Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When I grow up....

We were playing a game tonight and Jet pointed to a picture of a boy with brown skin saying it was Bug. Then he said the boy with white skin was himself. I said that doesn't look like my boy, both of my boys look like this boy, as I pointed to the boy with brown skin.

Jet was not happy with this comment, as he whimpered his response.

He doesn't like or want brown skin.

He asked his next question with tons of hope in his voice--"Will I have white skin when I grow up"?

So sad, only one year in and he has a desire to have a different color skin. I would give anything to have the beautiful brown skin my munchkins are naturally blessed with. My other 2 have not experienced this before/yet.

I find it so interesting as this last year I have become so disillusioned living in the United States. (Not that Americans are the only "white" skin colored culture) And this impressionable aged child comes to America, sees many white people and believes that is something to strive for and desire. What is it about our culture/environment that permeates a young child's mind, creating this type of a reaction to something as basic as the color of their skin. To make him want to be white when he grows up. To be willing to "change", hope to "change" what he looked like for 8 years, what all the others he knew looked like, abandon all that for something he believes is better. He was honestly disappointed in my answer. To the point of tears starting. He is not even the darkest of our children. So why does he see it as important? And where did the notion come from?

And, most importantly, what can I do to educate, encourage, explain to him that he can and should be valued by who he is on the inside. Not by the color of his skin. And that the color of his skin does not influence how much money, food, things, success....one has.

8 comments:

Coley - giving it our all said...

I think it might be less of him not wanting to be tan, and more of him wanting to look like you. Honestly, I would see it as a sign that he's becoming securely attached to you.

Kelly said...

I watched a couple lessons from a first grade teacher. She took a white egg, and a brown egg, and the kids talked about how they were different - just like some people have white or brown skin. Then she cracked them both open and put them in the same bowl. The kids quickly noticed that inside they were exactly the same, and if cooked would even taste the same.

Later, they all had to mix paint to exactly the same color of their skin. Allof the children realized that they weren't the same color as white or black,or brown. All of them had to add white, or brown, or pink to their paint to eventually achieve the right color. Then they painted portraits of themselves.

My own children tend to say brown or pink instead of black and white. I don't know why, they just always have. In Seattle our good friend Anthony was African American, and our oldest daughter was 3 before she noticed. Then at some point she wanted to buy a doll that was brown, and promptly named it "Anthony girl." The lady standing behind me in the check out line chastized me for letting her have a black baby doll because white children should have white dolls. I bit my tongue very hard.

I think you will eventually get through to him that he is a valuable member of your family, and suspect he is still feeling a little unsteady still. You are a tremendous mom, so I know you'll help him through it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I used to live in Thailand and I found there could be a lot of racism towards darker skinned Thai people there. A lot of Thai people associate skin colour with wealth, status, intelligence and beauty. Some of this is based on traditional beliefs and linked to Chinese culture, some of it is plain racist. Skin whitener is found in almost all beauty products from deodorant to facewash to mosturiser and people spend as little time as possible in the sun. Thai people are also very open (and often a little tactless) and can be very vocal about their views on skin colour. Maybe his experiences in Thailand have contributed to his opinions, I encountered very young children who had inherited society's beliefs and were already exhibiting signs of feeling different or inferior. I'm sure you will be able to slowly re assure him that the colour of his skin doesn't matter and that he is amazing just the way he is.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean that comment to sound quite so negative about Thai people. Obviously most people are not racist and the desire to have paler skin is quite similar to western caucasians desire to have tanned skin and to use fake tan and tanning beds to achieve this. But all of this could have affected his understanding of skin colour and I was just trying to offer some insight into why he might feel that way.

Robin said...

I was going to leave a comment similar to Anonymous. In Thailand, there is a cultural preference for lighter skin, as higher class people work in offices while the poor labor in the fields (and therefore get much darker skin). It's very possible that his aversion to dark skin didn't stem from living in America. It doesn't make it any sadder, though. I really like Kelly's idea of the egg lesson.

Angie said...

We've had this conversation at home since our kids all have different skin tones. No one has expressed an interest in a different tone, but when we do talk about it (or eye color, etc.), we're sure to include that God gave us our looks for a reason and that each one is special. I've often heard that kids want to have the same skin tone as their parents. I even had a preschool student once that said the same thing!

Jay and Chandra and Penny Regan said...

All of these comments are true. Our daughter sometimes said things about wishing she was more like me. But, lately, she's talking about how she is happy about how God has made her. I love the old Sunday School song, "Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world!"

Annie said...

Megan, very interesting- that he feels that if his skin were "whiter" that would somehow be better. In China also, darker skin is sometimes not preferred, so this might be something he has learned and has permeated the Asian culture. How sad that he might feel inferior, and like you said, I would love to have that beautiful, flawless, brown skin! Maybe you could get some movies or stories about some awesome, various ethnic people who are achievers in sports or music or film. Then Jet could look up to them and understand that there are no limitations with color!