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My son wants to be "White like you, Mom"

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I almost cried this morning. He is FIVE for God's sake! WHERE is he getting this???????

(my kids are half-Sudanese, half white-American, Caucasian whatever I'm supposed to call myself. The general consensus is they are gorgeous and a beautiful skin tone. All 3 are a gorgeous coffee-cream)

SO..........anyone want to give me ANY idea where this is coming from or what I should say??? cause I didn't have a clue other than to tell my baby he's gorgeous just the way he is.....

also a few months ago, he made a comment (QUIETLY WHISPERED, THANK GOD) in a public waiting room that he did not want "those black people looking at him"

I was equally shocked then and talked to his preschool teacher about it. She couldn't think of *anything* at school.

Ideas????????? Is this "normal?"

To my knowledge, no kids have made any comments or anything like that. But we do live in a predominantly white city and while his preschool class is pretty diverse, (about half non-white, a few other kids with his skin color or similar) outside of that he has little contact with other-than-white kids. This is one thing I plan to change.

dh even mentioned taking him out of school for a second figured it had to come from there but then said he just needs more contact with black people---I.E "sudanese community" which I agree, he does.
post #2 of 19
He isn't necessarily getting it from somewhere, it could just be his own observations. There is a chapter in Nurture Shock about this.

Do you talk about skin color as a family? Does your DH talk about where he comes from and why he is darker than you?

I know it can seem a bit odd at first, but DH and I do this with DS sometimes. We show DS how his skin is almost exactly half way between DH's tone and mine. We talk about where his various grandparents come from. We also talk about how he shares daddy's chocolaty brown eyes, but got mommy's soft hair instead of daddy's wiry hair. We let him know he's a little bit of both of us.
post #3 of 19
I think this is a pretty normal age for kids to become aware and talk about skin color. He may not be saying it as a negative to the color he is (or his father is) but more as an identification with you as his mama. My suggestion would be to ask him more questions about why and what that means to him, to see if it is because he thinks being brown is a negative (and possibly where it came from), or if he's just wanting to identify more w/ you.

I am white, my husband black and our first son is very light-skinned. He often calls himself white. At first I tried to explain that although his skin is light, he also got many characteristics from his father. I started to realize that he wasn't saying he was "white" as in culturally or genetically white, he just meant that his skin was "white like mommy's." It will be interesting to see how he identifies ethniclly as he comes to understand the term "white" means more than just his skin color.

It does sounds like a really good time to have more conversations about it in an age-appropriate way to make sure his skin color and mixed cultures are a source of pride, and in general I'm sure it'll be a good thing for him to be exposed to more cultures and ethnicities.

Good luck!
post #4 of 19
Normal, normal, normal. Don't freak out just yet. Do talk about it to make sure he isn't getting the wrong message somewhere, but he may just be wanting to identify with you and that was one way he noticed some "separation" between the two of you, that you look different. That he mentioned "those black people" may not have been negative but just his childish and simplistic way of identifying people who he was uncomfortable with (were they staring at him, or staring at your family? We get "observed" by all sorts of people, of all different races, when we go out )

My kids are very curious about the differences they notice in humanity, and of course especially between myself (white) and dh (Ethiopian). So we talk about it, whenever they bring it up. I also make an effort to point out beauty in the differences of other people we see, so they understand that beauty isn't based on a particular shade of skin or texture of hair or body shape.

If you can get your chidlren involved in the Sudanese community that would be very good for them, in a whole lot of ways, not just relating to skin color.
post #5 of 19
I agree, it may be more innocent than you're currently thinking. When I was 5, I wanted glasses like my mother had too. It didn't occur to me that someone should NOT want them. It may be his way of saying he loves you and wants to be just like you, not that he dislikes his own skin color. As for "those black people" he might have felt uncomfortable about any number of things (perhaps they were loud for instance) and their skin color was simply the first way he thought to identify them. I mean, it could be that their skin color was irrelevant, it was some other reason he didn't want them staring, but he didn't think to say "those people in the green jackets" instead.
post #6 of 19
I'm not in your situation, but for what it's worth, I just wanted to say I thought your response to your son was handled beautifully.

I am african-american and grew up in a predominantly caucasian area. The thing that helped me identify closely to my own heritage was my mother. She educated us (stressing both race and family background) on who we were and where we came from in a way that countered the negative feedback we received from those around us. I think it helped us stay grounded and feel proud to be who we were.

But I agree with the other posters--this may not be coming from anywhere other than the curiosity of a developing brain. All kids are going to notice differences around a certain age. My brother's children have a caucasion mother and the thing that they tended to notice over skin color was body size. We are rather...ample...in my family!

