Talking about bi-racial families with my daughter
My daughter has been playing with her vintage Fisher Price people on a daily basis since she was about a year old.
In one routine game, she puts the “children” (who are slightly shorter) in a circle and sings the “goodbye song.” Then, each“adult” (a slightly taller figure) picks a child up from school. When she first started playing this game, she would assign adults to children randomly, almost never putting them in the same pairs, and with no consideration to their physical appearances. The only thing she was emphatic about was that every child had to be paired with one adult.
At this point, a few child/parent pairs have started to form, all of which happen to be same-race pairs. I have pointed this out to her, saying, “Lucy and Susie have the same skin color. Some mommies and children have a similar skin color, but other mommies and their children have different skin colors, did you know that?”
Recently, my daughter replied, “We have the same skin color.”
“Well,” I said, “You are right that we are both White, but we have slightly different skin tones. Your skin is more like a brown egg shell, and mine is more…green,” I described my olive complexion.
One of the new “adults” I had purchased was a tall version of one of my daughter’s favorite figurines, a boy she had named “Kopek.” Both Kopek and this new adult figure have brown skin, a blue shirt, and a blue cap. Kopek was one of the other children who had been paired off with same-race mama figure and I wondered whether this new “papa” figure would join this family unit. At first, she rejected him but within a few weeks, they had formed the first and only, “traditional” (two-parent, heterosexual) family unit amongst the Fisher Price people.
Recently, my daughter paired a White mommy figure with two White children, the first siblings she has allowed. (These are the same two girls I wrote about in another blog post that my daughter noticed were similar when she was 15 months old.)
For now, the other 20 or so children and adults continue to pair off somewhat randomly in both same-race and biracial families. So far, no bi-racial families have presented themselves as fixtures in my daughter’s organization of her play. Whether they do or do not emerge, I will continue with my commentary, encouraging her to try on different realities as she plays.
Sachi Feris is a blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children, an online a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. Sachi also co-facilitates interactive workshops/webinars and small group workshop series on how to talk about race with young children. Sachi currently teaches Spanish to Kindergarten and 1st grade at an independent school in Brooklyn.