Written by Love Isn’t Enough Contributor Amber; Originally published at American Family. This is the second post in a two-part series. Part I is here.
After I said Chinese New Year wasn’t likely to help L like her skin any better, I got nothing but a blank stare from the principal.
“I don’t want you to think I am making a bigger deal out of this than I am,” I said. ”I understand that recognizing differences is developmentally appropriate in preschool. We are comfortable talking to L about race and other differences. I just wanted to find out of there was an incident, because if something like that happened, I would want to address it differently with L than if this is just her letting us know that she is noticing thing on her own.” ( I had asked L if there was an incident several times, but she always said no. I just wanted to check in with the teachers to be sure.)
The assistant teacher said “I don’t think any kids in this class even notice differences!”
I knew that was a bunch of hooey. The class is about 40-50% not white. When I was there for the halloween party, one little African American girl couldn’t figure out which kid I was attached to. When I told her I was L’s mom, she looked at me, looked at L and looked back at me. ”I don’t THINK so.” she said shaking her head with one eyebrow raised doubtfully.
Kids this age notice race. There is no reason to pretend that isn’t true. L talks about kids in her class who have certain disabilities, darker skin, etc. That doesn’t bother me at all because she wasn’t viewing these things as good or bad. She just never put it in context of herself before and the negativity is what gave me pause.
“It is just so sad that L doesn’t like the way she looks!” the assistant teacher said, “I don’t know why she would think that! We ALWAYS tell L how cute she is…and in her case it is really TRUE!”
And again, things in my brain kind of skipped a beat. True, I think L is a cute enough kid. What about the uncute kids? Are they just telling them they are cute but they don’t really mean it? I almost started laughing out loud.
It was clear we were not on the same page, so I decided to just let it go (with the teachers) for now. I am not convinced that anything they try to do about it won’t cause more problems than it will help and we will be leaving for our trip soon. By the time we get back, L will likely have a very different understanding of being Chinese and we can see where things are then. I thanked them for their time and got us the heck out of there.
I was glad we had the meeting because I have a better idea of what might have happened to lead to L saying she wants white skin like XYZ. I am guessing that they were talking about different and the same and the issue of skin color was probably brought up. I am guessing the three kids in question (who happen to be white boys) were playing together and L wanted to play. They probably said no.
L is not the most socially adept kid and sometimes she doesn’t catch all the angles in group play situations. Because they were talking about skin color in class, it is possible that L decided that they said she couldn’t play because she doesn’t have white skin. She never said anyone said that directly to her, so I think maybe she made that conclusion on her own. She could just have easily decided they wouldn’t play with her because she was a girl, but I think the class conversation had her thinking about her skin for the first time.
Since the first few weeks when this happened, we have talked more about differences with L. We aren’t making a big deal out of it, but she has let us know she is understanding more. She has also moved on from saying she hates things so often. Now she is more focused on telling me she won’t be my friend or M’s friend when she is looking for attention.
So thats it. The first time we have to deal with this stuff at school. Ugh.