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Can any parents of mixed race children help me please!

(19 Posts)
Playerpleeeese Thu 25-Apr-13 11:29:52

DS is 5 and in reception.

He is mixed race white/Nepalese. His dad and me split up when he was one, he has a good relationship with his dad and sees his 3 days a week. But my ex does not have any family here.

About a month ago a boy at school said to DS 'you are brown, actually you are a little bit brown and a little bit white' it wasn't being mean, just an observation as they were learning about differences/what makes us special.

But it seems to have freaked DS out, he can't get his head around it. He told me what the other boy had said, then said 'but I'm white aren't I mummy?' I said, I'm white and your daddy's Asian so you are mixed race. He looked at me blankly and said but I'm white like you aren't I? He was very distressed about te whole thing and kept saying 'but I'm white like you' I spoke to my ex about it and the next time he had him, DS asked him the same question. To which he replied ' I am brown your mum is white so you are a little bit brown and a little bit white'

I told my brother and mum about this, my brother now keeps trying to explain what mixed race is to DS, but he just gets really agitated and says 'no I'm white aren't I mummy'

I spoke to his teacher about it, and she said that she thinks he hasn't realised it part of his identity as the only Asian person he spends time with is XH who is very westinised (sp) been here for 20 years no accent no family etc.

Sorry that was long, but what brings me to post is this morning, he was looking at a picture of himself as a baby and said 'look mummy that's when I used to be brown but I'm white now'

I just don't know what to say, I don't now why it winds him up so much. DS takes things very literally and I think that maybe because he is quite pale, but with brown eyes/black hair, he sees that he is basically the same colour as me. The picture he was looking at was taken in the summer, and as soon as he goes in the sun, his skin darkens by 4/5 shades no matter how much factor 50 I use. It's just his colouring.

My XH says not to worry and DS will realise and work it out when he gets older. But I am worries that it causes him to get distressed.

Sorry it's so long of anyone's got any advice if appreciate it!

lynniep Thu 25-Apr-13 11:37:59

bless him. he must be so sensitive to it. can you try an explain using mixing paint to try and make it more visually clear? Brown paint for daddy and white for mummy? paint a picture of both of you, then mix the paint to make a picture of ds?
Otherwise I'd try not to worry so much - he will get it eventually - if he wants to be described as 'white' now just accept it - it doesnt really mean anything deeper than he cant understand how he is not white if his skin is currently white.

Simcard Thu 25-Apr-13 11:39:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

piggybank Thu 25-Apr-13 12:24:39

Ok, this isn't quite the same because my ds is not mixed race plus he is younger (aged 3) however he really struggles to accept any 'labels'.

It first cropped up when we discussed with him that he will be a big brother. The more people asked him about this (and many well meaning folks asked him about being a bro), the more upset he got.

He also totally refuses to accept that he is Welsh and Canadian.

Our response as parents as been to tell him to just be "DSname". We say 'you don't have to be anything but the best "DSname" you can be'

There's plenty of time in life for labels. If anyone tells him he's Welsh he says 'no I'm just DS name' which I think is fair enough.

Since baby arrived he has started to call himself a brother.

I bought him a Canadian flag, had a book about it from library and sing him the national anthem and he's slowly coming round about it. He also has a cnd passport.

Could you start to engage him about Nepal and start to introduce culture rather than physical difference?

Sorry this is so long! I just wanted you to know he's not alone in a reluctance to accept the things that make him different.

RealityQuake Thu 25-Apr-13 13:42:38

I agree with piggybank's post.

Labels are big complicated thing, even for adults. It's hard to connect to something just by having people say "you are X" with little other discernible connection. You can work to build a connection through family trees, pictures, media, books, and so on that he can happily recognise and connect to, and while I and many would argue that this connection to all areas of identity is important, the connection to a label is not important, especially at his age. He doesn't need to define himself in any particular way, its the dialogue and seeing positive images that look like you, his father, and him that he can connect to that are important.

My kids are mixed race, I'm mixed race, and my father is mixed race. My father will tell you he is white until the cows come home because in his age that was how a passing mixed race child was raised (especially one with the non-white race parent pushed out of the picture). He had no picture to connect to and was discouraged from thinking of himself in any light other than tan. I was discouraged the same way by him and his family but had far more image and information to connect to through community and media. My kids have both encouragement and media but lack of community for now as we've moved away from it. I get my perfectionist worries at time, but nothing is going to be perfect and we build our kids up the best way we can and positive images and connection has been shown to be a very powerful way of building a positive self image for all kids, particularly those that don't tend to see those like themselves reflected often.

Hope this helps.

