How my 4-year-old Biracial Daughter Self-Identifies (For Now)
Over the weekend I overheard my daughter talking to my youngest sister about sunscreen. (Remember she’s obsessed with the stuff?) And how even though we have brown skin, we can still burn, it just takes longer.
I tuned out their conversation for a moment while I got our pool items packed in the car.
I didn’t hear exactly what my sister was saying next, but I overheard her say “you’re just your color because you’re a little kid, but when you grow up, you’ll be darker like me.”
I didn’t have the heart to explain otherwise.
My daughter countered with her own conclusions for her lighter skin: “No no. I’m kind of pinkish like my dad, and brown like my mom, and like you! I’m like–”
“Yea yea yea,” my sister cut her off.
I called them to get into the car then told Lil’ J she was right. She’s like her mommy and daddy.
“Yea, I’m like everybody,” she said.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard my biracial daughter say something like this. Actually, just a week or two before she came into the kitchen and professed the same thing while my husband and I had a discussion at the table.
“Mommy, I’m a little pink like daddy,” while pointing to the palms of her hands, and parts of her forearm. “And brown like you!”
She beamed with pride.
“That’s right,” I told her. “And your friends?”
“Well…” She recounted each of her friends in their various shades and said they each were like her. “So I’m like everyone.”
“Kinda like a chameleon?” I said.”
“YEA!” She answered. Excited by her realization.
“Is mommy like everyone too?” I asked.
“No,” she answered point blank. “You’re just brown, and daddy’s just pink.”
“But we’re all the same in other ways,” I reminded her.
In our usual fashion I related the discussion to a Disney movie… Tarzan and the conversation he had with his gorilla mom about them being the same on the inside. … But even more so human to human.
I love the way she sees herself as not only a little bit of her daddy and I, but a little bit like everyone else. I hope that is a sign of the compassion and empathy she holds for others.
I hope that it doesn’t come to this but if/when there will be days she’s called too light or too dark, I want her to remember who she is. A little girl who is part mommy, part daddy, and a little bit lilt everyone else. All while being completely authentic and uniquely herself.
How does your child see him/herself?
~Lil’ J is 4 years 11 months old.
Tags: biracial, biracial kids, making strong roots, multiracial family, raising biracial kids
I love how kids see/don’t see colors. 🙂
Isn’t it sweet how they see the world? <3
My boys are 3 and 4.5 and they just identify themselves as “brown.” They say Daddy is black and they can’t quite put their finger on mommy’s color (whitish pink?) lol. Their cousins are 6 and 9 (black, not biracial) and understand that the kids are brown because their parents are different races, maybe you little sister needs a biology lesson from you or mom 😉
Haha, it’s hard to put a finger on that whitish pink skin. haha. Lil’ J is a little unsure too. Yes, my 9-year-old sister definitely needs a biology lesson. My daughter clearly knows she gets qualities from her mom and dad. I’ll hafta have a chat with her, or at least my mom. haha
My Daughter says she is Half brown like mommy and Half Pink lol like daddy. I always tell her she is a little bit of me and a little bit of daddy 🙂
No idea where they get the “pink” haha. But it’s adorable nonetheless.
I love her understanding that she’s part mommy, part daddy, and part everyone else!
My 8 year old just says, “why does it matter? Peel this skin off and we look exactly the same!” Less than appealing visual, but I’m glad that she gets it. While we should be comfortable and confident in the skin that we are in, it truly is what’s on the inside that matters.
Brandy your daughter’s approach is too awesome! Love that she knows we’re all the same on the inside, and that it’s what matters.
Love the teaching moments!!!
Me too Nan! Thanks for reading! 🙂
At the moment, color isn’t on their radar. A year ago, my son asked me if I was black. Apparently some kid at school told him he was black because I was black. I said, no, I’m half black and half white, and you are only one quarter black.
