Suburban Snapshots

Crayons

Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm going to stumble uncomfortably through this post and hope I can be articulate in explaining what I need your help figuring out, without using language like someone who's running for office.

We live in a very, very pale state. There are just two non-caucasian kids in Anna's class at day care, Ethan is one of them. She and Steve ran into Ethan and his mom at the park last week, and while Anna and I were talking about it, she said, "I saw Ethan at the playground, and Ethan is brown, and I am white."

So maybe that statement was nothing right? Or maybe it was some huge learning moment that I was supposed to pounce on, where I'd eloquently — but in words a two-year-old can understand — explain that the world is full of people with more colors than would ever fit in a crayon box, more than all her paints mixed — as she prefers — with all her other paints, more than all the colors in all the smeared handprints that run up and down our hallway. And instead of a good reply going through my head, there was all of that thinking, and so what I told her was, "Mmm-hmm."

I called Steve, "Did you tell Anna that she's white?" He had not. It's possible she just decided that she's white in the Crayola sense, but she's smart about colors and I imagine she'd say something like tan or even pink. But let me back up, I realize that sounds like a ridiculous question. The kid's white. It's just, if neither of us told her that then who did? And in what context? Because her daycare schedule doesn't mention "Diversity in the Human Population" anywhere between circle time and afternoon snack.

It's just one of those moments, a first for us, really, where it's possible that something I feel we need to be in charge of teaching her may have been introduced by someone else in a context I don't know. Or maybe it's the opposite; maybe I just let her figure it out, answer questions when she has them and try to counteract whatever bad information she might pick up from others.

I'd like to hear your thoughts — what's been your experience not only in teaching your kids your own values, but helping them work through what the world teaches when you're not there?

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