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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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?

Little Mulatto

After a night of trick-or-treating with my family and some of our friends, we had a bonfire in my friend’s driveway.  Her neighbors kept stopping by to say hello, and some stayed to chat.  One couple, a white woman and black man who have two children, stayed a while and talked with all of us about random things.  It was a fun evening, and a great way to end our Halloween.

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Yabba Dabba Doo! We were the Flinstones for Halloween this year!

As we were loading the kids up to leave, the man said “Bye, little mulatto” and waved to Buggy.  Mulatto, by definition, is a person of mixed white and black race, particularly with one white and one black parent.  While Buggy does fit this definition, the word mulatto has a negative connotation.  It is offensive, and brings unnecessary attention to the fact that someone is mixed race.  It hurt me that he would label my daughter mulatto, and it upset me that someone who’s children are also mixed race would not think twice before using a word like mulatto to describe a child.  There was absolutely no reason to add mulatto to the end of his salutation.  It did not serve any purpose beyond pissing me off and reminding everyone present that my daughter is half black and half white.

I really wanted to give him a piece of my mind, and let him know that he was using a derogatory word towards a sweet, innocent, and beautiful toddler girl.  I wanted to tell him that his words cut through me, and hurt me – the white parent of a mixed race child.  I wanted to tell him that his words could hurt her self-esteem and have a damaging effect on the way she views herself as a mixed-race person.  I really wanted to teach him that it would be acceptable to call my daughter by her name instead of referring to her as a mulatto, or that he could have simply said “Bye”.  I wanted to say that there was no reason for him to make mention of her being mulatto, and that it isn’t nice to refer to people by their skin color.  I really should have responded with “Bye, big Black man”.  But, since we were leaving anyway and everyone else was already in the car, I left it alone.

On the ride home, my husband commented that he would normally be offended if someone called Buggy a mulatto, but this guy also had mulatto kids. He said it’s like if black people call each other the N word, it is okay.  His thinking is that because they are Black they have the right to use an offensive work towards others in their race.  This really bothers me.  I don’t think anyone, no matter what they look like should use the N word, or call somebody a mulatto.  I don’t think that using words that describe a person’s skin color are necessary in casual conversation, and I don’t think that anyone deserves to be called rude or racist names.

Has anyone ever called your child a name you don’t like?  How did you respond?

Adding Insult to Injury

Buggy had her first trip to Urgent Care this summer after she slammed her hand in a door.  I saw it happening, but I was too far away to pull her hand out of the way before a blood curdling scream filled my ears.  I quickly rushed to her and saw that her hand was already twice the size it should be.  We put ice on it and after about 10 minutes we decided to take her in, just in case it was broken (thankfully, it was just swollen and bruised pretty badly, but it looked terrible and being first time parents we wanted some peace of mind that everything was okay).  My husband said her fingers looked like little snickers bars, they were so fat!

My husband, Buggy, and I walked into the urgent care together and they sat down while I filled out the paperwork and we waited to see the doctor.  I sat across from them in the waiting room because there weren’t 3 seats next to each other.  A couple next to me started talking to me, asking when my baby was due.  First they said “I doubt you’ll make it to your due date, you’re so big already!” (thanks, that was a really helpful comment… NOT!) and then one of them asked if it was my first.  When I said no, Buggy is my first, and pointed to her and her daddy, the man gave me a really odd look of disbelief.

I guess in my mind since we walked in together and I had clearly been talking to my husband while filling out the paperwork it seemed obvious that we were together.  But to him it must have seemed like I was there on my own.   Maybe it was because this was Buggy’s first real injury and I was worried about her, but I felt very insulted by the whole interaction.  They couldn’t tell we were a family?  And do I really look that huge?  I’ve since chalked it all up to the fact that old people sometimes say things they don’t realize are offensive or unhelpful.

Why is she black?

I recently took Buggy to the park for “Dinosaurs in the Dirt”.  A naturalist comes and talks to kids 0-5 about dinosaurs and then the kids get to play with dinosaurs and dig up dino “bones” in the sand pit (which is actually the volleyball court) at the park.  Buggy had a great time playing in the sand and roaring like a dinosaur.  She even buried one and later said “good girl” when she found it again!  So cute!

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Anyway, while we were there I saw two of my former students (siblings).  They came to say hi and the little girl asked if Buggy was my daughter.  When I said yes, she asked “But why is she black?”  I tried to explain that Buggy’s dad is Black, but the girl didn’t get it.  She kept asking me why was Buggy’s dad Black, and I think that she didn’t really understand that people of different races can marry and reproduce together.

Her mom was quite embarrassed by all the questions, but when the kids went off to bury more dinosaurs and play in the sand I explained that I was used to this kind of questioning, and that it is normal for 5 year olds to wonder about skin color and talk about differences, especially obvious physical differences.  The mom was grateful for my patience, as her daughter just went on and on and wanted to know more about what my husband looked like and how Buggy could be so brown when I was so pale.

