This story first appeared on Florecita Growing Up
So lately we’ve been a lot more involved in community organizing and since the kids are getting older we decided to start bringing them along to make sure we are not neglecting them in the process of helping others, or creating spaces that we would like to think help others. Sometimes it’s frustrating because they are kids and when we are at a meeting that is not kid-friendly, they get bored.
Most of the time before meetings that both Isaac and I are attending, we decide whose in charge of the kids for the meeting: this includes entertainment, food and taking them out of the room if they are having a tantrum. Usually the system works well, but I have noticed that when it’s Isaac’s turn he seems to get more compassion and help. Like people literally say, “Oh can I help you!” or “I can hold him for you.” When it’s me, it’s definitely more expected, even if I’m in the middle of talking or essential to the planning process.
Sometimes I get looks, you know, the looks that say, “Aren’t you gonna get up and help this poor man?” I used to respond to these quickly and get up and take over but recently, I kinda look back and smile and continue whatever I am doing. We have a plan and being a parent isn’t easy so I know he’ll figure it out.
Addressing Prejudice in Blended Families
In this work we meet a lot of new people but we also encounter people from our past. Last week, Andrei was sad and told me: “Mom, why does everyone call my dad little Isaac? Am I little Isaac too?” I felt a little jab in my stomach, and all the times that people called baby Adrian “Little Isaac” in front of Andrei flooded into my head. Andrei and Baby Adrian have different biological fathers but they have the same dad. This is the explanation Andrei gives when he explains to others how our family works.
Not long ago, Andrei asked to have his head shaved so he could look more like his dad and this made me happy because he loves Isaac, but it also made me sad to see what an impact an inconsiderate person’s comments can have on my children. After he got his haircut he said, “Yes now there’s four Isaacs! Dad, me-little Isaac, Adrian-little Isaac and Alissa’s Isaac (one of our good friends)”. They all happen to be different shades of brown and I thought it was cute that he looked in the mirror and really believed he looked the same as his dad, brother and friend.
I guess a solution would be keeping them home away from the outside ignorance, but where’s the strength in that? Because let’s face it, we are a blended family and we can’t pretend we are not. Truthfully, here in our home there are no differences. But recently, I can tell the kids are starting to defy and question our family structure. I hear them asking questions based on the way they are treated by adults outside the home. Extended family, friends and community members.
A while ago, Nati told me, “Mom, why does _______ (*name removed) always say Adrian is dark? He’s just really dark brown. I don’t care what they say, he looks like me!” I didn’t address it at the time because I didn’t know how.
Many of the people that make these comments are family. So here’s the challenge, how do you tell them, “Hey! Your being a jerk,” without being a jerk yourself?
So, if your reading this and you haven’t checked the language you use around children because you assume they are not smart or they don’t understand that you are being prejudiced, well guess what, kids do understand. Sometimes, they understand more than us adults understand because they are not biased or tainted by adult perceptions. They are little people that have the same thought processes, and whose adult influence affects learning structures, identity and understanding.
Anyway suggestions and comments are readily accepted. :)
Personally, I never thought our shades of brown would cause these issues in our blended family. I always assumed it would be other stuff.
*No names were mentioned because it would just be mean to call them out. But the kids know and remember and it does hurt their feelings to be treated differently because they look different or have different dads.