Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fun Questions

I get weekly emails from BabyCenter telling things to expect from childhood development. The message for my five-year-old (link to article) reminded me of something I observed while registering David for school a couple of months ago...

While waiting in a slow-moving line, I tried to entertain the children. We sat at a table in the elementary school cafeteria (where the line was) and did Daddy-children things like make silly faces and tickle each other.

Then I noticed we were being watched.

It's not unusual for people, particularly little people (meaning children), to stare at me and the children when we play. I like to think it's because we have such great fun (it could be because of my misshapen head, though...). I overheard the conversation of siblings that provided another reason for the stares.

We were sitting near a family where the mother was working on the seemingly-endless forms. [How shall I put this?] The family was apparently Vietnamese (at least that's what the language sounded like, and the registration forms provided alternate instructions in Spanish and Vietnamese only, so I just figured...). In addition to the mother were two children: a second-grader sister, and a kindergartner brother.

The brother and sister were staring at us playing for a while, when the younger brother started quietly asking his sister questions—never taking his eyes off of us. The sister tried to answer him as best she could in their native language, but seemed to not satisfy him.

The back-and-forth continued a little while more, with the sister turning to face the brother, speaking slower and more staccato-like, emphasizing each word. (Remember that we didn't know what they were discussing, because this was all in increasingly heated Vietnamese.)

Finally, at her wits' end, the sister slowly explained in English: "Their skin is white because their mommy's skin is white."

[One more question from the brother.]

The sister elaborated, "If our mommy had white skin, your skin would be white, too! That's just how they are."

How should parents address the race questions that ultimately come?

We teach that we all are children of God, and opportunities like this one provide additional teaching opportunities—both about skin pigment and the universality of the atonement, despite history's unfortunate prejudices (see 2 Ne 26:33).

I wonder how I'm doing as a parent. I haven't had many opportunities to discuss race or other differences (besides modesty and Word of Wisdom items). Given the unconventional racial distribution of students at his school, I imagine David may have some questions for me some time (see figure, below; link).

We'll take life as it comes, showing love to our children and their friends, and answering as best we can the fun questions that childhood brings.

0 thoughts