Do you point out the skin colour differences ? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 05-02-2009, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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hello !

first of all i hope that the title is not too strange.

i am a (white) single mother of a cute little girl. her skin colour is light brown since her father has really dark skin. her father does not live with us, so it is only me and my daugther.

we live in germany where there are mainly white people and it is very important to be "politicially correct" in what to say. i often tell my daugther that i love her brown skin and that i think it is very beautiful, also her curly hair. now, people told me that would be racistic because i compare skin colours. but she notices the difference anyway! she knows that my skin is light, hers is brown and the one of her dad is dark. so why hiding it?

so my question is: do you make your kids "compliments" about their skin colour?

i think that she may get negative commments in the future from outside anyway, so i want her to feel confident about her colour.

what do you think? am i totally out of mind or do you handle it this way too?

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#2 of 25 Old 05-02-2009, 02:38 PM
 
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Honestly? No. We don't point out the differences and I don't talk about how beautiful their skin and hair are. I don't have to do either. They can see the differences. When they bring it up, then we talk about it, but I certainly don't have to point it out to them.

We don't talk about how beautiful their skin and hair are because, to be completely honest, it squicks my husband and me out when other people do it. It objectifies our children and frames them as little exotic beings and we're just really uncomfortable with it. An occasional, genuine compliment is welcome, but there are people who dwell on their skin and their hair.

My kids are surrounded by positive images; we don't have to tell them they're beautiful because they see that beauty in others. We have books, toys, dolls, art, that allow them to absorb that beauty and to see it in themselves. When my 6-year-old plays dress up now? he dresses up like Barack Obama because he looks "just like Obama." We got to see President Obama at his last rally, the night before the election, and we lingered while he left the stage as others were leaving the grounds and I had my son over my shoulders and Obama pointed and waved and all the kids saw it and they carry that with them. My children talk about a president who looks like them, and they see that beauty. They see America celebrating the beauty and the grace of the First Family and I don't have to say anything. They absorb it.

I think it means more to them when they reach that realization by themselves, when they connect the beauty around us to themselves, not when I actively make that connection for them.

We talk about race and about racism; we're very open. But their self-confidence, their identity, comes from within.
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#3 of 25 Old 05-02-2009, 04:07 PM
 
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I've had to do this with my 6-yo DS. It became an issue of discussion when he began to notice the differences within our family. I am very pale with red hair and green eyes, while DS and DD have olive skin and dark hair (dark brown with auburn highlights) with brown eyes. DS has gender issues (believes he is a girl in the wrong body) and he started having color issues as well. He desperately wants to be "white like you" with "red hair like you," so we had to discuss the beauty of mixed heritage.

I explained why his father (Mexican-American) is so dark and why I (Irish-German) am so light. Then I explained how mixing those two creates a beautiful blend that is neither dark nor light, but perfectly balanced. He's spent a lot of time comparing himself to other people and I have tried to guide him to see the beauty in every skin tone. I also try to refocus him to things that are not so objective, so he isn't concentrating on the way people LOOK. (Such as, the other day, he saw a woman with brilliantly auburn hair, and I said, "Yes she has beautiful red hair, but listen to how pretty her voice is. I wonder if she can sing, do you think so?" Something like that.)

It doesn't help that the baby, who has the same father, looks WAY more like me than the other two. He has very pale skin, actually turns red in the sun instead of a darker brown, and has hair that is better described as auburn with brownish undertones, rather than brown-with-red highlights. His eyes are also hazel, light brown in the center and green around the edges, so DS is not happy with the fact that HE can't be lighter like the baby is.

DD hasn't seemed to notice. Lately she's been hollering about how she is the same color as Raven on the Disney Channel, but that's because she heard DS say it. I just try to steer the conversation in a different direction, since she really doesn't have a clue about the differences.