I actually didn’t mind one bit that the little girl was asking so many questions.  Like I’ve posted before, I’ve gotten many questions about Buggy’s appearance and I’ve become more and more aware that children in particular tend to ask questions that we, as adults, don’t ask because it isn’t socially acceptable.

I found it interesting to see other’s reactions to the little girl’s questions.  One random lady who overheard the conversation between the little girl and I came up to me later and said “My white friend married a Black man and their son is a lot paler then your daughter, but she’s still mixed” I actually didn’t really know how to respond since all mixed kids (actually ALL kids) look different from one another.  We all have our own skin tone, hair color, eye color, ect. and someone being lighter skinned then someone else really doesn’t matter.  I just said “Yeah” and then went over to Buggy and roared like a dinosaur!

Maine

Growing up in Maine, the whitest state in the country, I never really experienced diversity until I left the state and went to college.  Even then, I attended a small, private liberal arts college in Washington State (Go Loggers!) where the majority of the students were white and my one black friend nicknamed me Wonder Bread.

As a small child I had only white friends.  We lived in a white neighborhood.  At my elementary school I can only remember 1 non-white student.  This wasn’t something my parents planned, it just happened that way because we lived in a predominately white area of a very white state.  In high school I did have a few Asian friends, and there was the token Black guy who was the star of the basketball team, but other then that I don’t remember a whole lot of people who were different races then me.

Now, as a white woman married to a black man, I have a new understanding about how growing up in a predominantly white state impacted my racial identity and why some people who have never been exposed to diversity may make rude or inappropriate comments.

I took my husband to my hometown over 4th of July weekend, and we visited a local bar.  A friend of a friend (who I had never met) walked in, saw my husband, and said “Wow, a black guy in Bangor” I didn’t hear this comment (my husband told me about the incident when we got home) but at first it bothered me that someone would say this.  In reality, there weren’t other Black people in the bar, and there are very few Blacks in town, so my husband stood out. He wasn’t really offended by the fact that this guy pointed out that he was the only person of color in the establishment because it was the truth, and also because my husband is a very confident man who isn’t easily offended.  I think it’s because he grew up in a diverse area, where he experienced comments about his race throughout his childhood, whereas I am experiencing racially driven comments for the first time in my life as his wife and Buggy’s mom.  It is a new experience for me, and one that I am not yet comfortable with.

The guy in the bar was simply stating a fact that there was a Black guy in town, and that this is a novelty.  It wasn’t meant to be rude or to make anyone feel bad.  I think the guy’s surprise at seeing my husband kind of surprised me at first.  But now I get it – he hasn’t been exposed to many people with different skin tones and was unable to keep his mouth shut when he saw someone who looked different then him.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in Maine since I moved away a decade ago, and I have never been there with my husband until now.  Where we live in The South there are many people of different races, and it isn’t uncommon to see mixed race couples around town, so being around someone who hasn’t had similar experiences to me and wasn’t afraid to say what he was thinking was an odd experience.

Buggy had a wonderful time on vacation, and the only comments she got were “she’s so cute” “I love her giggle” and “adorable” Since my husband is darker then her, I guess people were too shocked by his skin color to notice hers.

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Buggy’s favorite part of vacation was playing with my brother’s dog!

Baby Envy

My friend and I were enjoying an ice cream at TCBY when a photographer came in and started taking photos of patrons enjoying their treat.  Because I know that Buggy is the cutest baby on the block I inquired about the photo shoot.  Turns out they were taking pictures for a new website for the mall area we were in.  I asked if they would take our picture (because who doesn’t want to be famous with their photo on a random website nobody’s ever heard of?) and they said yes!  I was super excited!

While snapping a few photos of us the photographer asked me “Where does your baby get her curly hair?”  Before I could even reply he says to me “She has kind of creepy big eyes.”  Um… dude… not a compliment.  I didn’t even reply to him, I just smiled at my friend and the baby and pretended I didn’t hear him.

When I got home and told my husband that someone said Buggy had creepy eyes he said didn’t seem very bothered.  But it bothered me, and it still does.  She does have exceptionally large eyes, which look even larger because as a baby her head is big in comparison to her body (as all baby’s are), but her eyes are not creepy.  They are a honey brown in the middle and get darker the farther from the pupil you look.  And she has the most prefect long dark curly lashes, the kind that will never need an eyelash curler or mascara to stand out.  Actually, I’ll just go ahead and admit it.  I am jealous of my baby’s eyelashes.  I have baby envy.  I am still confused why a photographer, of all people, would tell someone their baby’s eyes are creepy, but I’ve moved on to obsessing over her eyelashes.  And her perfectly arched eyebrows.

What feature of your child’s is your favorite?