Maybe I’m just incredibly naive, but can kids be racist?! Kids. Like, five years old.
Moving to a bigger city was one of the best things to happen to our family. Last year, when we were stationed in more of a rural area, there was a little more stress in the air… particularly with the kids… more specifically with my oldest.
Last year, he came up to me one day and asked,
“Mommy do I have girl eyes?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“____ said I have eyes like a girl. And that I’m a girl because I have eyes like this *pulls at outer corners of eyes so his eyes appear “more asian”* and that its ugly to have eyes like a girl if you’re a boy.”
What. In. the. Hail?!
I crouched down and put my hands on his shoulders and told him, “you have eyes like me and and like Daddy. You’re incredibly handsome and even more important, you are extremely smart. You use your eyes to read books, to look at things and ask questions about it, you use your eyes to search for things… it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you. As long as you feel like you’re important, kind, and a gentleman, then that’s all that matters”.
Let me tell you, that was a good freaking answer for the amount swearing and rage that was happening inside of my brain.
It reminded me of a time when I was a teacher and a student asked me if I ate cats.
As parents, my husband and I try and prepare our kids for everything: bullies, messes, danger, losing – you name it, we try and bring attention to it. If you fall – get up and try again. Use your manners. Eat over the plate. If you make a mess, clean it up. If you need help, ask. Always leave a place better than how you found it. Open the door for people. Give up your seat for someone. Look both ways when cross the street. Get someone’s attention before throwing something at them, etc, etc…
I was prepared to deal with kids being mean. Because let’s be honest, kids are mean. But we were not prepared for that kind of conversation to come up.
My oldest is also starting to notice things. He said he loved tennis camp because his coach looked exactly like him (he was Korean). He loves Bruno Mars because they look alike. He’s asking questions about two people holding hands, questions about women covering their heads in the summertime when it’s not cold out, and he’s asking more about his Filipino culture.
When he asks these questions, I explain it to him in the simplest terms possible without throwing in my opinion. If he pushes a question further and I don’t know the answer, I google it. But I’m honestly at a loss.
Other than teaching kids to be a good person, what else can be done to help kids rise up when they gets comments like that?