In this part of the country though, it will have to be confronted eventually. Around here, hispanic-caucasian children are caught in the middle in public schools. There are a LOT of them, but they tend to go through a period of having to choose whether they will identify with the hispanic crowd or the white one. Kinda sucks, but I've noticed that is very common in all the schools here. (Back in their school days, my stepchildren both chose opposite sides: stepson tried to dye his hair blond, while stepdaughter straightened her hair, dyed it black, learned spanish and hung out only with other Latinas her age. )

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#4 of 25 Old 05-02-2009, 04:50 PM
 
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We talk about differences (of all kinds) in a positive way. I want my kids to *enjoy* the beauty in the differences of humanity. :

But we don't have pointed lectures on skin color, specifically. If my kids bring it up, I talk about it as long as they're interested. If it comes up in conversation, I don't avoid it. I do regularly tell them they're very handsome, though. It's not just because of their skin or hair or eyes. It's that they're my kids, so of course they're beautiful, and they did get really wonderful genetic combinations from me and dh.

But I don't make a point of commenting on skin color or hair.
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#5 of 25 Old 05-02-2009, 05:18 PM
 
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I don't have a problem with pointing out skin color differences. I'll be the first to do it. I think the variations in skin color are beautiful -- why hide it?

In my family alone, our skin ranges from white-white (European white) to dark tropical brown. I was just noticing this the other day. I glanced over at my daughter and her father, and it suddenly struck me that they were both very light skin-colored, but in very different ways. He is white with red undertones, and she is olive (I think?) with golden undertones. Because of his red undertone, he looks dark compared to her, even though her skin is actually darker than his. Amazing and beautiful! Both are beautiful! Why should I not point out the beauty in what I see? It's fine art, and I was the artist that helped to create it. I'm very proud of my work.
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#6 of 25 Old 05-03-2009, 12:39 PM
 
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We also talk about differences in a good way. I think you are being really nice to your daughter by telling her she's beautiful.

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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#7 of 25 Old 05-03-2009, 02:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by misswerewolf View Post
Both are beautiful! Why should I not point out the beauty in what I see? It's fine art, and I was the artist that helped to create it. I'm very proud of my work.
I love that analogy!

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#8 of 25 Old 05-03-2009, 05:55 PM
 
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We are not multi racial, but many of my daughter's friends are. We have discussed that people have different skin tones, eye colors, hair types etc, because their ancestors are from different places. Like cats, or flowers, people come in a range of sizes and colors!: I always try to frame it in a factual, generally positive way: "Jane's" mom is German, and her dad is American, with ancestors from Africa. So she is half of each of them, and her skin and hair is a little bit of both, just like your hair is darker than mom's, but lighter than dad's.

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#9 of 25 Old 05-03-2009, 06:26 PM
 
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I live in Italy where 90% approx of the population is homogenously italian and the remaining 10% are mainly first generation immigrants, the majority of them eastern european. So probably the situation here is more similar to yours in Germany. Dark faces are few and far between, and mostly belong to people struggling to adapt, to speak the language, to be accepted. Dark skinned role models are pratically inexistent. Toys, book illustrations, commercials depict white skinned people. Middle class black families are seen only on imported american sitcoms.

So yes I think that it is important that you emphasise to your daughter that however different she may be from everyone and everything she sees around her, that her specific characteristics are beautiful. A PP spoke of absorbing the beauty around her (newbie here, haven't figured out how to quote!), but your daughter may not have this opportunity. So tell her. I am sure you will stress her many interior beauties, so why not the exterior ones too?

FWIW, this is coming from a brown skinned Italian, whose son (self declared "beige") one day realised "Hey mummy, you look like Dipsy (the teletubby). He was 3, that was his most relevant model of a creature with my skin tone!

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#10 of 25 Old 05-03-2009, 11:17 PM
 
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I lurk here now and again but had to respond to this post because of something my son said the other day! My three-year-old son is biracial, African-American father and Caucasian-American mother (me!) One day after school, he tells me, "Mama, I am almost brown!"

"Pardon?"

"I am almost brown, like Daddy!"

"Do you mean that you are light brown?"

