Children notice skin color, but it’s what we teach that matters…

Venice 233

Adelyne with Tia, Wujek, Onkel, and Attai

My daughter has grown up in Poland.  And for the majority of her life, she has known her American family, aunties, and uncles, and grandparents—but she has been raised by her other aunties and uncles.

Or shall we say, she has been raised by:

Ciocia

Wujek

Tia

Onkel

A yi

Shushu

& Aunties and Uncles

You see.  My daughter has grown up on the hips, in the arms of, on the laps of, and in the presence of many aunties and uncles from around the world.

Some of them have the same color of skin as she does.

Most do not.

And, yes.  My daughter has noticed the differences ever since she could talk.

seun and ada

Adelyne and her cheeky twin, Seun

Here’s an example.  Most of my daughter’s first influential aunties and uncles in her life come from Africa.  These countries to be exact:  Nigeria, Zambia, Botswana, and Ivory Coast.

And it was one day when she was with her Auntie Toria (for Victoria—Toria was the name that Adelyne gave her auntie) that she pointed at both of their arms, hers and Victoria’s, and asked, “Auntie Toria, how come you have skin this color and I have skin this color?”

Auntie Toria was stunned.  After all, here was a little wee one that has always been family.  And now she was supposed to answer?

Since she didn’t know what to say, she hollered loudly, “Pastor Richard!  Come here.”

And come we did.  Victoria told us the conversation and so we looked at Adelyne and said, “Some people have skin the color of coffee.  And some the color of milk.  But you know what’s great?  Both are awesome and they go REALLY well together.”

That seemed to make sense to our little 3-year-old.  And off she and Auntie Toria went to play again.

Another time, Adelyne pointed to Auntie Mwanso’s skin and said, “Ciocia Mwanso, I want a sister with your color skin.”

It also makes sense.  After all, a large majority of Adelyne’s “family” growing up had skin the same color as Ciocia Mwanso (again, a beautiful black skin).  So why wouldn’t she want a sister with the same color skin?

Lastly, Adelyne has an African twin, Seun.  You see, they both have the perfect set of cheeks.  And so she and Adelyne quickly became “Cheeky Twins” (it’s what we called them).  And it is this very Auntie that Adelyne is off to see this week in Botswana, helping her celebrate her wedding to Kwesi!

But it’s not just Africa…

Image

A yi Annie and Adelyne…Best of Friends

Adelyne also has so many aunties and uncles from Asia, Taiwan mostly.

In fact, Daniel Chen was Adelyne’s first boyfriend.  There could be a room full of people, but Adelyne would only have eyes for Daniel.  She would stare at him for hours.  Of course, he’s much older…so it would never work 😉  But she would stare nonetheless.

By the age of 2, Adelyne could count to 10 in 3 languages, 1 being Mandarin.

When she wasn’t in the arms of her African aunties and uncles, she was in the arms of her Taiwanese Aunties and Uncles.

They have been with Adelyne through all of her important moments in life:  Christmases, birthdays, Easters, school beginnings, lost teeth, and so much more.

Skin color…it’s a beautiful thing.

And Adelyne recognizes that each special person in her life is unique.

And beautiful.

She sees beyond the skin color.  No, she doesn’t dismiss what makes each person individual—but she sees the skin color and recognizes that the world is full of beauty.  And differences.  Fantastically wonderful differences.

And, most importantly, she sees their hearts.

And that is what makes us one.

One big family—all around the world.

14 thoughts on “Children notice skin color, but it’s what we teach that matters…

  1. We were in a fast food resturant when my son was very little (long time ago now), while holding him and talking to the kid taking our order, my son said while pointing right at him, “He has brown skin!” I said, “Yes, he does.” Then my son said, “He has a red hat.” Of course! My son was not seeing skin color, he was simply seeing different colors in his world. I wish everyone could un-learn racism or even avoid that first time where racism is first exposed to you — and just be a kid enjoying the colorful world around us all.

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    • you know…it’s silly for us to say that we are colorblind (unless, of course, you are literally color blind…lol). but when children notice the beauty in the differences in all of us, it’s so important how we react to what they have to say. had you been embarrassed or shushed him, he may have thought, “wow. there is something wrong with the fact that he has brown skin and i do not.” but since you allowed him to make the observation, he continued with all of the other beauty he noticed around him.
      my daughter saw a woman with no arms at the gym the other day after her swim lesson. and, of course, naturally she stared. i said, “adelyne, is there anything you would like to ask this woman?” and adelyne said no. but the woman overheard us talking about swim lessons and noticed my daughter’s curious 7yrold eyes and came over and spoke to us anyway…telling us that she, too, when she was 7 had been on the swim team. it was one of the greatest moments for my daughter. because she got to see that although this woman has a different body than her own, she is still capable of doing what it is that is set before her.
      and then on the way home, she talked about how this woman was able to open the locker, and put on her shoes, and carry her gym towel and water bottle.
      our children are at our mercy…and god help us teach them to appreciate the world around them…and see the amazing beauty in all of the differences 🙂

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  2. When Teddy was about 4yo, a lady with her 4yo son had to get off a train due to the Mom’s illness that put her in the hospital. I offered to take her son home with me. Teddy and the little boy played on the mt. (hill) at the end of our street, sliding down on their rumps, etc. having a great time. At bedtime, I put them both in the tub, which was the first exposure of any consequence to each other’s bodies; and, I guess they had never noticed they were of different skin colors. The little guy asked me, “What color is him?”….I’ve always thought little black babies had an edge in cuteness at birth…our white babies look so “bleached out” in comparison. 🙂
    A.Ruby

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  3. LOVE this! Monica is very much interested in black and white recently. I can tell her little mind is trying to categorize. Hard sometimes to know how to help them settle on a simple understanding of a confusing world, especially living in a place where the color and wealth/health lines are so divided.

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    • you know—i bet you could write something to expand on this. i would LOVE to read it 🙂 in poland (not at our international church, obviously), mostly health and wealth are still the same color. so it’s not such a visible divide.

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