this morning as she sat on her little chair, she pointed to her foot and showed me a blister on her toe. she's peeling the skin with a worried look on her face. i tell her it's no big deal, i explain that it's just a blister and her toe is just making room for new skin. that little flap will peel off and new skin will be ready underneath. her face lit up. "will my skin be like everyone else?" my heart stopped. what was this question and where did it come from?
as i tried to recover from the shock and trepidation, i scrambled to come up with something normal to say. i didn't want to alarm her with all the feelings and thoughts that were going through me. my first questions made her clam up even though i was non-challant in my tone. it was clearly a topic that bothered her. slowly she told me that she felt that she was different from everyone else because in her words "my skin is brown". my heart was breaking.
two years ago i read about children recognizing their similarities and differences amongst each other and using skin color as a method to organize themselves and create associations. i blogged about it here. it's human nature to create affiliations and skin color is an easy method to spot associations just as hair color, eye color or any other attribute is. not to say that bonds or groups are formed over these characteristics but when one of these things is not like the other ... well, then spotting the difference becomes obvious. and we live in a dominantly white community. in fact, kaya may be the only dark skinned child in her preschool. there was an entire chapter on this in that book Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children. my worries began that day. and although, it prepared me somewhat for the possibility of the issue arising, i wasn't prepared to hear it so soon. i certainly wasn't prepared to see and feel the sadness in my little girl over the color of her skin. it took everything in me not to bundle her up and just take her away from it all. i dug around for something to say. something that would make her feel better.
i started with ... "you and daddy have the same color". i moved into describing people we know and what color they were. then i asked her if she wanted to be a different color. she hesitantly answered yes. then we talked about what color she would like to be. i asked if she wanted to be blue or green or purple. then we giggled about how silly that would be and how different it would still be. then i told her that summer was coming and so many of her friends would be turning brown from the sun and all that time at the beach. then i told her that i loved her color and that i wished that i was that color too. and THAT made her look up at me and smile. she hugged me with relief. my sweet little coffee bean.
this is the world we live in. this is the life she has to live.i will do my best to teach her to love her difference and to embrace it. i hope i can stay strong for both of us and not well up with tears as i'm doing now. i hope she will always be able to talk to me about these and any other worries she may have. little dia will have worries of her own. this one may not be one of them but i hope when the time comes, she and i can talk about whatever it is too.