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#1 of 19 Old 04-02-2009, 02:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone! This is my first time on this particular board and I am wondering if any of you mamas could help me out with my dilemma. Okay - I have a 5 year old son - I am white and his biological father is black. His bio dad has had nothing to do with him ever. We dated for about 2 1/2 years and when I found out I was pregnant I knew that he would not be involved and the both of us thought it was for the best (he is not one to take responsibility, drinks and bit too much, has no stability and no desire to take care of a child). About 2 1/2 years ago I met and married a wonderful man (who is white) and we have since had another wonderful little boy.

I have never told my son that his bio dad is black. I have actually not told him anything about him until about 5 months ago when he asked who his 'real dad' was (he was mad at his dad and wanted to get him where he knew it would hurt). Anyway, I told him a little but he really didn't press me for too much information and I didnt want to overload his mind. I told him that the next time we were at grandma and grandpas I would show him a picture of him. Well, we are traveling and I still have not showed him a picture and he has not said anything about it since.
Over the fall, my son said something about - white like us, he has also made comments lately about how tan he is compared to his brother (who is ghostly white) but he has not said it in an inquisitive way more of just a statement and then moves on to the next thing.
Well, it really bothers my husband that he doesn't know that his bio father was black. I am under the idea that he is not very conscientous about race or ethnicity at the moment and I want to wait until he leads the conversation. I feel like my hubby is obsessed with it and asks me what I do to make sure he in touch with his cultural background. To be completely honest I do very little to make him in touch with any of his cultural backgrounds. He doesn't want him to be floored by the information when he learns that he is half black. I feel like the more organic that we are with it, the more organic that it will feel to him and I do not want him to feel like he needs to have an identity crisis to please his parents.

Today there was a special on tv about what white children think about race and what black children think about race and it was really encouraging to see how open minded and non racist the children were. After I asked my son what the difference is between black and white and he said, 'The only difference is the color of their skin.... oh and there is one more thing (I was waiting for something that would make me think that I was doing everything in the world wrong)... most black people have black hair and it is much darker than white people. But that is about it.'
My husband thinks that I am a Pollyanna because I am not making a big deal out of this but I feel like my husband is going to give our son a complex because of it.

Has anyone gone through anything like this or knows someone who has and could give me some information about their experience - or opinions? Thank you so much
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#2 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 12:26 PM
 
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wow that's heavy. But this thread is designed to be free of judgment. I hope my words do not come across as such.

But I think you do a disservice to your son not to let him know about his heritage. Perhaps you can look in to counseling with a therapist that deals with racial identity. I think a trained third party to help you and your son deal with a very complex issue is healthy for all involved. (Not that being of mixed heritage is the complex issue, but that you and your son have never dealt with it)

I have to leave out in a bit, but will check back her later today to discuss further.
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#3 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 12:49 PM
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I think the book "I'm Chocolate; You're Vanilla" would be a good read for you.

My son is black, I am white, and his father is only recently become involved in his life again.

I do not think teaching a child about race is necessary. I never could imagine taking my son aside and having a conversation about "just wanted to tell you, your dad is black"

How different is his skin? My son is very dark - we know many children lighter than my son who have two black parents, so my son does identify with the darker skin more. He has seen his father, and his grandparents, but we have never talked about race (he has noted they look like him) BTW - my son is 6.5


I had been debating how to introduce the topic, and didn't have to.
We were watching Obama be sworn in, and he said "Obama is black and white" I said "yes". He said "I am black and white" I said "yes" He said "I can be anything I want to be" I said "yes" - The end, he started talking about the performances.

I think focusing on the topic can be harmful, but avoiding it can be as well.

I would ask him if he still wants to see a picture of his father, and follow his lead from there. If he says no, say, let me know when you change your mind, and i will show you. If he does, be prepared to answer his questions. But I don't think that is the time for a race vs ethnicity conversation.

Again, I would suggest you read "I'm chocolate, you're vanilla"



Are you in a diverse environment? How do other children react you your two sons? Is there a difference? Does he know anything of black culture? Is he exposed to diverse materials? (ie characters in books, etc)

As much as I have not discussed race and the feelings behind it, we do have a diverse group of friends, resources, books, toys, environments, etc - more times that not, I am the odd man out, not my child.
Soo even if my son doesn't say identify people by race (the boy in the red shirt, vs the black boy) he does understand different cultures and histories and knows traditional stories from Native American culture, Aferican American culture, hispanic culture, German culture etc

With the environment I provide, my son's 'discovery' was a natural part of his day, not a shock to him.
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#4 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 04:07 PM
 
