!

Children of Guatemala by Jules Hermes - FULL of pictures and both girls know they were "born" in Guatemala but am hoping to show them how beautiful all children are by showing them what the children look like from Guatemala so they don't just think "gotmala" is just some name for some strange place!!! The girls LOVE this one!

Tell Me Again about the Night I was born - by Jamie Lee Curtis - I loke this one but girls weren't overly into it.

Over the Moon by Karen Katz - Love this one too but isn't one of the girls' favorites but very cute book.

I don't have your eyes by Carrie Kitze - and I've used this recently as our oldest daughter is noticing differences.

Hope this helps.....we're all in this together.