“Mommy, can I change my color?”
From the moment my kids came into this world they have challenged and helped me grow the views I hold about myself, the confidence I have as a mother, as a woman and as a woman of color.
If you read the post on my worst conversation with my daughter you already know she’s wise beyond her five years. This is no different, especially since it took place when she was two.
I don’t remember where we were going, but we needed to get ready quickly. I jumped into the shower and took my baby girl with me. As we showered she noticed that I had hair in places she didn’t so, true to her nature she spoke up.
Sia: Mommy, why do you have hair there?
Mommy: Because all women have hair there, it’s something that happens when you grow up and become a woman
Sia: Will I have hair there too?
Mommy: Yes, when you grow up you’ll have hair there too
I enjoy answering my kids questions no matter what they are. I think if they ask me and I answer truthfully, without judgement, they’ll keep asking and we’ll be able to teach them a few things before the world does.
The conversation continued and I was not quite ready. . .
Sia: Does that mean when I grow up I’ll be able to change my color too?
The commitment I have to being open with my children in a loving and calm way has been challenged often. At the very moment she asked that question I felt an overwhelming sadness and fear in my heart. No matter what, I need to continue this conversation and deal with myself later.
The first questions I wanted to ask was “Change your color? Why would you want to do that?”. But instead I decided to seek her view instead of coming from mine.
Oh God, where are we going? Please help me remain composed?
Mommy: What do you mean baby?
Sia: When I grow up and have hair there like you, then can I change my color to look like you?
Mommy: Oh. . . no baby, we can’t choose our color. Maybe your color will look more like mommy, but we can’t choose.
As a black woman married to a white man I have insecurities about a few things (I won’t get into them all here, now) one being how my babies will react to what the world will throw at them as mixed humans.
Yes, I fully expected my daughter to want to change her color to white, but I failed to see that she was already a little cocoa with a lot of milk. When I look at my children I don’t see color, I see my babies. Just like when I look at my husband I don’t see a white man, I see my husband. I see the core of my life. But in that short moment, I thought my daughter did see the negativity that the world saw in my color and wanted no part of it. . . .
There’s always more growing to do.
My fear stemmed from my personal conditioning and not from reality. Daughters want to look like their mamas (even secretly) and instead of thinking that’s where my two year old was going I thought the worst. How would I handle her NOT wanting to look like me? Could I bear that pain?
But just like I love my babies unconditionally, they love me. They aren’t caught up in the world’s ideas about race. They look at us, my husband and me, and see people they’ve known all their lives who’ve been here protecting, feeding, playing, teaching and housing them (I’m not sure they realize all that goes on either 🙂 ) for better or for worst.
Letting my kids feel and speak freely has been a lesson in life for me. The conversation we had in the shower that day sticks with me. Not because of my daughter, but because of what I felt my knee-jerk reaction was and the reasoning behind it.
As for me, I continue to grow in the knowledge that many stories the world has told me, as a black woman, need to be re-written. My personal narrative is strong, rooted in a family and history that is fierce, but it can always be stronger. Who I am and what I project into the world is what my babies will see. It’s important that they see a strong, confident woman of color who is fiercely fighting for all that she believes. That way, they too can confidently join the fights that mean something to them.
No baby, you can’t change your color. You’re okay no matter how you look. I love you. . . go get em’!