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Quote:
I do not think teaching a child about race is necessary. I never could imagine taking my son aside and having a conversation about "just wanted to tell you, your dad is black"
Quote:
I would ask him if he still wants to see a picture of his father, and follow his lead from there. If he says no, say, let me know when you change your mind, and i will show you. If he does, be prepared to answer his questions. But I don't think that is the time for a race vs ethnicity conversation.
I think Vaw's post is extremely helpful and I just wanted to emphasis these two parts of it in particular. It seems like you are very reluctant to discuss this with your son. I think you may be turning this into a huge issue when it doesn't need to be. I suggest that when you do talk to your son, you not bring it up with reluctance or hesitation. He may see your reaction and think it's bad that he's half black. Relax, it will be ok. You're telling not telling him that he is terminally sick. You're just informing him about a part of his biological makeup. Good luck to you!

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#5 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 04:38 PM
 
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This is a touchy subject
I have to agree with Yinsum and Frenchie's husband.
I think it's very important for all children (not just biracial children) to know their heritage. It's a part of them.

Frenchie,
I know that your situation is a bit complicated because the bio dad isn't involved- and that plays a big part in your avoidance of the topic, I think.
That's why I believe that Yinsum's suggestion to get a third party involved is good.
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Originally Posted by vaw View Post
I do not think teaching a child about race is necessary. I never could imagine taking my son aside and having a conversation about "just wanted to tell you, your dad is black"
vaw
I respect that you have a different opinion than I do.
I'm just having a difficult time understanding where you're coming from with this particular part of your post (not the rest where you expose your child to various cultural experiences). Maybe I'm reading it wrong. ?

To me, teaching my child about their race/culture/heritage is as important as acknowledging their gender, talking about their name and how we came to choose those names, talking about where they were born, where- we- the parents were born, where their grandparents were born. We talk about our neighborhood, current events, the national and other holidays that we observe, our religious beliefs, our political beliefs.

I don't pull my children aside- these subjects come up naturally, unforced, and regularly.

It's been *my* experience and observation, that if a subject is completely avoided by the parents (whether it's sex, drugs, money, fill in the blank)- the children will never approach the parent on their own to talk about the subject, even if the parent tells them to come to them.
The fact that the subject is never brought up- already sends the message that the topic is taboo.

That would be fine if the child never had to face these issues in their entire lives. But, they will at some point, and they will have had no support and preparation on how to handle these.
Just my 2 cents.
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#6 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for being so thoughtful and honest in your responses, you have certainly given me some things to think about...and to discuss with my husband. I also hope that I did not come off as suggesting the fact that my son is half black is a bad thing (like a terminal illness). That was not my intention at all.
I just assumed that all these questions would come up naturally, but now that he is 6 months from being six, I am a bit more anxious about it.
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#7 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 06:46 PM
 
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I think we often overanalyze kids reactions to things. I think if you just show him a picture and say "this is your biological father, where you get your beautiful skin tone" but "other son's father (DH) wanted to raise you and be your daddy" he would be totally fine with this because he knows him and loves him already. I think it's best to be totally honest, upfront, and open with him.

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#8 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 07:12 PM
 
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I have a white mom and black dad - I lived with both my whole life, so never had any surprises, but my half sister - well her mom got pregnant right when my mom and dad met, and never told my dad about her until she was 12 years old. Keep in mind this was in the '60s and my poor sister went until she was 12 years old being told that her red headed father was her real dad. Then one day I guess she wrote a school paper about how she would never keep secrets from her children and her mom broke down and spilled the beans, sent a letter to my dad, and she has been a part of his life ever since (she is 17 years older than me so I kinda came along after this all played out.

So, clearly this is different from your situation, as your son is aware that he has a different dad and there isn't such an air of secrecy and shame surrounding his father's identity as there was in my sisters home as a child. But I do think my sister suffered from not knowing her cultural identity earlier. Though she has become more in touch with our heritage than any of us three kids my dad had with my mom, I sometimes feel like deep down she is always still trying to assimilate this knowlege - even at 50! Totally my impression, as she has never expressed any of this to me.

Also your DS comments in passing feel to me like he is expressing some sense of curiosity. Not like he is worrying it or anything, but just something he recognizes and puzzles over for a second and accepts and moves on. I would think these could be opportunities to in a similarly non-earth-shaking way say "yeah, your skin is darker than your brother b/c your dad's skin was darker, that is how genetics work - your dad gave you dark genes in your skin" - we like to toss in the big words and complicated theories with our ds and are constantly amazed at how he get them - so not only are you giving him some information about his heritage, you are giving him practical knowlege as well and presenting this info about his dad in a way that I wouldn't think is threatening or scary or startling for him. I agree with a pp that if you turn it into a really big deal b/w you and your husband, it may translate as a big deal to ds which might be more upsetting for him. Just my $0.02!
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#9 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 10:50 PM
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OMG - I just typed a reply for over an hour and its gone!!! There is no way I will be a coherent the second time around!


