For a while now Emma’s been aware of colour. Not like in rainbow blue, purple, yellow colour, but that Mark and I are white and her and Ben are brown. She’ll say things like “mom you and dad are white and Ben and I are brown” but she also says “mom, you, me and Ben have brown eyes and daddy’s eyes are green.” And I say yes “we’re ‘same same'”.

But the other night she said “me and Ben have got brown eyes and hair and brown skin. You’ve got brown eyes, brown hair and white skin” and I said “yes, we’re ‘same same'” to which she replied “we can’t be ‘same same’ mom if you’re different.” I was thrilled that she reckoned I was different and NOT her and Ben but I was also a little bit sad that she could feel this, though for now I think (or at least) hope it’s not with negative associations.

I sat down on the couch next to her, put her head on my lap and explained that there are lots of people that look different – there are people with blonde hair (like Barbie? she interjected), there are people with red hair (like the girl from Brave? she interjected again) and there are people with brown hair like us. There are people with freckles and people without and people with cute little button noses like hers and Ben’s and people with pointy noses (like the witch in Sleeping Beauty? she interrupted). Some people have two arms and two legs and some people don’t. Some people can see and some people can’t. But we are all the same. We laugh, we cry, we get hurt, we get sad, we get cold and hot and we get scared. Some people can be mean and some people can be really nice. (And some people like to swim and some people don’t, says Emma).

But we still like them and we accept them for who they are. Why do we like them if they’re different she asked. I was a little stuck for a practical answer and then Basco, our chinese crested powderpuff jumped on the couch next to us.

Emma what colour is Basco? He’s black and white. And do you love him? Yes, lots and lots. Why do you love him? Cos he’s nice and gentle and he lies with me on the bed and he doesn’t bite me. And do you like Chloe? Yes, I love Chloe. Why do you love Chloe? Cos she plays with her ball and gives me kisses. And what colour is Chloe? She’s white with a brown patch. Emmie do you love Binah? Sometimes. Why only sometimes? She steals my food off the table and she scratches me with her sharp claws. And what colour is Binah? Beenie’s black. And how about Jagger? Do you love Jagger? Yes! She swims with me and sleeps on the bed and she plays but she bites me when she gets scared. And what colour is Jagger? Jagger’s brown and white and black and silver.

You see? You love all of our dogs and they’re all very different. And when I asked you why you loved them you gave me very different reasons for each one. But not once did you say you love them or like them because of how they look. You spoke about the things they do or how they make you feel and it’s the same with people. You like them because of how they make you feel, And if there’s someone you don’t like it should be because they make you sad or cross, not because of what they look like. Okay? Okay!

A little while later, just before bed, Emma told me she loved me EVEN THOUGH I’m different. Different how? I asked, hoping that my lesson had hit a home run. You’ve got big boobs and mine are small!

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13 thoughts on “Same-sameness

  1. Melinda, this post just saved my behind. Jae has been noticing that her family are all different colors. And she has been slowly starting to mention that I am white and daddy is brown etc. What an amazing way to get the message across!

    Love you lady!

  2. I think you navigated a situation that all of us find tricky with thought and sensitivity.
    A friend of mine has a little girl in England who came home from school one day saying, horrified, “Mom, do you know that brown people and peach people didn't used to be allowed to play together?!”

  3. My brown daughter is the only one of different skin colour in our family, and she sees herself as different. We point out all the differences that we have, but at 6 that is not enough. We have read her The kid's Long Walk to Freedom, and explained that she might be the few in our house, but in SA she is like the most. This has helped.

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