He hasn’t mentioned it since. Our daughter hasn’t ever really touched on it. We’ll see what happens when she gets to Kindergarten. She has a way of brushing off people who say things she doesn’t understand or doesn’t like so I’m not worried about her on this subject. She can handle odd scenarios. Our oldest son tends to squirrel nuts away to ruminate on them and then he brings it up for discussion when he has digested it some. I am not sure yet if that will mean he’ll be resilient when someone says something negative.
I grew up in a family where I was the first: the first grand child, the oldest sibling, the first half black, the first half white. My extended family was quite open about racial issues and discussions of color. There aren’t any taboos and they don’t pretend color doesn’t or shouldn’t matter. Thus, I am the same way. There isn’t anything on this subject I can’t or won’t discuss. I hope to pass that down.
For now, I tred lightly because while the kids are 75% white and they are identified in paperwork as white, they will have to deal with folks who insist on applying the one drop rule to them despite how racist that concept is. That antiquated concept though has such complex nuances that they are not ready to understand that for now.
I suspect by the 3rd or 4th grade, we’ll get around to explaining some of our nation’s complex relationship with race and color, but for now they just see themselves as our kids. Color isn’t part of the equation.
Wow, sounds like you have a pretty diverse family. And mama, I’m so with you on the annoyance of the “one drop rule.” I used to kinda believe that because I remember my parents saying that but no… I’m not going to make my kids choose, and I want them to love every side of themselves. Thanks so much for your comment.
While I whole-heartedly agree that the “one drop rule” is antiquated and an attempt to extinguish the beauty of diversity, I feel as though choosing to disregard the part of your babes that is in fact black, no matter how infinitesimal, as one poster stated (I’m paraphrasing) may be just as detrimental to their ability to openly claim their identity and place in this world of many colors, races, and cultures. There is no judgment here, as everyone is entitled to their own choices especially when it comes to raising their children; I just feel in my heart of hearts like I would never want my own bi-racial child to feel like any part of her heritage was less worthy of celebration than the others (as of now, she says she is yellow or olive since mommy is brown and daddy is white lol). I want her to be proud of both, identify as a human, and if all else fails, check the “other” box on any form that inquires about her race 😉
Maybe I missed someone else’s post, but I certainly never intimated that we planned to ignore our kids’s black heritage. I’m not sure how anyone could jump to that conclusion. How exactly would I go about doing that when my kids have a loving relationship with my dad?
The problem for people who still invoke the one-drop rule is that they have this crazy belief that whiteness is purity. There are precious few whites in this country who can claim racial purity. The government has long known that about 1/4 of white families who existed in America before 1880 have at least one non-white ancestor, and those people have married and married again, generation after generation. Seriously, purity has been long gone for some time for most whites. Ancestry .com can give you an earful of statistics on that score.
There’s nothing contradictory about assigning yourself (or my children) the “white” label while having one asian (or black or latino or whatever) grandparent. Nothing about that negates their self-worth or pride.
Truly, for our children to exist harmoniously in a multiracial environment we have to let go of this crazy idea that white is pure. Once we do that, the one-drop rule will cease to have meaning.
That’s the thing about commenting on web posts: they are merely a snapshot of the person’s opinion or view and don’t hold the whole truth, which is exactly why I stated that I could not judge and proceeded to give my own snapshot. I agree with you Yvonne, in that there is no race that can be considered “pure” and I would never try to assign such a ridiculous idea to any race or ethnicity. I suppose my issue, not necessarily with you, but in general, is the idea of labeling anyone with such singularity. Since, as you’ve stated, no one is all “black” or all “white”. Again, no judgment, and I’m happy that you felt comfortable enough to elaborate on your personal choice and situation so that I might better understand where you’re coming from!
My apologies. I wasn’t feeling judged so much as misunderstood. It is hard to squeeze complete comprehension and complexity into a tiny post. It’s all good. I appreciate your response. 🙂
So, I was reading this post with my almost 4-year-old son looking over my shoulder. He looked at the picture of you and J together and said, “What are they doing?” I said, “She’s just hanging out with her mom. Look, they have matching headbands.” And he replied, “Yeah. They have matching faces too.”