No matter what, it's of great benefit to your kidlet to be more exposed to ALL of the cultures in his own personal gene-pool, and other cultures as well. I'm sure if he knows more about the sudanese culture, he will be less likely to identify those with different color skin by their skin alone. My niece and nephews are much older now, and still could care less about skin color because they live in an area where they've been exposed to a rainbow of people from birth.
post #7 of 19
I am white and my DS15 is biracial--I am a single mom. My son has gone through this several times. The first time was when he was about the same age, 4 or 5. He would put his arm beside mine and say "Look, mommy, I am white too!" It was true, he was very light and our skin color did match at that time. I just took the time to explain that he was biracial and was beautiful and special.

Fast forward to teenage years, and it gets a little harder. DS told me this summer that he doesn't relate to black kids at school. He identifies as white. He says he is proud of being biracial, but he just "feels" white.

post #8 of 19
A couple of months ago, my then 3.5 yr old told me nonchalantly, "Mommy, I wanna be white like Zachary [his very white friend at school]. No one had ever mentioned race to him, or pointed out differences in skin color. Yup, even at that age, they are noticing little things that you thought could not have occurred to them. I don't even remember how I responded but I didn't make a big deal and have always tought him that we are all the same.
post #9 of 19
it is totally normal. they see others it seems like with new eyes sometimes and their statements are sometimes quite shocking. i would just try to expose him more and talk about diversity with him.

i remember my great embarrassment when my dd asked her teacher who is Mexican and Caucasian, "do you live in Chinese?" she equated her black hair with being from China. her teacher, however was no where near as taken aback as i was. she said that actually a lot of children ask her if she is Chinese.

just take some deep breaths and it will all be okay.
post #10 of 19
If it's any comfort, my first thought was "I wonder if he's under 7, like the boys who say they want to be girls?"

Apparently, it's a pretty common thing for kids to want to be like their mamas at that age.
post #11 of 19
My DD has made comments about wanting to look like me, I don't know if it started just before she turned 5, or she was already 5, but it seemed to be a wanting-to-be-like-mom stage, and the fact that skin tone or hair color was involved was secondary. Later on, it seems like things can get more nuanced and more difficult, but so far, for us, I think it's been normal and harmless.
post #12 of 19
My kid (half-white, half-Vietnamese, with lovely tan skin) said the same thing to me when she was about 5. We took the "explain-the-science" route like eepster. We talked about genes, and how she looks partly like daddy and partly like mommy. I also explained to her about melanin and its function in protecting the skin, and isn't it wonderful that she has so much more of it than her best (very pale) friend, so she can stay out in the sun longer without having to worry about getting burned.

This approach worked for us, our daughter is as geeky as we are LOL. And to this day, she uses the brown crayon when she draws herself.
post #13 of 19
It's totally normal for a child his age to want to be like his mommy. He's probably not getting the idea from anywhere but his own mind.

Whenever kids have questions about their bodies, I always tend to say something like, "You were made just the way you were supposed to be."
post #14 of 19


I'm white, my ds8 is mixed, but looks like me, (his bio father was mixed)

My partner of the last 4 yrs is chinese. A few months ago, while shopping in the local chinese market, my ds, says, mom, I want to be chinese. I coudln't help but giggle. I then explained WHY he coudln't, then declares that he wants his kids to be chinese...LOL.... had to explain that to! Great stuff!
post #15 of 19
My dd who's 5 tells me she wants to be blond like I am. She's dark like her dad. Both my dh and I are white but he's obviously a lot darker and all three kids take after him.

So I'm hearing it and we're not racially mixed. Kids say this kind of thing and people also think that I'm not their mother. It may be more rooted in that. In his head, he might be thinking along the lines of "I wish I were more like my Mom". Take it as a compliment!

Sometimes my middle child says "I still love you even though I don't look like you" and my oldest will come to me with "Hey look, I have the same kind of big toe you do Mom. See, I do have something from you..." It's like they have to establish a connection or something...

What was cute was their Ice Skating teacher adopted a little girl who looks just like her. We joke about it, how my kids are genetically linked to me but it's not obvious while no one would ever think that her daughter is anything but her own bio child. She's her little "mini-me".

I think all kids go through this. I try to put them in contact with other international families. They're not the only ones who have more than one nationality, not the only ones whose mother is from another country and not the only ones who speak something other than French at home (I'm in France and dh is French).