"Yes! I am light brown; when I get bigger, then I will be big and strong and dark brown like Daddy!"
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#11 of 25 Old 05-04-2009, 01:02 AM
 
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i am white both of my dc are mixed with black. they are exposed to both worlds and yes i do point it out and we talk about different things. how my dd's hair is very curly like a black persons easy to braid while ds's hair is lighter and not so curly and when braided pulls out easy. she wishes she had straight hair like me and white like me. we talk about how everyone is different. we talk about different races and different places where people are from. it is more of learning about the world and understanding that everyone is unique no 2 are the same except identical twins(even they are different). she even knows that she is able to wear anything she likes boy or girl while her brother has some limits.

i really think you have to know where you come from to accept yourself and understand things. i would want my kids to learn from the start that they are different then hear it when they are older and not understand it (i have seen this)


h wait my bad iment to say "brown" not black and "peachie" not white: as told by my dd
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#12 of 25 Old 05-04-2009, 11:46 PM
 
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Yes, we do, in a complimentary way, since we both think our kids are so darn beautiful! We compliment DD1 on her curls, because I wish my hair was as thick and full as hers. DS has started to refer to his skin tone (and that of the girls) as being "golden" and I like that. We also point out that their skin is so soft and smooth and "just right" in color.
Of course, we also tell them what good sisters/brother they are, how kind, how much we and God loves them, what good atheletes they are, etc etc etc. I wouldn't say we do anything unusual---my sister is always telling her white children how cute they are, too. Just parents loving on their babies, really.....
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#13 of 25 Old 05-05-2009, 11:15 AM
 
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we don't compliment per say, but we do talk about how she has dark brown eyes like daddy, soft brown hair like me, and her skin colour is in between mine and daddy's.
she tans, whereas i don't (super white) and she loves to pull up her sleeves and compare the colours of our skin.

i think it is good to be upfront and talk about these things in a direct way.
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#14 of 25 Old 05-05-2009, 11:24 AM
 
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I do, all the time. My kids are 1/2 Filipino and my son has my (Caucasian) coloration but my 5 year old dd has her father's gorgeous brown skin. She's iffy about it, she doesn't necessarily love having skin that's a different color than her mothers. Complimenting her and telling her she has skin like honey or brown sugar turned her around 100%... maybe a little too much, lol; now she thinks her skin is more beautiful than anyone's.

FWIW, I don't believe (as a white woman) it's my place to ignore my children's (or anyone's) cultural heritage; their Filipino background is just as important as their Italian-American background so I don't pretend it doesn't exists even WRT superficial issues like eyes or skin color.

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#15 of 25 Old 05-05-2009, 03:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Minxie View Post
"Do you mean that you are light brown?"

"Yes! I am light brown; when I get bigger, then I will be big and strong and dark brown like Daddy!"


That's so sweet!

OP- We are the same darkness (very light brown or just a bit darker than caucasian) but we have different tones (olive vs. rose) and just as I will say, "What lovely curls you have!" or "What charming eyelashes you child has, so long!" I may comment on skin tone among people I know, e.g. "She has her father's rosy undertones and red highlights" or "This one will tan easily like me, lucky her."

We do talk about appearance and we don't ignore skin color. We live in a pretty white area so I did have to explain to my daughter that not every black man was President Obama : So that required some discussion of skin color. It comes up anyway, in my experience!

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#16 of 25 Old 05-05-2009, 06:01 PM
 
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So yes I think that it is important that you emphasise to your daughter that however different she may be from everyone and everything she sees around her, that her specific characteristics are beautiful. A PP spoke of absorbing the beauty around her (newbie here, haven't figured out how to quote!), but your daughter may not have this opportunity. So tell her. I am sure you will stress her many interior beauties, so why not the exterior ones too?
I'm that PP. When I spoke about absorbing that beauty, I wasn't talking about just or even primarily within our community. That opportunity is always available. Our home is filled with books and toys and art and music that reflect that beauty. My children have always had dolls that look like them. My grandmother even made them black raggedy annie and andy dolls that are well-loved, and Santa stockings with brown skin instead of peach. We have so many children's books; our walls are covered with pictures of our children and with paintings by black artists. If your community isn't diverse, then you create that diversity within your home.

We don't have to point out the differences. The idea of doing that seems strange to me because the differences are pretty darn obvious. When they draw pictures of our family, they match up the colors. My kids are extremely self-confident and self-aware. That awareness has been very clear when they have been confronted with racism, both from peers and from adults. They don't tolerate it. My 14-year-old will call someone out in a hot minute.


