I come from a mixed race family and as such my sons have been born into a family of cousins with skin colour ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. To date, no query has ever been made in regard to this. I have told myself that possibly at some point curiosity about race might prompt the issue and when it does, I’ll address it then.
Something happened two weeks ago though that made me think that that moment had finally come. We had an acquaintance visit the islands on a business trip and she brought along her two sons. After failed attempts to get some form of child minding services here, I offered to look after the two boys given I work from home and moreover, Reece, my 7 year old was still on holiday and would love the company. I found out just before the arrival of these boys that one of them was adopted. Still, I thought nothing of it. At 10:00 o’clock on the day, a car beeped outside and out came my son’s playdates. One was black and one was white. It took a total of 20 seconds for the boys to break the ice and before I knew it, a football was bouncing off the walls of my veranda.
During the course of the 7 hours that James and Leo (names have been changed) played with Reece, I wondered whether Reece would have questions about the situation. In fact, I was certain he would and started preparing myself for it. I was somewhat excited to have a bit of grown up talk with him about families and how they come in all different ways, mixed, blended, adopted, foreign, same-sex parents, the likes. In our own personal life we probably have specific examples of each for me to make the explanation more manageable for a 7 year old to understand.
Now, as I stated at the start, my son is from a mixed-race family. There is nothing out of the ordinary for people of different skin tones or colour to be related, but I just thought that the stark physical difference between these two brothers would have perhaps triggered off some sort of curiosity. After the brothers had been picked up, I gathered my thoughts and waited for it. Nothing happened. So, I started probing.
‘Reece, you had a good time with James and Leo?’. A very tired ‘yeah’ followed.
‘Is there anything you want to ask me about them?’
Confused, Reece asked me, ‘like what?’
‘Well, they got on so well. You and Theo could learn something from them’. I said, feeling a little uneasy.
‘Oh, you didn’t see them when they had a fight. It’s normal mummy, all brothers fight,’ he informed me sounding all grown up.
That was the last we ever spoke of James and Leo. Something hit me after his last comment and it was such a heart-warming discovery. My son does not see colour at all. In a way I wondered whether I had over-analysed the situation but then I quickly realised that I am an adult and unfortunately I have been socialised to understand that there must be an explanation for a white and black sibling. To Reece, James and Leo were just like him and Theo, brothers who played well together but had their moments too.
Now I am not trying to say we should never see colour. On the contrary, I think colours should be celebrated and whoever resides in whatever skin tone should be able to live in a world where the skin tone is just that, a physical description of their skin rather than an opinion of who they are.
For the time being though, my son remains clueless it would seem about black and white, or rather, as he was taught at Montessori Pre-School when the Blue Room learned about physical descriptions of each other, brown and peach. I have decided to just let this innocence be. Maybe one day he will ask, or maybe not. Who knows, maybe we are raising a new generation who won’t give a crap about skin colour. How wonderful would that be?