I would have said something like "...and what would that change?" By all means, emphasize his good looks and/or joke about the amount of sunscreen you have to use but don't totally dismiss his concerns.

You may want to de-emphasize race and point out that there's something "different" about almost any child. So-and-so's dad is also from another country or this boy's parents are divorced so he has two homes, etc. If you need to get serious, you can point out that his "differences" aren't going to impact his future as if he had a learning problem or were handicapped. This is getting dramatic so keep it in your "reserve".

All kids go through identity issues and it's our job to keep it in perspective.
post #16 of 19
But we do live in a predominantly white city and while his preschool class is pretty diverse, (about half non-white, a few other kids with his skin color or similar) outside of that he has little contact with other-than-white kids. This is one thing I plan to change.

Where do these non white kids come from in your predominently white city?
he needs contact with non-white adults more than with non white children IMO...

My daughter is bi-racial and often tells me that she wishes she had my (straight) hair. I commiserate - her hair takes a lot more time than mine does... then there's always that factor that he loves you so much - of course he wants to be just like you But she was delighted to have a friend who "looks like her" as well. My friends and co workers who are black are evenly divided between those who have natural hair and those who chemically straighten. So far, she still prefers to have natrual hair, but it doesn't mean she doesn't wish for easier care hair. not good or bad hair, just more time intensive. She's also aware that her hair is not straight and will never be straight, but that doesn't mean she doesn't voice her desire for easier hair.
My 6 yr old bi-racial son is hilarious with his notices. I live in Milwaukee WI - IN Milwaukee, not one of the suburbs. We were at a park this summer and as we left he said, "Man, there's a lot of black kids there" Immediately followed by "I know I'm black, but they are really black!" I don't think of this as good or bad; it's just a notice he had about how he is different and how he is the same.
He is also immediately drawn to black men; perhaps because he's constantly exposed to black men, from college professors and business men to federal inmates recently out of prison; all positive interactions. But he still wants to marry me

I am loving watching how my kids move through this world and my job, as I see it, is to make sure that we live in a place where they have exposure to a lot of different people so they can feel comfortable with who they are, and how they look.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Contact with non-white adults could help too. He'll get that as I plan on being *a lot* more involved in our faith community and I plan on pretty much *INSISTING* dh be more involved with his cultural community than we have been. He agrees this needs to happen, I am going to keep him to it. that's my job.

We have discussed moving. I have made it clear that if he does, my highest priority is going to a place with a strong Muslim community for the kids--this takes care of having them involved with their faith *and* with people from lots of different backgrounds--all sorts of African, other Americans (that's the part I *really* want for myself) and all the other backgrounds as well.

We talk quite a bit--at his initiation--about where people are from using his globe. And anytime I find a book at his age level about Africa, it comes home. (We have one "I lost my tooth in Africa" it's about Mali, West Africa, but it's got great illustrations and the houses are very much like what DH grew up in, so well, it works. )

I want dh to do more with showing them pictures and talking to them about his family. He may not think they are old enough but I have seen lots of really young children begin to understand who relatives are this way....

anything to make him proud of who he is.

And it can't hurt that we just happen to have a half-African, half-white President.
post #18 of 19
Originally Posted by Stevie View Post
[COLOR="Red"] My friends and co workers who are black are evenly divided between those who have natural hair and those who chemically straighten. So far, she still prefers to have natrual hair, but it doesn't mean she doesn't wish for easier care hair. not good or bad hair, just more time intensive. She's also aware that her hair is not straight and will never be straight, but that doesn't mean she doesn't voice her desire for easier hair.
I will say depending on her hair texture and type, natural hair in the long term might be much, much easier. I found this to be the case for me and it is much easier and less expensive than straight hair for me.

In regards to the thread. One thing that always freaks me out as a woman pregnant with her 1st kid, is that my little girl will "Peola" me (please watch Imitation of Life), i.e. identify as white and reject all traces of blackness to the point she is uncomfortable around black people, cannot relate to black people, and will stereotype black people because of how our society is.

My goal in countering this is to make sure she is around different races and cultures on a regular basis. We do live in a predominantly white area, but plan to move to a more culturally and racially diverse area in the next couple of years. We also make sure to surround ourselves with friends of different cultures. For instance my husband's best friend is hispanic and his wife is white. Another couple we know, the husband is ethiopian and his wife in indian.

I just don't want my child as a teenager or adult hating one aspect of herself due to society and insecurity. I want her to love all of herself.
post #19 of 19
It is perfectly normal for young children to question their skin color... they're in that curiousity stage where they want to know the answers to everything.
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