They have a very strong sense of who they are, because it's simply how we live. It's not a separate issue that we have to discuss, at least to the point that I have to bring it up. Discussions happen, because race and racism affect us, but that's not the same thing as pointing out our differences. The differences just...are. We live it.
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#17 of 25 Old 05-05-2009, 11:27 PM
 
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I don't have any problem with talking about any of my children's external features either. It is part of them, and I love every part of them. My kids are HAPA, and there aren't many others around here that look like them. They've noticed differences in skin color, and we too relate it to ancestry... and they know that God made all people in His image and that we are all made wonderfully. They love discussing different traditions and languages of people from all over the world.


Slightly off topic, and not meaning to hijack a thread, but my kids don't have a concept of "race" because we've just always talked about it as mentioned above. To them skin color is not indicative of anything concerning a person's value, but they do understand that different people have experienced different things because of their skin color/heritage/religion. I've never labeled people as "Black, Asian, AA, Middle Eastern, etc", so they don't have those words in their vocabulary (oldest is 5). Where we just moved from had a variety of people from all ethnic backgrounds (and mixtures of those ethnicities) and so they didn't question that they look unique.
Am I doing my children (or societey) a disservice by not addressing race with them?
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#18 of 25 Old 05-07-2009, 01:35 PM
 
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I've never labeled people as "Black, Asian, AA, Middle Eastern, etc", so they don't have those words in their vocabulary (oldest is 5). Where we just moved from had a variety of people from all ethnic backgrounds (and mixtures of those ethnicities) and so they didn't question that they look unique.
Am I doing my children (or societey) a disservice by not addressing race with them?
I don't think so. They will learn about race labels soon enough.

My son asked why he was differently colored than me, why his father was dark and I was light. I explained about heritage, as in "the people in your dad's family came from a part of the world where all people are dark, and the people in my family came from a place where all people are light. This was a long, long time ago, but our skin is still that color because they were our family." Because he is so inquisitive, we ended up describing the fact that dad's people were dark due to the long hours of sunlight in their native land, and my people were light because they were so far north in cold climates and didn't have as much sun.... he loved the history and geography lesson.

I have had to explain some terms to him because he heard all the excitement about Obama's inauguration and wanted to know what African American meant, exactly. But he doesn't associate racial labels to everyone he sees, thankfully. As I said, I think he'll pick that up in time, because in this society it's inevitable that he'll be exposed to it.

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#19 of 25 Old 05-09-2009, 05:11 AM
 
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If your child is in a group that the world has a negative projection of the physical, by all means build that self worth that they may struggle with later. Especially if they look at you, and you posses what the world calls beautiful and they posses the opposite.

for example , I am Biracial and have (gorgeous :P) Kinky Curly hair. In the African AMERICAN community 20 years ago especially- kink (hard to comb through textured hair) was considered Ugly, all attempts to tame the hair were expected to be made. My Mother had a Long straight shiny Mane. I remember longing for that hair, it was like a barbie doll. I also remember My mother telling me on several occasions casually that she wishes she had curls like mine and that my skin was so pretty. It wasnt a big conversation just simple seeds being planted to love the skin I was in and the hair that God designed for me!

It goes along with telling your daughter she is beautiful. Some would not do that because it emphasizes the external. But what if you never told her and the rest of the world tells her she is unsightly? who and what would she believe?

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#20 of 25 Old 05-09-2009, 06:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thank you for all of your comments. it just makes me feel that i am "right" with my feelings to cherish my daughter even more than it may be "normal"

i really love her skin colour (in fact, i am even jealous - a lot of people attend tanning studios here to get a tan like her ) and i also love her curls! i don't think its shallow to make compliments often, in fact i think its important fer her to gain a good feeling about her looks, especially because she is kind of "exotic".

@HOTMOM
so i am curious how the african american community relates to "kinky" hair nowadays? i keep watching "ANTM" and noticed that still most black girls (including tyra) streighten their hair. i think thats really aweful, because i know it can be very harmful to the hair. i do not streighten my dd's hair, but of course she is still young. but i want her to love her hair just the way it is.

so, how do most people feel nowadays? is there a movement back to natural hair even?

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#21 of 25 Old 05-09-2009, 12:12 PM
 
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If your child is in a group that the world has a negative projection of the physical, by all means build that self worth that they may struggle with later. Especially if they look at you, and you posses what the world calls beautiful and they posses the opposite.

for example , I am Biracial and have (gorgeous :P) Kinky Curly hair. In the African AMERICAN community 20 years ago especially- kink (hard to comb through textured hair) was considered Ugly, all attempts to tame the hair were expected to be made. My Mother had a Long straight shiny Mane. I remember longing for that hair, it was like a barbie doll. I also remember My mother telling me on several occasions casually that she wishes she had curls like mine and that my skin was so pretty. It wasnt a big conversation just simple seeds being planted to love the skin I was in and the hair that God designed for me!

