In our family there are a few things that are obvious. It is obvious that we are loud, we could never be ninjas. It is obvious that we don’t travel lightly, one look at Eden’s overstuffed bag tells you that. It is obvious that the kids don't know where the shoes belong because they are everywhere else. It is obvious, I hope, that we love deeply. It is also obvious that we have different skin colors.
The other day we were doing a series of family pictures. It was our immediate family and my brothers, my brother’s kids, and our parents. It is important to note that my maiden name is Brown. That means that my brother and his wife and kids are the Brown family. Following?
My dad was taking pictures of the kids in all of the combinations, girls and boys, two girls, older girls, and then came by family. He took the Pecaut kids’ pictures and then he said:
“OK. I need all the Brown kids to sit down.”
My son was stunned. He was almost offended. He reflexively, and defensively, responded:
“I’m not brown, I’m black!!”
After reminding him that Brown is their last name he laughed. He laughed really hard. We all did at that point.
As parents we strive to create a space that allows our kids to feel safe in talking about all of the things that affect them, leaving nothing off limits. Race is going to be one of them. It just is. We are not going to get this right all the time. The conversations are not always going to be easy or feel good but we know they are important.
One of my favorite conversations is the one I had with our youngest the other evening. I picked up a copy of Sulwe from our library to read at bedtime. In this book, they talk about dark and light sisters through the context of night and day. While there are many talking points and so much beautiful imagery in this story, my sweet babe pulled out what she resonated with:
“Mommy my heart is crying”
“This book is so beautiful”
“Just like you.”
“Yea, like I am dark and my sisters are light and together we make a family.”
“You, my angel, are a special soul.”
This sweet moment was a good one. Not every bedtime situation is like this. Most nights bedtime is spent questioning why the toothpaste is under the pillow and the dog is missing.
I am not an expert on this white mom raising black kids thing. I will never be either. I am just doing my best to read the books and have the conversations and listen to my kids. As a family, we are learning from each other and growing together.
Still wondering about the toothpaste,