“Mommy, can I change my color?”

“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.

Mommy Can I Change My Color | Sedruola Maruska

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.

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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?

*Pause*

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.

To be honest, one thing I never expected in this journey of motherhood to mixed babies is the momentary sadness I feel, at times, knowing it’s my blood that will bring them their greatest challenges. So this conversation flooded me with hope.

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. . . .

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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.

I don’t know if at five years old my baby girl still wants to change her color, but she doesn’t need to. I want the inquisitive, fierce and amazing young lady she is to stick around no matter what her shell looks like. She’s amazingly beautiful from the inside out and I want her to know and embrace that always.

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’!


My worst mother daughter conversation to date

My daughter is five. She’s a bright, inquisitive and observant child, which sometimes leaves my husband and me at a loss for words.

Which is why this mother daughter conversation was a bitch.

It was the afternoon of November 9, 2016 and I was picking my kids up from my mom’s house after a long day at work. They were ready to go home and I was ready to be home, but I stopped in to say hello to my parents and thank them for their help.

My Worst Mother Daughter Conversation To Date | Sedruola Maruska

When I went to greet my mother, we went through the regular niceties then she told me about a conversation she had with my daughter. Now, my mom is extremely proud of my baby girl. She recognizes her “genius” and always tells me stories from the home front. This time was different.

The TV was on and of course the news was streaming that a new person had been elected President. My children were familiar with  and emotional about what was happening.

Now, before you shut down or leave because you think you know where this is going, give me a moment, it’s not going where you may think…

My mom said that she asked my daughter if she knew what was happening. My daughter answered yes.

Grandma: Do you know we have a new president?
Granddaughter: Yes.
Grandma: Do you know who it is?
Granddaughter: Yes, Donald Trump.
Grandma: What do you think about that?
Granddaughter: I don’t like him.
Grandma: Why not?
Granddaughter: He’s not nice, he says mean things, he’s black.
Grandma: Oh, you don’t like black?
Granddaughter: No.
Grandma: You know that your mom is black. I’m black & Papa is black?
Granddaughter: No you’re not, you’re like me.

Pause…sigh

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My mom, needless to say, was concerned over this exchange. This is a smart girl and she doesn’t know that her mom and family members are black? She doesn’t know that the newly elected President is not black? Say it ain’t so…

After getting that information on what had already been a trying day, I didn’t have the presence of mind to give a good response to my mom. I also didn’t have the thoughts or words to bring this forth with my daughter. But, it was there, in the background like a song that you really wish you’d never heard, nagging at me.

Forward a few weeks and my daughter and I are in the bathroom styling her hair for school. This was my chance. I was going to explain to my five year old that we’re black and that she should know this for future reference. She needed to know this information because, so many people that made up her genetic code were black. It was my job as her mother and as a black woman to make sure she knew she was black.

So in I went.

Mom: Baby, you know that mommy is black?
Daughter: Really?
Mom: Yes, and Grandma and Papa too?
Daughter: Am I black?
Mom: Yes, you’re my daughter so you’re black.
Pause
Daughter: Mommy, what is black?

Pause…sigh

Sleep

At that moment I had no answers. At that moment I realized there was something bigger here. At that moment I realized that my daughter was right, in her understanding and programming of what black is, about Donald Trump. He is black.

In her mind black wasn’t about race, it was about character. In her five year old mind, she doesn’t look at, shy away from or love people because of race but because of character. So when my mom had that conversation with her, they were speaking two different languages.

When I had my conversation with her, we were speaking two different languages. Somehow, in her five years, the subliminal societal messages had gotten through that “black” = “bad”. It would be up to her, and those of us who love her, to then counter those messages with “black is beautiful”.

But here’s my question…what is black? When did we decide we were black? Did we decide we were black or was the “label” thrust upon us?

Was the label black placed on us because the world had already started using “black” for “bad” things and since our brown skin was closer to black, and we were “different = bad” we were called black?

It’s one of those random questions that comes up when talking to a five year old and not having the faintest idea of what the answer is. There are a few things I did learn with this conversation: 1) The messages that are getting through are not “favorable” toward black; 2) We spend a lot of our black lives countering the messages that get through early on.

The conversation with my daughter (and son) is beginning, am I ready? Am I ready to not explain the “black race” but to work on fostering the “black pride” the “black strength” that I’ve learned to embrace over the years?

If I’m not, I’ll make myself ready because my five year old thinks a person of flawed character is “black”. When it’s time to reconcile in her mind that she’s black, I’m hoping her 5 year old ideas of black will have been completely overshadowed by the truth.