Quote:
Originally Posted by LoMaH View Post
vaw
I respect that you have a different opinion than I do.
I'm just having a difficult time understanding where you're coming from with this particular part of your post (not the rest where you expose your child to various cultural experiences). Maybe I'm reading it wrong. ?
.
Oh goodness - where did I start?!

I was worried that my post could me misunderstood - I will try to clarify.

I think that culture, heritage, background are very important. I strive to teach my son about all cultures and appreciation for them, not just the ones in his blood. However, I do not stress or teach race. I think one of the most important part of culture to 'teach' is family traditions and stories.

When my child says "look mommy, we are both brown, but you are a lighter brown" I say your are correct. And he is - he is talking about COLOR. I don't say, no, you are black and I am white, or you are mixed/biracial and I am white.

Children are racially innocent, and I think that is beautiful. The longer a child has that innocence, the longer they have to form their own beliefs - not racial sterotypes they have been taught. The belief that people are just people with different backgrounds.

When a 3 year old asks "what color am I", they are not asking what racial group do I belong to, or were my ancestors slaves or slave holders, or even black or white. They want to know if they are purple, yellow, green or brown.

I do not think that race should enfuse everyday actions and language. Maybe I am in this boat alone. I feel that using race in everyday conversation teaches our children to define themselves by that. It makes me cringe when I hear phrases like "get your black behind over here" or "come here my sweet red baby" or even "you have a good grade of hair". I don't think race, skin, or hair should define who a person is or will become.
I want my child to see people as individuals, not to sort them into boxes, and see them for a race.

I don't go around thinking "I wish I had blond hair, because blonds have more fun; too bad I am a brunette and am smart." That statement has two sterotypes in it. I don't let my hair color define my enjoyment or brains - but if I had been taught that from birth it did, I might!

So when I say "I never could imagine taking my son aside and having a conversation about "just wanted to tell you, your dad is black"" I mean that.

I can picture saying "let's talk about your ancestors and where they came from" Or even asking, "We haven't talked about your dad lately, do you want to?"

But I also think that children are not normally looking for the deepest most complex answer. IMO the best approach is to keep it simple. Believe me, if an answer didn't suffice, the child will let you know!

So, if my son asks "Why doesn't my dad live with us? Ben's dad lives with him" My answer would be "Your dad has his own house that is far away. Yes Ben's dad lives with him. Tre's dad doesn't live with him. Families can be made up of lots of different people in different ways."
I don't say "Well, your dad and I stopped getting along, and decided he didn't want to have kids, and started partying so I packed our stuff and moved out . . " Or he __________ (fill in the blank)

If my son asks why are our skin different shades of brown, I would answer that there are lots of different skin tones and that his dad had a darker skin tone and mine is lighter, and when they mixed together, they made his color. Not with an explaination of race.


I'm sorry if this isn't any clearer - I spent a lot more time on the reply that got blasted away before this one!


LoMaH - I hope I provided clarity of my statement

Frenchie - I'm sorry if I have taken your post off on a tangent! Hopefully you got something out of my clarification and I haven't totally hijacked your post.
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#10 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Vaw - Please do not apologize for anything I am really enjoying hearing everyone's different opinions. I agree with a lot of what you have said about the difference between race and ethnicity and I think you did a much better job clarifying yourself than I have been able to lately.

I just wanted to update a bit about my son. He must have been on the same wavelength as me because tonight he asked; 'who planted my seed in you?" Which I do not know where he got that way of saying it, but nonetheless I told him that it was a man named.... to which he responded - 'you were married to him?' I said, 'no we were never married' and he responded with, 'okay, but you dated and when you dated he planted a seed?' So I said, 'yes that is right' and then I asked if he would like to see a picture of him after we ate dinner (of course the conversation happened while we were setting the table for dinner). He said yes and then we went on to have dinner like normal. After I called my parents to have them email a picture which they did and I showed them to my son. He said, 'oh hes black, right? And he has some wild hair!' I basically just said yes and then he said 'okay can you read to me first tonight?' That was it. I am really happy with how it all turned out and I really appreciate you all listening and responding. Take care mamas!!
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#11 of 19 Old 04-03-2009, 11:18 PM
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Frenchie, that is a wonderful story! And its so ironic that, as you were worrying about it, he decided to bring up the subject again.

