Me with H. and A. in Lake Tahoe
I am whiter than white. In fact, my legs (which see little sunshine) can blind oncoming traffic. I am also married to a beautifully brown man. Before having kids, I wondered what color they would be. Mixed-race kids sometimes favor one parent in coloring, and sometimes they end up somewhere in between the two. I wasn’t sure how ours would look, but I figured that they would be darker than me.
When my first daughter was born, I often held her up next to my face while looking in a mirror and thought, “If I hadn’t been there when she was born, I wouldn’t believe that she was mine.” We are similar in temperament and even share some facial features, but she and I have very different skin colors: my beautiful girl has lovely brown skin, more like her father’s. She also has darker hair and eyes, and looks Indian, while there is no mistaking my Caucasian-ness.
At first glance, we look so different that I have had people question whether she was my daughter. One lady at Costco even asked if I was the nanny!
When H. was about three years old, she and I were in an auto parts store looking for Miata wheels for my Mazda and she started to ask me what color people were. Since I believe that it is important to answer all questions that children ask with truthful, but age-appropriate, answers, I told her that this man is “white” and this one is “black” and the other one is “brown.” She accepted my answers and didn’t comment much about it. I could see that she was starting to recognize different skin colors, and I wondered when she would begin to ask questions about our own differences.
Fast-forward two years. For some reason, we were having a discussion about skin color and she wasn’t sure how to describe mine.
I asked her what color she was. She said, “Brown.”
“Okay, so then what color am I?” I asked.
“Light brown,” she said.
I smiled, my heart filling with love at her description of me. We are definitely not the same color, but since I am Mom, I must be a variation of what she is. She recognizes that she is darker than me, but we are of the same tribe.
Interestingly enough, my husband had a similar “is this child mine?” experience when our second daughter was born. Her skin is much lighter than H.’s (but still slightly darker than mine), with the same dark eyes, and lighter hair.
Both girls look very similar except for the skin color, and I wonder how their identities will develop as they grow up and inevitably have to check a box on some form. Will the older one check “Asian Indian?” Will the younger one check “Caucasian/White?” Will either of them check both boxes, or perhaps “mixed race?” In the end, it doesn’t really matter to me what box(es) they check, but I expect that they will have more questions about skin color, race, and culture as they grow up and interact with more people who look like they do (or who look different). I guess the conversation is the most important thing.
For now, I am content thinking of myself as “light brown.” I never would have described myself that way before, but I giggle a little every time I think about my daughter describing me that way. If I think of myself as half-Indian, which is not actually true, I suppose that I can also be “light brown”. After all, a description can be about how we feel, how we see ourselves, and how others see us. Even if it is not actually true.
I have a brown husband. We have a brown girl and a light brown girl. And I am light brown, too. So there you go. Tee hee!