I thought it went well with the rest of the theme. 🙂
OMG Rachel I love your son! That’s so cute 🙂 I love when people say we look alike.
Lil’ J is so wise for her almost 5 years. I definitely think you guys have done and are doing a great job in helping her become secure in who she believes she is. As long as she continues to maintain that confidence, I don’t think she’ll have any issues. I always tell my kids that it only matters how you and God see yourself!
Mama you are so right… Lil’ J talks a lot about how God made her the way she is. I’m so glad that she’s confident in that and I hope to help it stay that way.
I am sorry but I do not like the word biracial, she is a child of GOD as you and hubby are, wen my boys were young I would not let anyone be negative to them about any thing weather it be about color of skin or color of hair, I figure there was enough hate in tis world and I was not going to allow any in my home, we had Hispanic neighbor’s and we never said a word to them, and you know all three of my boys never said a word about the color of there skin compared to there white skin, then one day my oldest son asked me, mommy why does Gilbert talk funny, he was about 7 years old at the time, so then I explained that Gilbert was born in a different County, so his language is not like ours, and you know my children never ever mentioned the color of skin, not once, they had friends in all colors and nationalities, and now at 51 I am dying, but I can say one thing that was the most important lesson I taught my boys, and that was GOD’S love does not see color, and if you know GOD then you know love and that is the most important lesson you can give them. And I can go boldly to GOD and know I did what he wanted me to do. I never told them they were mixed breed tell they were close to being an adult and then I told them that they were part Indian, so you see we are all biracial , I told my children we were mutes, mixed breed or biracial, I just don’t think it is necessary to point race out to them, they just need to know they are GOD’S children and they are very loved.
Thanks for your comment Penny. I’m so sorry to hear that at 51 you are dying. Your children must be heartbroken.
I just want you to know that it’s ok for people to notice color. It’s normal and not something you should feel ashamed or embarrassed to point out. I’m sorry that you were never able to speak with your Hispanic neighbors. I’m not sure if “not saying a word” means you never ever spoke with them, or just didn’t address race or the fact that they were from another country.
Either way I sorta feel like that’s a little unfortunate because we can all learn from one another in our differences. I’m always interested in learning about my friend’s backgrounds even if it just means what state they grew up in, or how they were raised.
Also, I don’t know if you’re getting the word “breed” confused with race. “Breed” is referring to a dog, not a human. I also find the term “mixed breed” highly offensive. However “biracial” is just a way to say “of two or more races,” which is what my kids are, and that in itself is a gift and beautiful in itself.
So yes, I agree, we are God’s children, I want my kids to know that, but when my kids have questions/comments about the color they notice, that’s totally normal and fine with me. In fact, I welcome it.
My daughter asked me the other day why is my skin brown. They start early knowing the difference with skin tones.
I agree Jessica, and I’m not sure if you’re responding to my post or another commented, but no where did I mention choosing to disregard the part of my children (Umm HALF) that is black. I definitely don’t want them to disregard me and my entire half of their family.
It was a response to Yvonne’s post, where she stated that her children were only 25% black and that her family chooses to identify her children as white on paperwork. As I said in response to her, though I can’t judge, my issue in general is with the singular way in which we are expected to identify ourselves. I feel as you do, that I would never want to disregard any part of my child’s heritage and would never want them to feel like they had to do so either. I, mistakenly, interpreted Yvonne’s post to mean that she did such, but she kindly elaborated more on her family’s dynamic and their approach. Gotta love open web dialogue! 🙂
That 25% thing is a complexity I never thought about as a kid. Short of marrying a biracial person like myself or someone with different races than myself, the balance will tip. I think it is infinitely easier for me to be half black and half white than for my kids to be 1/4 black. There seems to be less confusion at the 50-50 mark, but once you tip that balance, then what?
