The Race Thing

I am the youngest of three by 6 and eight years. For a long time I was essentially an only child. My brothers were out of the house completely by the time I was 10. My parents divorced when I was 8 and as a result of all the madness, I always felt my place was as the peace-keeper for everyone. At the very least, I was the medium through which information passed between my absent father and nomad brothers. I tried to be the non-issue as a kid. My brothers put our mom through various types of hell and I was in the front row to see what that did to her.

My point is that i have always felt like The Peace- Keeper. The boat stabilizer, if you will. Conflict, confrontation, awkwardness is all painfully avoided for me. This makes for some interesting parenting moments. Moments I know we all go through, but might react differently to. The race thing is confusing to me and always has been. I’ve heard some painfully embarrassing stories from friends about their kids big mouths and resulting awkwardness. I have two very loud-mouthed children and know it’s just a matter of time before I earn that badge.

The closest i’ve come to mortification is my son pointing out the very large waiter at a Red Robin one day three years ago. My son found it his mission to let everyone in the vicinity know he saw a REALLY BIG BELLY on our server. Complete with pointing and gestures. I had a quiet, red-faced whispered conversation with him at the time and that was the end of that. So far he’s kept my social shaming to grocery store screaming and spitting and head-spinning.

My daughter, on the other hand, seems to be the one that will finally get me the Race Awkward badge. She feels it’s her duty to point out obvious facts. Mainly, the color of the play center cashier’s skin. He happens to be a very dark skinned African American gentleman with a big happy smile all the time. The clincher for her is that he seems on the young side. My daughter loves boys. LOVES them. She has declared her love openly to many a pizza guy and mail carrier. On the way into the mall where the play center is, she was repeatedly saying, “Thats where the man with the black skin is! He have very dark skin. My skin is…. what color is my skin, momma?” “You have tan skin, honey.” “Yea.”

We spoke about how lots of people look different but we are still all people (blah blah blah) and we dont need to tell people what they look like… because they already know. And then a black woman with her two kids begins walking behind us and that’s when I start to sweat. I get nervous my 3 year old will offend somehow. I get nervous at what *might* happen.

I start walking a little faster. The mother goes somewhere else, and before I know it, we are in the play center and the same guy is the cashier again today. “Look mom! There he is! Its the guy with the very black skin.”

Sweating and heart palpitations, I tell her yes and ask if shes excited to play.

I am stuck between social graces, propriety, and wanting to not discourage my daughter’s perceptiveness…. although i dont know how perceptive it really is to point out obvious things..? But i cant help but say yes. You are right that people DO look different. But thats where the differences become special and interesting. Not isolating and oppressive.

I dont want to shush her, because then she’ll feel she’s done something wrong. I also dont want her to keep jabbering on and embarrass the person who is on the other end of her fascination. She says all of her observations with a smile and wonder. Thats a good thing!

So how do you other moms handle the uncomfortable awkward, obvious observations of your little squirts? Or is it a non-issue and i’m making something out of nothing?

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