Originally published at American Family. Please leave any comments there.
“Ok, M, we are going back to the park!” I said.
Even though this was a strange turn of events at 7:20 pm, M didn’t seem to mind.
“You know, M, you said something before that made me think of a story. When Mommy and Daddy first met, some people said ‘I can’t believe you two are friends! You look so different!’ but we said “Don’t be silly! Looking alike doesn’t have anything to do with who is a good friend!’ and Mommy and Daddy became best friends. We ended up getting married! Weren’t those people silly?” I said, possibly a little bit of desperation in my voice.
M looked confused. “But you and daddy DO look alike,” she said.
Hmm. This presented a problem. In previous discussions, M had indicated that she has a very difficult time recognizing the physical traits that people generally use to differentiate between Asians and people of European descent. (In part, I think this is because she currently refers to herself as “white skin,” but she has some of the other traits. We have had other recent conversations about “half Chinese” and her confusion, but that would be a different post.) So we spent a minute or two talking about how some people think Asians’ eyes look a certain way, skin tone, and hair color. It still didn’t seem like she was getting that Mr. A and I were viewed as different from each other, so I decided to change stories.
“M, do you remember meeting my friend Amelia? Do you remember what she looked like?” I asked.
M described my friend’s brown skin and very short hair. M has always been fascinated with Amelia’s very, very short hair.
“Amelia and Mommy look very different, don’t we? Amelia has dark skin, because she is from Africa. Mommy has lighter skin because my ancestors were from Europe. But we are still good friends, right?”
M conceded that yes, we are friends.
“Don’t you think it would be silly if I never talked to Amelia because she looked different from me? How would I know she could be such a good friend if I never talked to her?” I asked.
“Yes, she is your friend and she looks very different!” M said, “She has really, really, really short hair!”
“And she has dark skin,” I said, afraid M was trying to change the subject. “I have lots of friends who look different from me and you have lots of friends who look different from you. Can you think of ways our friends are different from us?”
Then we ran down a list of our friends, naming each one and describing something that was different than ourselves. We talked about different hair color, skin color, different languages people speak etc.
“And look at F!” I said, “You are friends with him and he is a BOY! That is different from you! He has a PENIS!”
M looked at me and said, “Mama, let’s keep potty talk out of this conversation.”
So then I told M I was surprised to hear her say she didn’t want to play with someone because she had different hair and dark skin. “She could be a very nice girl and a good friend. Just like all our other friends who are different from us. You will never know unless you talk to her.” I said.
Just then, we rounded the corner to the park. I saw a little girl who was about M’s age with dark skin and braids playing on the playground. I took a deep breath and we headed toward the slides.
(To be continued)