Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One of these things is not like the others

I’ve been coasting along the motherhood path content and, relieved mostly, that Shorty has yet to start bringing up big life-issues – until this past Wednesday.

They had an exercise in school called “If you can be whatever you want to be, what would it be?” The teacher wrote the kids’ answers on a poster-sized sheet and hung it up in the hallway. Answers ranged from the expected, “I want to be a princess,” to the daring, “I want to be a green dragon.” There were also some realistic ones “I want to be a mom with five kids and live in a big house in the desert,” and then some odd ones like “I want to be a fruit snack.”

We were so amused with the list that Shorty and I rehashed her classmates’ answers on our drive home. One of her little friends said she wanted to be a princess like Jasmine (from Disney’s Aladdin) and among a whole list of dragons and superheroes one boy said he wanted to be the prince who marries Jasmine (the same one.) So how did Shorty react? “Eeew. He wants to marry a little girl with white skin.” My face burned. You see, ours is a ‘blue’ family in a very ‘red’ state, so when we found a preschool not more than 15 minutes away from our house that was surprisingly racially diverse, we couldn’t believe our luck (never mind that it costs us an arm and a leg, weekly.) So imagine my surprise when my daughter made this comment. I calmly asked, “Why is that eeew?” “Because he needs to marry someone with the same color skin.” I was convinced someone put it in her head, and it sure as hell wasn’t me. “Who told you this?” I asked trying to sound like I was just curious, not seething. “Nobody, Mom. I made it up myself.”
Her little friend who wanted to be Jasmine happens to be Caucasian, which up until now, I didn’t think mattered to Shorty. It obviously didn’t matter to her little friend who, out of all the Disney princesses, wanted to be one of the dark-skinned ones.

I have friends from different cultures, countries, and races, some in interracial marriages and some in same-sex relationships. So, it was a promise, no, a pact between my husband and I that if we had a child he or she will experience and thrive in a culturally diverse environment. I want my child to value diversity, practice tolerance, make and form well-informed choices and opinions, and be slow to judge. The best I can do is to teach her to always look at both sides of the coin.

I continued, “Your daddy and I don’t have the same color skin.” “Yes you do,” she said. Fine. I guess we do, but technically we are an interracial couple; my husband is Hispanic and I’m Filipino. Let’s see…Aha! I thought of my sister who is married to a man of Finnish descent. “What about your Tita T and Uncle E?” She smiled. Eureka. The light bulb went on. “See?” I said, quite pleased with myself. “What’s important Sweetie, is that you marry someone you like to hang out with, someone who makes you laugh, someone who hugs you when you’re sad or scared, someone who makes soup for you when you’re sick, someone who makes you feel like you’re the prettiest girl in the world.” Shorty was wide-eyed in my rear view mirror. Her wheels were obviously spinning. “Ok,” she said, “I’ll marry you and Daddy.”

I’m starting to think sorting exercises is the culprit. Tsk, tsk, Big Bird.