September 29, 2010

Do I Look Like You Mommy?

Ash is a very perceptive little boy. He hears things, thinks about them, forms opinions and asks follow up questions. So when people see Leni and announce that she looks so much like mommy or daddy he hears them and immediately starts focusing on her to figure out what parts of her they must be talking about. And then he turns the focus on himself to see what parts of him must look like mommy and daddy. To date he's established that only mommy and Ash have brown eyes (dad's hazel and Leni's blue), that he has short hair like daddy, and that his hands are bigger than Leni's. (He never misses an opportunity to inform the world that he is MUCH bigger and MUCH older than his baby sis.) Our differences inevitably come up as well, which almost always includes his chocolateness and mommy's vanillaness, his curly hair and Leni's straight hair, and how his feet will one day be as big as daddy's. They're good conversations. For now. But one day, when he's gained a more thorough understanding of how we came to be a family, that day it might not settle so well when he hears how much his sister looks like his mommy and daddy. It might just settle like a lump of bricks slamming the words "you're different" into his gut. And we like different, we celebrate different, but that day he might just want different to go away for a little while and I hope I have the words to bring him back to where he was the day before. Celebrating our similarities and our differences, loving the uniqueness that is our family, and understanding that sometimes people don't think before they speak.

Recently Ash started talking about a couple trips we have coming up that he's excited about. He began talking about how we'd need 3 beds in Mexico instead of 2 now that Leni's around, and how he doesn't think Leni is big enough to go see the animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom. And then he started talking about bellies. He asked where his Florida mommy lives and where his Mexico mommy lives and if there are babies in their bellies now. A little background: Ashton found out there was a baby in mommy's belly shortly after our trip to Florida last year, and one of the ways we talk to him about his birth mom is through describing that he was born in her belly before coming to us, and he calls her his Ethiopia mommy. So, talk about mommies in other countries/states and bellies on vacation isn't entirely out of nowhere. But, I was under the impression that he "got" that he had 2 mommies, me and his Ethiopia mommy who's belly he was born in. Apparently he thinks he has a mommy wherever we vacation.

These types of conversations are common. Similarities and differences, birth mommy and me, where is Ethiopia and does Leni have an Ethiopia mommy. To some these might sound like simple enough topics, and on the surface they might be, but there's a whole lot below the surface of a 3 year old boy. A whole lot. And I sooooo do not want to screw up the answers.


kristine said...

Q began talking about wanting to be my color at around 3 years old. He was in daycare and he often got "how come you don't look like your mom?" Of course, he looks like his father but that didn't seem to matter. Interestingly, our daycare worker said she had never had a biracial child with a black mom talk about wanting to be white, but she had other biracial children with white moms that wanted to be white.

For us (I think it's different for each and every family - no consistency that I've found) from 3 to 5 years old was a constant talk about skin color. There was a small period where he was furious with 'God' for being brown. This was completely devastating for me and I don't think I responded well. By 5 yo he seemed to be more happy being brown skinned. He still talked about skin color a great deal but he seemed to be happy with who he was. Now, at almost 8 he's proud of who he is. Difference, is just that, difference.

It was rough for me, but I don't think he remembers any of it. Who's to say. My husband, who is black had an easier time of it. He'll be fine, he kept saying.
Easy for him to say i would think.

3 years old is so glorious. I miss it. But my how the world does start to make an impression on their sweet minds.

Brooke said...

Such a great post. We are having these same conversations with Birhanu. He's always comparing himself to us and the new babies.