One of the many things I love about living in Toronto is how multicultural the city is. We see all types of EVERYTHING! Our kids are used to seeing people of all races, ages, mobility, heights, income levels, nationalities…the list goes on. I mean, last Sunday we spotted a pink person (yup, her entire face and arms were a bright pink) and no one batted an eye. Skin colour isn’t a topic that’s foreign in our household because as you can clearly see, Chris and I are an interracial couple which means that our kids are something in-between. We were calling their skin tone “peach” for the last 7 years and until last week, the kids were happy with that identification. As you will soon see below, last week Little Monkey had some question for us very early in the morning!
As you know, I don’t take things too seriously and since our kids are still fairly young, we try to keep our serious topics very approachable. I don’t pretend that different skin tones don’t exist and talking about skin colour isn’t intimidating for me. Other kids have asked me why my skin is a darker shade than Baby Boy’s or Little Monkey’s and I usually explain that no two people have the EXACT same skin colour and that most people have different shades throughout their body. I don’t usually tell them that I was born in a different country because that question can go so many ways and will end up confusing the kids (even if I was born in Canada, my skin colour would be different to Chris’ and that would confuse them royally). Growing up in South Asia and the Middle East, I grew up in an era where things like ‘fair and lovely’ were on shelves everywhere and aunties would often tell you not to play in the sun because your skin would turn dark. You see, they thought lighter skin was the prettier shade. Luckily, that never bothered me one bit. I am fully aware that there are people who still think that way but they’re not in my social circle, at least I hope not! Though when I was a toddler, my mom tells me that I used to rub up against fairer skinned people in the hopes of lightening my skin (not sure if that’s in the same vein as me being potty trained by the time I turned 6 months!).
Now I’m raising mixed kids who were struggling to find a colour to identify with and the current solution of using paint swatches is working for us. For now. I anticipate more conversations and I bet you, the questions are going to get harder. Our children are growing in a city where some of their friends come from mixed marriages but they also have friends whose parents “look the same” and as Little Monkey says, “skin colour isn’t good or bad, it’s just different.” I just hope that by the time they’re adults, the forms we have to fill offer the option to choose “mixed”/”biracial”/”multiracial”. Should the notion of race be eradicated completely? That’s a battle for another day!
Books to Help You Discuss Mixed Races with Kids
These are some books that were recommended to us but I preferred to tackle the issue head on myself last week. However, we plan to include some of these books in our library so that the kids can see people of colour in their literary world as well. While it is important for them to see mixed race kids in their books (as they do in their every day life living in Toronto), what’s most important is for children’s literature to represented ALL types of children from ALL kinds of families in a natural and organic way.
- Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match : Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.
- Brown Like Dosas Samosas & Sticky Chikki : Samaira is a little chocolate-coloured girl who loves colours. But what happens when she meets a strange purple lady who offers to change her into a shade of white? Will little Samaira give in to the annoying Anahi’s narrow idea of beauty, or is she just happy the way she is? Join Samaira on her journey of self discovery up on the fluffy cloud.
- Violet : When Violet’s father comes to pick her up at school, one of her classmates asks: “How come your Dad is blue and you’re not?” Violet has never even thought about this before. Her mother is red, and her father is blue – so why is she violet?
- All the Colours We Are : This twentieth anniversary edition offers young children a simple, scientifically accurate explanation for how we get our skin color, freeing children from myths and stereotypes.
- My Mom is a Foreigner but Not to Me : A foreign mom may eat, speak, and dress differently than other moms- she may wear special clothes for holidays, twist hair in strange old-fashioned braids, and cook recipes passed down from grandma. Such a mom may be different than other moms, but she is also clearly the best. This funny and heartwarming picture book about growing up in multiple cultures celebrates the diverse world in which we live.
As I mentioned in the video above, our conversations are not going to end with this one. There’s going to be a huge learning curve as we navigate this biracial world the kids are growing in. I truly believe that the onus is upon us parents to educate ourselves and find the best ways to talk to our kids about it so that they’re ready to handle situations that may arise in school or elsewhere. Are you raising biracial kids? How are the conversations going at your place? We’d love to hear what’s working and what it isn’t.