Sometimes the most impromptu conversations get you thinking about what complications may lay ahead for your child. My sister and I were recently chatting over a cup of tea and she mentioned our mum had taken my niece to the park a couple of weeks ago and a little boy questioned her ethnicity.
Well, it wasn’t quite that profound, since he was only 5 years old. He just casually asked, ‘Is that your Gran, because she’s brown?’ You see my sister and I are of Indian descent (our family are originally from Goa) but have married English men, so our children are mixed race. The way my niece dealt with it was very matter of fact. ‘Yes my Gran is brown-brown, my mummy is brown-brown and my daddy is white-white so I’m brown-white.’
Children do start to notice ethnicity at around five years old. When I was little, I remember kids at school making comments but since it was the 1980s it wasn’t always in a positive way. I think it’s a good thing to encourage our children to be curious but polite, noticing differences between people is a good thing but as parents we also need to teach them to be respectful. I’m glad the little boy asked my niece that question. I don’t think my sister had taught her daughter to respond in that way, it just came naturally. She feels her skin colour is perfectly normal, which is great and it reminds me that in some aspects, we’ve come a long way. I hope if my son get asked the same question, he will also react in that confident way and feel proud of his mixed race heritage.
However, as his mum I’m going to need to prepare him for the fact that some people feel threatened by difference and in the not so distant past the relationship his mother and father have would have been frowned upon. I’m hoping he will just look at me strangely and think I’m making it up!