He was brown. Brown with blonde hair and dark eyes and a red yarn smile that was frayed from being picked at. I looked at the face for a time that wasn’t nearly as long as it felt like and asked, “Who is this, baby?” Of course he answered assuredly, “It’s me!” Every blonde hair waving; each blue eye dancing; and his full red lips parting into a large, proud smile. Not a hint of brown lingers on my three-year-old artist, but it covers my entire body. But, with his judgement free eyes, he sees us as one and the same. My brown is his as it is his brothers and sister.
My children come in varying hues: one is soft cocoa-brown like me; another is toffee with his warm undertones highlighting a smooth golden caramel; still another is a mop of sandy-brown curls and peek-a-boo tan skin (pink in the winter; brown in the summer). As a multiracial woman who conceived multiracial children, my children’s complexions amaze and confuse many. What I hear now in regards to them are the same questions my single, white mother fielded with me many years ago. Just as she brushed off invasive question after inappropriate question, I find myself in the inverse, especially when it comes to my blonde baby.
“Are you the sitter?”
“How fun to bring your children’s friend with you to the park!”
“He’s yours? How?!?!”
Questions, comments, excitement and antagonism are all par for the course for us. And I, for one, am glad my children will experience all of it. I’m glad they will have to see the multiple layers of race and what it means in America and abroad.
I’m excited to know that there may be a time when they will be accepted seamlessly into a group and get the rare opportunity to see through the eyes of others as few can. Their ambiguous features are the same as mine and lends credence to the possibility that they are “insert here” race. I’ve been granted unspoken access to many groups.
My standing favorite is when I was assumed to be (and argued with when I informed her I was not) a native of India. My Indian manicurist not only shared her deeply felt thoughts and feelings about politics and race with me while robotically doing my nails; she showed me that what I had always sought was a universal feeling. The need for connection in another face is strong and does not change with time. I want my kids to feel that connection to the world and take pride in being able to see people’s truths from it.
There are explanations they will be asked to give about themselves that will require them to delve into who they are at a much earlier age than most of their peers. They will also have to explain me and their father (two wholly different people in much more than looks) and how we represent them in body and mind. I could be upset that that part of them will grow up so fast, but I’m not. Introspection will sit at their doorstep and they will have to answer the call. And when you think about the need so many of us have to truly find ourselves as we age, is there anything negative to be said about starting early?
That being said, I know they will face challenges. People will push back and show hate where there needn’t be any. And it will break my heart. I’ll want to run and fix it, but to an extent, I will need to stand back. I will always offer them a sense of pride in themselves and a place of safety, but some battles must be fought to secure peace, if only for yourself. I will let them fight these battles with the assurance that when it is said and done, I will be here and that the hate in this world won’t match the warmth of our hearts.
As I think about that statement and my “Baby Blue Eyes,” knowing that so many won’t see his “brown,” I hope for the best in my ability to teach. I pray that I can teach him to see himself as one beautiful, whole human being who can celebrate each part that makes him who he is. But that is work for another day. Right now, I am going to celebrate his innocence and his perfect picture of himself, piece by piece.