I am sure he will come around again with more questions, but it seems like your biggest worry is past now. You will do fine I find my son cycles on his topics, like he processes them for awhile, and then decides to question a little more, and then process that. (this seems to be true for everthing from weather, space, to human reproduction and family dynamics, lol)

"plant the seed" lol. I wonder where he heard that from - it could be anything from hearing older children talk, or becuase he just finished reading a book about plant reproduction (like my son just did!) and how he correlated the two together.

Good job momma
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#12 of 19 Old 04-04-2009, 12:15 AM
 
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To an adult mind "planted a seed" sounds soooo x-rated ROFL... Maybe it's just my imagination. Too funny.
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#13 of 19 Old 04-04-2009, 12:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frenchie2 View Post
He said, 'oh hes black, right? And he has some wild hair!' I basically just said yes and then he said 'okay can you read to me first tonight?' That was it.
That's so cute! I figured that's how he'd take it, as DD tends to take things at face-value. How free you must feel! :

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#14 of 19 Old 04-04-2009, 01:21 AM
 
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valerie
Thanks for responding and clarifying.
Not that you needed to justify yourself to me, I just didn't understand what you meant, now I do.
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OMG - I just typed a reply for over an hour and its gone!!! There is no way I will be a coherent the second time around!
Ugh, it's happened to me a few times.:
Quote:
But I also think that children are not normally looking for the deepest most complex answer. IMO the best approach is to keep it simple. Believe me, if an answer didn't suffice, the child will let you know!

Quote:
If my son asks why are our skin different shades of brown, I would answer that there are lots of different skin tones and that his dad had a darker skin tone and mine is lighter, and when they mixed together, they made his color. Not with an explaination of race.
Gotcha!
You know- altho they're hard to find, Crayola actually has multicultural crayons, markers, and pencils (for coloring different skin tones), in case you didn't know.

ETA: Frenchie, "plant a seed" LOL, cute!
You must be so relieved.
Take care
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#15 of 19 Old 04-04-2009, 01:37 AM
 
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Frenchie, I'm glad that the issue came up and you were able to deal with it. I think it's important for you as the mother to start introducing race to him now, because although at this young age he hasn't experienced much racism, he will. And it won't come from you, but it will come from others and it will be important that he has a strong sense of his self and pride in his heritage in order to not be discouraged by others' mean words.

ETA: I'm glad that as a country we appear to be more progressive, but don't let the election of Obama() fool you...we still have a very long way to go with race relations.

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#16 of 19 Old 05-13-2009, 10:58 PM
 
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I don't think you need to make a big deal out of it, but my concern would be in that by not showing him a picture of his bio dad that it will become a big deal. Why not just give him a picture, which is a good idea even if is dad was the same race as you anyways, and answer his questions as they come up. Totally avoiding the issue will make it a big deal later on, he make think you were tryign to hide it from him and then wonder why.
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#17 of 19 Old 05-13-2009, 11:04 PM
 
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I wrote my first post before I read everything. It is interesting that the discussion came up as the result of the birds and the bees. I am finding the same thing with my 5 year old. we have been talking aobut difference in our selves and sameness to parents and how we are each unique and how our skin is different and it is all steming from quesitons about where we come from, babies,e tc.
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#18 of 19 Old 06-11-2009, 12:11 AM
 
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that sounds like such a 5 year old conversation..... ("he's black and he has some wild hair.....can you read to me now? Could have come straight from my house!)

My input was basically going to be to say that you should give him honest answers to his questions when he asks. Which you have.

I am adopted, and I don't remember ever not knowing that, or ever sitting down and having a major conversation where I was "told" I was adopted.
I would think a similar approach would be great for a child in this situation--with a parent of another race who's not involved.
Be honest, just make it a part of everyday life, and they will too.

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#19 of 19 Old 06-13-2009, 12:15 AM
 
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A five year old is relatively easy to explain simple things to. For instance he can learn that since flowers are different people come differently too. When he gets older then he will need to understand what happened in your relationship with his father (not in a bad way) and that you simply did not work things out and remarried, etc. Most kids can accept nowadays that relationships and marriages are sometimes temporary. Due to him having no exposure to his father it may be difficult to relate to the culture of his dad unless exposed to others like him.

The worst that could happen is his feeling rejected by his "real" dad and not knowing him and wondering why he did not come around. Since that is common with many children, he may come up with other coping mechanisms for that.

There are many whites that raise black children and it is not as bad as it used to be to explain things. I think he will do great and since he has a good father figure now, that is the important thing. (Fathers can be any color).: He should not lose anything.
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