This morning, while my kids where watching their usual PBS shows, I announced that I needed to take a shower. My son startled me at what he said next.
“I need to take a shower. I’m all dirty and stinky.” I said. (I had just done my usual morning workout)
My son looked at me and explained, “You do need to take a shower. I like my color, not yours,” as he pointed to his cheek.
I hesitated, not knowing what to say next.
“What do you mean?”, I asked. ” You don’t like my skin color?”
“I like Sophia’s white shirt.” He explained. That should have been key enough that he didn’t mean what he said, or what I thought he meant.
Probing. “You don’t like me skin color?” I asked again, trying to get into the head of my 3 1/2 year old son, an impossible task itself.
“No, I like your skin color.” he said.
I don’t know why, but I was close to tears.
I called my dad.
“George is 3. He has no idea what he is saying. If he was 10, then you discuss it, but he is 3. You told him you were dirty and stinky. He probably relates it to when he is in the dirt and you tell him he is dirty and stinky and needs to take a shower.”
I know this is probably true.
I don’t know if I am ready to talk about race stuff or if I am ready to handle it. I know it’s not now, but it will be some day. What if your child, who now looks at you with such unconditional love, all of a sudden has questions to why mommy is “different”?
My dad, who is part Caucasian and part African-American, insists that even though your kids probably will ask questions, they will always love you because you are there parents.
And I guess that’s true. I remember being called an Oreo Cookie (kids can be mean) at school but it never made me not like my parents for being one race or the other, it made me not like the kids calling me names.
So I guess all I can do is tell my kids that there are many different types of people in the world and being one way or another doesn’t make you better, it just makes you different. And differences are what make our world what it is today. People are different sizes, shapes, races, religions, and so much more.
Besides without all these different people we wouldn’t have Sesame Street, Spongebob (a sponge) wouldn’t live in the Ocean with a squirrel and a star fish and Bob the Builder wouldn’t be good friends with Scoop, Muck or Dizzy.
Now that, my 3 year old should understand.