It goes along with telling your daughter she is beautiful. Some would not do that because it emphasizes the external. But what if you never told her and the rest of the world tells her she is unsightly? who and what would she believe?
I just want to clarify that we do tell our children that they are beautiful, but we're not dependent on our voice being the end-all, be all (or even the bulk), of that message, if that makes any sense. I could spend hours telling my daughter how beautiful she is, but if the images that she sees don't reflect that beauty and the rest of the world doesn't support my words, it's not enough. They need to internalize that sense.

Actions and images go so much deeper than words. So we fill our kids with the positive images to deflect the negative. Something's working. At 14, my daughter has a good sense of who she is, and is self-confident and strong. She's beginning to recognize the negative, and point it out.
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#22 of 25 Old 05-09-2009, 03:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Actions and images go so much deeper than words. So we fill our kids with the positive images to deflect the negative. Something's working. At 14, my daughter has a good sense of who she is, and is self-confident and strong. She's beginning to recognize the negative, and point it out.
so, how exactly do you do that? can you give an example? :

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#23 of 25 Old 05-09-2009, 04:07 PM
 
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so, how exactly do you do that? can you give an example? :
Books. Lots of books. Some of the books talk about skin color (Black is Brown is Tan is one of my favorites) or heritage and culture (The Black Snowman); a lot just have people who look like my kids. We have paintings and prints by black artists. My husband's background is history and we have the books that reflect that. In our home, black tends to be the default, as opposed to white, which is the default anytime they step outside. Or, heck, when they turn on the television or open a magazine. So, obviously, even in our home, we have to counteract other messages.
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#24 of 25 Old 05-29-2009, 05:22 PM
 
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OP (I've only read your post)~ My mother and grandmother did this with me. With my mom I hate it but I don't like her so But with my grandmother it made me feel loved. My mom's family is pretty bigoted and I lived in an area growing up with such pretty white blond girls and I wanted to be them and look like my mom so they'd quit turning their noses up to me when they saw me hugging her. Then I blamed myself and my skin and "kinks" (my curly hair. My great aunt called them "kinks" with disgust). But my grandmother would always talk about how she loved my skin and hair and how she knew so many people who would kill for my coloring and curls. She would point out people with fake tans and perms and say "see? They want to look like you". Now I'm sure that sounds awful but to me at 6 and 7 and 8 and on it made a difference. I really did hate myself though because of the bullying I got.

However with me and my children I have not done this nor do I think I will. But all 3 of my girls are so different in appearance I feel I would be alienating one or more if I praised the other. That and my mind sees things a bit differently and I see beauty in everyone. I sort of feel uneasy with my grandmother telling me people wanted to look like me but like I said at the time it made me feel better- not like I was on a thrown but like I wasn't as ugly as people were telling me I was.

Maggie, blissfully married mama of 5 little ladies on my own little path. homeschool.gif gd.gifRainbow.gif
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#25 of 25 Old 05-30-2009, 12:23 PM
 
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I mentioned this earlier in the thread:

When I picked DS up from school one day, he told me he was "almost brown". I think he was trying to say light brown. We discussed our colors; Mama is pink and white, DS is light brown and Daddy is dark brown. DS then announced that he has to "grow big and strong and brown like Daddy." He thinks that as he grows to be a man, his skin color will grow darker, too. We talk about it sometimes but only matter-of-factly in terms of color and not yet in terms of race.

The other thing which concerned me was the sun and darkening of one's skin (tanning). I did not want him to think that dark skin was undesirable but I do want him to wear his sunscreen as his skin, despite being brown, is easily tanned or burnt. Sooo...

"Mama, I am light brown!"

"Yes, you are, Pumpkin; let's put on your sunscreen so you don't burn to a crisp like fried chicken! I bet you taste delicious!"

"Noooo...I am not fried chicken; we better put on my sunscreen, Mama, so you can't eat me!"

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