I recently experienced my first parenting fail moment and thought I’d reflect on it and share. We attended the nutcracker ballet last weekend, as we do each year, and I promised both girls they could pick out a nutcracker to take along. Target had them on sale, but I thought they were regular priced at $10. Due to the sale, not much stock was left at our local target, so the kids had to pick from a limited selection of left over, picked over nutcrackers, most of the ones left were painted black or brown.
My oldest picked an angel nutcracker, as you can see from the picture and there was also one Clara nutcracker left, but my youngest really wanted a soldier. She calmly and quietly said, “I want a soldier, but I want a clear faced one, not brown-faced.” I couldn’t help but look around, considering I am and they are Indian-American. At that moment, their mommy became a whopping mixture of both brown and red-faced. No one heard, but I couldn’t help but wonder where I failed as a parent that my child wanted a white nutcracker; a child, mind you who was born a month after the Obamas entered the White House and hasn’t seen any other President yet in her short lifetime.
Then I realized as we talked more in detail that they are just not exposed to multi-cultures here in our homogeneous, yet firmly liberal city or town. My daughter said when we go to the shows, no one performing is like us, nor look like this soldier (the one she opted to buy). She said everyone on the shows we watch are also clear-faced so she wanted what she thought was most appropriate for the nutcracker. I told her in larger towns, and at the the traveling DCPA productions, multi-cultures are indeed represented, and it’s just that the local productions we see are reflective of the population in our local Colorado. From the mouth of babes, though, it helped me understand that I do need to take more steps to expose my children to more Indian activities, and Bollywood productions, and perhaps even different cultural events. At the Nutcracker ballet, a sweet young boy came up to my daughter who was hiding her nutcracker at first, and exclaimed, “I have the same one but mine has a pink face.” I was screaming on the inside considering how embarrassed my daughter was earlier. But, I also noted that color was indeed noticed by children this little, and that this is the reality of our world and it’s our job to educate and mentor our children. I replied, “oh great… this is a unique one and can do the same things yours can. Isn’t that great?” He smiled and took off, but this small event really did open my eyes.
It made me realize that no matter how innocent kids truly are, they perceive things through activities, shows and such, and what we expose them to. The American girl episodes do not help either with its cast of characters, or the TV shows they watch from time to time. Everyone is “clear-faced.” Children certainly don’t intend to discriminate in the same illegal manner that adults may, but they distinguish attractiveness based on what they see and experience, and TV and movies are a huge part of this. My sweet young daughter was embarrassed about what happened, so I don’t force the issue any longer, but when possible, try to show her things I think will help her self-image, and perception of the world around her. Ironically, as we checked out at Target, the people magazine cover struck me and my daughter smiled too as I showed it to her, but she was indeed embarrassed about her innocent comment earlier. Black or white, it does not matter, but I hope we can see past race some day in their lifetimes. Judging from who was elected President recently, his appointees and what he proclaims to stand for, I say we have a long ways to go.