The magnitude of what is going on in our world lately is overwhelming; I can only imagine how it must feel to people of color. Last week, I had a breakdown in front of my husband, sobbing about not knowing how to teach our son Sam to be the type of person the world needs more of: smart, kind, strong, and willing to “be the change.”
Our son is not quite ten months old.
He may be young, but he’s learning things every single day. And he’s learning them FAST. It’s up to us as his parents to make sure he’s learning the right things. A dear friend of mine is feeling the same way and told me just tonight “I haven’t been able to sleep much. I feel like I need to be doing more and the pressure of raising two white males feels very heavy at the moment. I just want to get it right.”
“I just want to get it right.”
If that isn’t the damn truth. But that is what we mothers do, isn’t it? We bear the heaviness because we have to get it right.
When I was pregnant for my son, I spent countless hours researching baby items for my registry. Everything that went on that list was heavily vetted first. I poured over product ratings and reviews and searched through dozens of recall bulletins. I took childbirth classes and breastfeeding classes, I committed the 5 S’s for soothing fussy babies to memory. I studied safe sleep practices, compared and contrasted various feeding styles, and visited the American Academy of Pediatrics website almost daily. When it came to adding things like toys and books to the list, I consulted Montessori guidelines because they encourage kids to experiment and learn through play.
I was checking every box to make sure my child was getting the best I could offer him because I had to get it right.
A few days ago, I noticed my friend Brittany had posted a photo on Facebook of a pack of Crayola colored pencils with “Multicultural” emblazoned across the box (there was also a pack of Multicultural crayons pictured). I was intrigued. I have an infant, so the only crayons I have are the egg-shaped ones that are easy for his tiny hands to grip. We don’t use them much since he’s more interested in putting them in his mouth than to paper, but they are great when he needs to “sign” a card for his dad’s birthday. Seeing the various skin tones represented in the box made me realize that I have a playroom full of toys, books, and a budding collection of art supplies – but hardly anything in the way of teaching him about the diversity of the world around him.
I commented on Brittany’s photo, explaining that I want to stock my son’s playroom with items like those colored pencils and asking her if there were any toys or books she could recommend. Since she’s the mother of three multiracial kids under age 9, I figured she probably had a few suggestions.
Ha! I should’ve known that a woman holding a master’s degree in science who’s a college chemistry lecturer would be a bit more thorough than to send just “a few” suggestions! She spent her entire day curating an exhaustive list of resources that she’s used in her own home over the years to share with me. I was floored and grateful.
She explained in her email to me that she hadn’t necessarily gone out looking for books about black families, but if she was looking at options for books on bedtime, it just made sense to get the one that featured a black family. She told me she yearns “for content where people of different races and sexual identity especially can just exist. But obviously we are not there yet.”
Reading her words made me realize that I never had to make that decision. My white family is society’s “default” and it takes virtually no effort at all to find a book with a family that looks like ours.
Hello again, white privilege.
I was so grateful that Brittany had been so generous with her time and effort in answering my question about recommendations, but I was suddenly a bit embarrassed for even asking her in the first place. It hadn’t crossed my mind that, in my quest to be helpful, I put the onus on her. Here I was, a white woman asking a person of color to help me fix a problem that I basically contribute to. Oof. I cringed.
But Brittany knocked it out of the park again and replied, “Let me just say it’s easy to support people with good hearts.” She gave me grace because she knows I’m trying to be proactive, to enact positive change starting in my own home. She knows that I’m doing my best to get it right.
Thank you again for EVERYTHING, Brittany.
Especially the grace.
For a printable of Brittany’s list along with some other great resources for teaching children about diversity, click HERE.
For more information about books on racism, inclusion and empathy, please see this post from Red Stick Mom.