I often wondered when my children would first recognize differences in race and prayed that it wouldn’t look like the time my son asked loudly,”Why is she so wide?” as an overweight woman walked by. I silently willed that that poor woman developed sudden and temporary deafness, as there was no recovering gracefully from that blunder.
My freshman year in college, Bertice Berry came to my school and gave a wonderfully inspiring speech and made me want to change the world with a positive attitude that I’ve since had trouble keeping. I don’t remember many details of her lecture, but my mind often goes back to one of her stories as a guide for my parenting journey. One time in the grocery store, her nephew pointed to a woman clothed in traditional Indian dress and asked, “Why does she look like that?” Rather than hush him and push his finger down, walking away embarrassed, she used the opportunity to teach.”Isn’t she beautiful? Look at all the colors in her dress,” and she continued to teach this child how lovely this woman’s differences were.
The other night, I got the chance to instill those beliefs in my daughter Hannah Grace. She was lying in bed, and we had just finished prayers when she looked at me and said, “Grammy is different. And Papa Joe is different.”
I looked at her with that blank look I can give when I have no idea what someone is talking about.
“And I’m different, and Caleb is different, and Chloe is different, and you’re different, and Daddy is different.”
Once I realized that she wasn’t commenting on my parents’ personalities, I agreed with her. “Yes, God made us all different. He made us each unique.”
Hannah Grace continued: “Carmen at church has brown skin, and Brandon’s skin is black. They are different, too.”
“Isn’t God amazing?” I asked. “He made us all different, and He even made our skin different. Aren’t all the different colors beautiful?”
Hannah Grace nodded her head and smiled her sweet little smile and went to bed after a goodnight kiss.
The next day we had a chance to continue our conversation.
I came in the kitchen and stopped in my tracks: “Hannah Grace! What in the world?!” I had never witnessed such a display before.
Hannah Grace casually turned around and stuck out one leg completely colored with brown magic marker. She then showed me her other very-Caucasian-looking white leg. “See? God gave me one of each,” she stated matter-of-factly.
As is the case many times in my life as a mom, I had no idea how to respond. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what I did or what I said, but I think it was something to the effect of “Hannah Grace, your skin is beautiful just the way it is” and “don’t color on your body with marker.” But I do know I let a smile peek through as I looked at my multi-colored daughter.
Hannah Grace, you have always had this amazing ability to find beauty in things that I wouldn’t normally give a second glance. I’ve saved some of your preschool coloring sheets because I was amazed at how you combined colors. Where I would’ve colored the giraffe orange, you added pink and blues in an incredible way. And Hannah Grace, you have shown me that you also see this beauty in people. Don’t ever lose that quality–that quality is what makes you truly gorgeous.