Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Complicated Conversation

My son said something to me today that was out of the ordinary for him.

It was something that made me stop, pause and think.

Really think (and panic) before I responded as best as I believed I could.


I'll begin by saying we have relatives, friends and neighbours from all over the world.  From South America to the Middle East and scattered all around Europe.  My eldest son at 3 years and 8 months has never, not once, made an observation about skin colour or accents.  That being said, I don't want to raise my children 'colour blind'.  Because although the colour of skin does not matter in terms of the fact we are all human beings who feel, love and emote the same (okay, so nobody on earth is all 'the same' per se but we all have a soul, a spirit and we all, everyone, wants to be loved), their background, language and culture is something to take interest in.  Learn from.  Celebrate.

I've been teaching him the map of the world since a very young age....before age 2.  He knows where all of the above countries are and many, many more.

(Kazakhstan, Greenland, Iceland, Australia, Africa etc).

The idea of teaching my sons (and myself - I was completely ignorant when it came to geography before I had Adrian - it is true that your child teaches you more than anyone else) world geography came to me when he was a mere bean in my belly.

Mostly because my husband is a world traveller.

It's important for him to know where in the world his father is working, sleeping, eating.

He also is aware he is Canadian and our world neighbours are "The United States of America." (he refuses to believe it's called the United States or simply the U.S.  I have no idea why but clearly it is terribly important that no one leaves out 'of America' part)

I never thought he 'noticed' the difference of skin colours in the world around us because he's yet to mention anything of the sort to me or his father.

Until today.

As we sat in our local community center and library eating a snack of bagels and muffins my son was, unbeknownst to me, observing a family.

"Mumma, that boy and those people...he's not the same as them."  He also said something to the effect of them not being a 'family' because they weren't all the 'same'.

I looked over my shoulder as discreetly as I could and noticed a little Caucasian boy about 4 or 5 and the couple that was sitting with him, doling out apple slices, speaking with a father and son beside them and looking extremely joyful.  The couple was Asian although their exact origin is not something I'm very good at telling.  They very clearly adored this little boy and although there could have been many different takes on who exactly they were to him, I decided to take the horse by the reigns and see where I could go with this.

My heart started to beat a little faster, my mind quickly working to verbalize what to say and what not to say.

(I write mostly because I'm terrible at verbalizing.)

"Bud, have you heard of the word adoption?"  I don't even know why I asked the question...of-course he hadn' was a delay tactic for me to think about what on earth I was going to say.

"No...what does it mean Mumma?"

I took a deep breath.  Still unsure what I was 'supposed' to say. (this is where a parenting 'how-to' book would come in very handy) 

Simplify, simplify, simplify.  I kept telling myself.

(I took another deep breath and held onto those reigns for dear life praying that I wouldn't fall off.)

"It means that a baby's own parents were not able to take care of them....for different reasons.  So they give their baby to a very special place where very special people can take them home and love them and care for them.  Just like Mommy and Daddy love you."

He kept looking over at them.  I could see his little mind working a mile a minute.

"Or they could be his babysitters.  Yeah.  I think they're his babysitters."

"Or they could be his babysitters.  Okay!"

And that was where the horse stopped.

I figure we'll hop back on at a later date.

But for now.  This horse was tired.


For my dear blogger buddy, Laura, over at An (un)Common Family I thought about you the whole time...I hope I did right by you.  

And for all my wonderful readers...if you haven't swung by her blog are missing out.  She is funny, intelligent and insightful.  Go now!


Ellen said...

I can't wait to read how you handle "where do babies come from?" ;) You may want to start preparing now. Loved Adrian's response. Could they have been grandparents? Mixed marriages are so common today.

Christi said...

You handled that awesomely!! Good for you!!

Lisa said...

Awesome. Seriously. You did a great job.

Alex | Perfecting Dad said...

Cool observation by your son. He's testing his "schemas" and adjusting. He's not being racist, don't worry, he just had a definition of a family in his brain and saw one that didn't fit. You should be really proud that he's aware enough to #1 notice and #2 mention it to you.

What you say is just what you said, without the heart attack :)

Could be an adopted kid like you said, could be babysitters like he said, could be a parent with a sibling and the other genetically similar parent somewhere else, could be abductors, could be actors, etc etc. Important thing is to open his mind to know that they COULD be a family so that he won't think it is something lesser.

I think the opportunity was good to talk about it more. Talk about where people come from, what they look like from where. It's a pretty cool conversation for a kid. Like yours, mine is now enamored with geography. He's forever drawing flags, listening to anthems, checking populations, learning capitals. It's the perfect opportunity to make some news relevant with so much going on in the middle east, Europe, etc.

Anyway...I'm sure he didn't just become a racist :) It was probably the same kind of question to him as "Hey, why are all the other stores in the mall open but that one is closed?"

Haven't commented in awhile, but this post struck me as something I'd like my kids to notice. Tell me where to find that family of babysitting Asian actors :)

January Dawn said...

@Ellen - don't worry Mum - I've got that covered already. I'll just tell him what you told me. Do you remember?

@Lisa and Christi - thank you ladies, so much. I always worry that I'm going to do/say the wrong thing and he'll repeat it somewhere completely inappropriate. But...I think I did okay. I appreciate your feedback!

@Alex - You're so right about him just noticing the basic 'one of these is not like the other' Sesame Street lesson. But racism isn't what I was worried about in the least here. I certainly hope I *never* have to worry about that in my household. I don't think I will. Thank you for your always in depth and interesting comments. I always enjoy them and they always make me laugh. (maybe you can 'hire' some Asian babysitting actors for your kids to notice?)

Ellen said...

Do I remember what I said when you asked "Where do babies come from?" Not even a little bit. Hope you weren't scarred for life.