The other day, my son and I were playing at the park. A little fair skin boy walked up to me, asking to be pushed on the swing as well. Within minutes, the two of them were shrieking with laughter, as the sun gently kissed their skin. During the summer months, my son’s complexion went from a sweet olive shade, to a very dark tan. On that day, the little boy at the park noticed his complexion. As I helped them both off the swings, he looked up at me and asked, “Are you his nanny?”. A smile broke across my face, as I told him no, “I’m his mommy”. My son looked at me confused, as to why I was even being asked such a question. Over the years, this question became a part of our visits to community centres, while on vacations, visiting parks, etc. At first my son didn’t pay much attention to it, however soon he started picking up on our skin differences.
Why Am I Different?
One day while we were cuddling, he placed his hand over mine and asked why my skin was peach and his was brown. As I started to respond he stopped me with,” and Daddy has an even darker colour than me!”. This conversation took a turn to why he didn’t look like either mommy or daddy, like some of his friends did. I knew someday this question would arrive, and here we are. I looked down at my little man, with his perfect complexion, beautiful large eyes and soft thick hair. I explained that he was a blend of both mommy and daddy, just like those other little children. That he got the best of both worlds, with his own special colour. I explained to him that there is so much more to mommy and daddy than the colour of our skin and all that matters was that we both love him and God chose to make him look special, unique and very handsome! This answer was suffice, in that moment. He crawled down from my lap and walked away. Even though in that moment he was happy, as I watched him walk away I was reminded of the fact that he is different. Raising him is more than just raising a boy with a different shade of skin. It is about educating him, teaching him to respect his family history and being his advocate when others say things without understanding the repercussions of their words.
When Your Experiences Don’t Match
So on I went with my little family, thinking I was totally on top of this family conversation. Until last week, when Vanessa asked me what I thought about the incidences of racial profiling currently being spotlighted in the US. To be honest, I was only dealing with my immediate issues, like finding the right Crayola Crayon to match my sons skin tone. However, when I brought it up to my husband I was shocked by his answer. He looked at me and responded with,”What’s so new about that? I have been dealing with that my entire life.” That stopped me dead in my tracks. Even his sister vouched for the incidences both of them faced growing up. She could recall being a little girl in a store with her mama, grandmother and her baby brother, when they were asked to leave, because the store owner made it clear that they didn’t serve, “Their kind”. It was hearing these stories, that I realized my husband and I were not on the same page when it came to race. Not because we didn’t want to be, but because our experiences were far from similar. His are tainted at best, and mine never effected.
So now we are raising this beautiful little boy. He is not a white kid and he’s not a black kid. So where does he fit in? Not only do we need to agree on how we raise our children, but as partners we had to learn to mesh each of our core beliefs into a blended balance, of our two worldly experiences.
Raising A Son With An African American Father
My husband has deep roots to the underground railroad. His great great Aunt, was not only the first black female editor of a newspaper, she was also the first ever black female lawyer! (Look her up, Mary-Ann Shadd). His great Great- Grandfather played a role in the underground railroad. My husband’s family is very proud of their history, as they should be. From the moment I knew I would marry him and bare his children, I made it my own personal mission to learn as much as I could. One day the stories would be told and I wanted to share their remarkable history with our children, knowing at times there might be some difficult situations we would have to navigate through.
Grocery Shopping.. Turned Interview
I can deal with the questions about the colour of our skin, or when children ask if I’m his nanny. However, it’s the arrogance of some people in our society and the thoughtlessness of their words that I’m not always prepared for. As I was brainstorming for this blog, I was reminded of a time my husband and I were in the hospital with my son. The doctor came in, looked at my husband, looked at me, looked at our child and laughed as he asked, “So, is this the baby daddy?” I had to do everything in my power to keep my husband in his seat, because that was about as rude and ignorant as anyone could be, to a blended family. He then continued to talk to us like my husband was uneducated, or that we were irresponsible. He continued on to mock our marriage with terms such as, baby daddy and baby mama. The examples don’t stop there. I can’t count the number of times, that a store clerk has looked at my son and said to me, “Is he yours?”
I think what floors me, is that we live in a very advanced society, yet still these questions, comments and statements leave peoples mouths with no reservations. As I’m working through all of this and my children grow older, the issues will evolve and change. Now my greatest worry is the comments, as our kids become increasingly aware of our differences. As my children grow, I could be faced with more dangerous issues due to their race. Issues that I never even thought about when I was first married, when our kids were just babies in diapers. I never even imagined. I pray that sharing more stories and experiences, on the topic of raising biracial children, will help other parents and kids that are in similar family dynamics.
by: Melissa Shadd