I spy…

Buggy’s newest favorite game is I Spy and it usually goes something like this: Buggy: “I spy something green… A TREE!  Mom’s turn”  Me: “I spy something blue (spying a blue plate)”  Buggy: “THE SKY!  I spy something… something … WHITE!  It’s the clouds Mom!  I said WHITE!”

I don’t think she really gets that to play I spy you need to guess what the other person sees not just name something that is the color they said.  She also doesn’t get that you’re not supposed to SHOUT what you spy without letting the other person guess, but hey, for a 2 year old she’s doing great with her colors!

The other day, however, our daily game of I spy turned into her first acknowledgment of her skin color.  She said “I spy something brown… my person!  Mom!  I said MY PERSON!”  I was kind of shocked because she normally names really common objects like trees, grass, and anyone’s shirt color that she can see.  She’s never called herself brown, or talked about anyone’s skin color before so I just kind of sat there.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to reply or what.  But about 3 seconds later I heard “MOM!  Moooommmm!”  from the backseat.  “I said your turn” So I took my turn and continued playing I spy with my beautiful brown Buggy.

I’m still waiting until the day she recognizes and asks about the different skin tones in our family.  From her daddy’s dark brown to her medium brown, the baby’s light brown and my white skin we really are all different colors.  I love that we are so different yet there is so much of my husband and I in each kid, and I hope that she loves her beautiful brown person as much as I do!

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Three Times the Hurt

I recently went to a social event with one of my co-workers.  We both have little boys, and thought it might be fun to take them out for a little playdate while we enjoyed free food and beer.  I brought Froggy, who at the time was 13 months, and her four month old son came along as well.

While at the event we were sitting around talking with other people, playing with our babies, and generally having a good time.  I was wearing Froggy on my back in our Tula carrier, and her son was in his stroller.  An older gentleman came over to talk with us, and asked if the boys were twins.  We both quickly said no, and I said my son was a little over a year and hers is only 4 months.  It was awkward, because he clearly thought both boys were my friends kids.   She and her son have a similar golden brown skin tone to Froggy’s, so to some extent I could see how one might think they were related, but at the same time I was literally wearing my baby, and had been interacting with him all afternoon long.  To me, it was clear he is my kid.  But I guess this man just saw his skin color and thought the three of them were related and I was just a random friend baby-wearing someone else’s kid.

Anyway, about 20 minutes later a woman came over and sat next to us.  At first she kept to herself but after a few minutes she asked to hold my friend’s son.  My friend agreed, and the lady cooed and smiled at the baby.  It was very cute and my friend was able to eat without tiny hands grabbing her food.  Meanwhile, my son was walking from chair to chair and eventually walked over to the lady.  She said “Oh, your big brother is coming to visit”  My friend rolled her eyes (to me, the lady couldn’t see her) and then politely said “That is actually her son” gesturing to me.  I just sat there.  What could I say?  I mean, it was the second time in one day someone clearly thought that my baby was my friend’s baby.

We needed a drink after that, so we went to get our free beer (Hello, pumpkin spice porter!!) and some other people started talking with us.  We exchanged pleasantries and then they turned to my friend and said “What’s the age difference between them?”  (gesturing towards the kids) She said “I don’t know.  My son is 4 months and hers is like a year…?”  One of the men apologized and said “Oh, sorry.  I thought they were both yours”  We both said no worries and went back to our table with our beers.

That third time of having someone mistake my son as my friend’s child really got to me.  I know none of those people were intentionally trying to hurt me, but they did.  It hurt me because I want so badly  for people to tell me my kids look like me, have my hair, my nose, or my smile.  And I know that will never happen.  I accepted that my children probably wouldn’t look like me before my husband and I even got married, and I do not for one moment wish that they look like anyone else, but it is hard feeling like the odd parent out.  I am working on having thicker skin when it comes to comments about my children because I know this is just the beginning, but it’s hard.  If I’m honest, it’s a lot harder then I realized it would be, and I know I’m going to have to be stronger as my kids get older.

Little Brown Boy

Froggy and I recently had a few friends over for a play date. It was a very fun morning, and my friends and I got some much-needed adult time while the kids played. While they were playing, my son reached over and grabbed my friend’s water bottle from her diaper bag and started to chew on it. Her 3 year old daughter said “That little brown boy took your water”. Her mom simply said “His name is Froggy” and we all went on with our play date.

I know that the girl was just trying to specify which boy took the water bottle. At age 3, it is appropriate to label people based on how they look because toddlers do not have the cognitive awareness to realize that it could be construed as offensive to name someone based solely on their skin color. It’s the same reason we don’t say “that fat man”; it is impolite and people don’t like being labeled as fat.

My friend’s daughter was just trying to tell her mom that someone had her water bottle. And, Froggy is a little brown boy. The description let us all know who took the water bottle. I love that her mom simply corrected her by stating his name, and did not bring any attention to what she said. It was the prefect response. I wasn’t offended in the slightest, because I know that children, especially toddlers, sometimes say innocent things that adults take offense to. We make things into a big deal that really aren’t.  The little girl was simply describing Froggy as best she knew how. For some reason, society has deemed it appropriate to say things like “the baby with the curly brown hair” and not “that little brown boy” when both descriptions are accurate and would have let us know she was talking about Froggy.

I think when adults make a big deal about things that children do or say that are unintentionally hurtful or not appropriate it makes the situation worse. Instead, if Buggy makes a comment that may be offensive to others I try to minimize it, and explain why we don’t say that at another time. If I make a big deal and draw attention to the situation it is more likely Buggy will do it again. After all, who doesn’t like attention? It is important to remember that we often need to describe others, and that calling someone black, brown, white, or any other color is an important part of their physical description, the same way stating their height or weight is important if we want someone to know who we are talking about. Now, I don’t really think going around calling everyone “that black man” “or “that brown girl” is very polite, but in some circumstances a full physical description is necessary to get the point across. In other situations, like on a play date with friends, simply correcting the child by stating the other person’s name is sufficient.

Has your child ever described someone based on skin color? How did you respond?