Sasha and Malia Obama are 1/4 white, do you ever hear anyone, even themselves, consider that? They certainly have the right to choose their own identification, but I have to confess as a mixed person, I’d prefer they (and their dad) deal head-on with their actual racial complexity and not let people (or choose) to simply be put in one box.
I am fine if my kids grow up and decide to be Other or Two or More Races, because the latter is definitely true. That’s their choice. For now, I merely assigned their racial designation based on percentages. It would be way crazier to assign them to the black category when that is the much smaller percentage of their whole. To the outside world, when I am not around, there is no question that people see them as white and only white. They have no physical characteristics of african ancestry. And even when I am around, most people think I am latino, and still generally think of them as white. For now, that designation works on various levels.
Funny story…I was applying for a passport and I needed my social security card to get it so I went to a SSA office and asked for a copy. The form, at that time, made me pick black or white. I didn’t have Other or any other choice so I left it blank. I get to the window and the lady asked me to check a box. I said, my parents applied for my SS card years ago; I have no idea what they chose. She said, what does your birth certificate say? I said, it only required race of the parents not race of the baby. So I said, look under black, and if you find nothing, look under white. She found my account under “black.” I promptly went to my dad and said, why did you tell the SSA that I was black? LOL! He was dumbfounded. He said, umm…because you are. I said, No, I am both black and white, and I have always been both. He said, well they only let me pick one and to me you are black….And he still sees it that way (which is his choice).
I am good with the idea that my kids may come to me one day with a different definition of who they are than what I have previously assigned. It’ll be like karma. 😀
Lol @ that story! That’s a very interesting perspective you have as a mixed race adult reflecting on your parents’ choices and those of other people of similar circumstances. I remember listening to Tia & Tamera Mowry (confession: two of my favorite people ever) having a dialogue on their show about how though they are both white and black, they identify as black women with white ancestry and thought about how even though technically, that’s true of potentially 90% or so of African Americans given the history of this country, I had had the luxury of never having to think about how to identify myself, at least genetically speaking…socially, it was a completely different story although I’m far more comfortable being just me without the labels now than I was when I was younger. I think that’s the big picture I was getting at though: that although at this point as the parent, we have to make the decisions for them, it’s important for our children to have all the knowledge of themselves and their ancestry so that they have the ability to choose for themselves how they will identify and that it doesn’t necessarily need to be along the rigid lines of race the majority of people currently adhere to. I love that you’re open to your kids creating their own view of themselves in the future!
Hey Beautiful! I featured you in my blog today. Thanks for the great work with your biracial baby girl. <3 You guys are blessed!
PS. I also have that same shirt as the one you’re wearing in your “About Jennifer” bio. teehee
My kid biracial kid thinks he’s gray. He also liked your daughter’s pic and said …”ooo i want to go play at her house! lol”
I just discovered your website searching for hair care tips. I have two girls, ages 8 and 12, and I remember very clearly when our oldest was about 4 and started to notice skin color. One day in preschool, her black father went to pick her up and one of her classmates who was black, asked her dad, “Is her mom white?” to which my daughter replied, “No! She’s pink!” Shortly thereafter we were watching Dancing with the Stars and there was a mixed couple dancing and she said she didn’t like the couple, that they didn’t go together. Our jaws dropped. She said specifically that she didn’t like the guy, who was black. I was completely shocked and worried. I went online and found a few books that feature mixed families, including Black, White, Just Right and Black is Brown is Tan. Now, my youngest is starting to comment on skin color. The girls have very different skin colors. My oldest is very fair with freckles but my youngest is brown and now she is always asking us why her skin is darker than her sister’s. We have lived in Africa for my job for the last 7 years and I have been very grateful that the girls go to schools with a diversity of kids, including many biracial kids like them so they see the whole range of beautiful skin colors and that it’s not unusual to be biracial.