PurplePidjin Thu 25-Apr-13 13:49:15

I don't know how I'll handle this if it comes up (ds is 5 months!) but could you maybe just reiterate "You're beautiful and I love you" to him? Keep his confidence up and let him define himself how he likes, perhaps

EldritchCleavage Thu 25-Apr-13 14:03:10

I'm mixed race. As children we were the odd ones out in my father's country and then the odd ones out over here. My parents have always emphasised family identity over racial identity (without ever ignoring the latter) and I remember my mother telling us we all belonged together.

Your son may be worried about being said to be something other than you, because he identifies strongly with you as his mother and wants the security of being the same as you. In which case emphasising that you and he are a family and that he is a combination of you and his father (rather than a combination of brown and white) may help him.

marriednotdead Thu 25-Apr-13 14:03:40

Another perspective for you. I am mixed race- white/Asian to simplify it, and grew up in a very racist environment in the 70's. All i could do was grow a thick skin.

My much younger half sister became quite hung up with her skin colour at one point as some kids at school told her that she could get special liquid to make her white like her mum and her half brothers hmm

We kept reiterating that she was who she was and that we loved her that way- she wouldn't be herself if she was white. She eventually accepted our argument and is happy and gorgeous as she is.

My DS has a white father and so is much lighter skinned than me. Like your DS, he can pass as white in the winter but tans very quickly in summer and becomes as dark as me if not darker. He only started calling himself mixed race when he started secondary school, after being questioned by other kids.

IMO, he can call himself what he wants, as long as he knows who he is.

squalorvictoria Thu 25-Apr-13 14:34:22

My daughter is mixed race (white/Asian) but only 19m so I haven't crossed this bridge yet.

If I were you though, I would perhaps lay off the concept of mixed race for a bit. I suspect Eldritch is right and the thing causing him upset is being different to mummy, not that he's rejecting his Nepalese heritage (not that you were suggesting this, of course!).

When he's a little older you can maybe broach the subject again and he'll be more excited by what makes him different and special.

InNeedOfBrandy Thu 25-Apr-13 14:43:12

My dd is mixed race and loves telling people about her white mum and black dad and calls herself brown. She wrote last week a page to read out loud to her class about all the different back grounds in her family. Her dad apparently walks Jamaican talks Jamaican and cooks Jamaican, she's very proud. Ds on the other hand calls himself black because his skin is very dark. When he was in reception and dd in year one they kept on and on for about 6months refusing to believe he was born here and kept asking me when he was going home. Lots of pointing out he was black and others were black brown or white when he was this age to, now he doesn't really talk about any of it no more.

Kewcumber Thu 25-Apr-13 14:53:46

I don't have time to read all replies atm so sorry I may repeat.

My DS is part Kazakh and so I suspect may look quite similar to your DS - pale in winter, dark in summer but may look a little more oriental.

He doesn't see his birth father.

I have said to him from a very early age how lovely his skin was and how I wish I went so brown in the summer. I also point out to him how his skin colour in summer is very similar to my sister (who tans like a handbag!). The issue for him is feeling that he isn't the odd one out - he probably doesn;t want to know that he's a bit one thing and a bit another. He is him and like everyone else else has his own skin colour.

I think you need to start pointing out how many different skin colours there are - how none of us are "white" and none of us are "black" but we are all on a spectrum of "skin" coloured.

You need to keep pointing this out - stop talking about "white" or "brown" or black or about him being a mixture of anything - its sounds like he's some kind of Dr Frankenteins monster! He should be old enough at 5 to grasp the concept of lots of different skin colours and how no-one is identical. He also needs to start valuing how he looks.

DS does still sometimes say to me "I wish I was paler" - I have said that everyone wishes they were different in some way! Just this morning I pointed out someones mum who had put on fake tan this morning whose skin was miraculously similar to DS's suddenly. It was a great opportunity to show DS how people aspire to his skin colour!

You can emphasise how you are alike in other ways but that it wouldn;t be nice to be the same in every way.

There's a great book about looking different to your paretns which is actually aimed at adoption but could equally apply to mixed race children. I'll look it up for you - very simple.

Kewcumber Thu 25-Apr-13 14:55:43

"I Don't Have Your Eyes, but I have your way of looking at things"

http://www.amazon.com/I-Dont-Have-Your-Eyes/dp/0972624422

Kewcumber Thu 25-Apr-13 14:58:23

just realised I have made my pictures public (to show off kitten pictures) so you can see what I mean about DS's looks.

Playerpleeeese Thu 25-Apr-13 18:44:30

Thank you for all your advice, I'm going to go with what you suggested. It's made me feel all better smile

Playerpleeeese Thu 25-Apr-13 18:44:45

*a lot

Bigbangevolution Thu 25-Apr-13 19:08:23

kew your little boy is gorgeous! Such a cutie!

Kewcumber Thu 25-Apr-13 21:04:12

Thank you, he is - though at 7 he isn't quite so cute (I'd like to think handsome though!). In the summer like Players DS he is very much darker.

MerryMarigold Thu 25-Apr-13 21:17:11

I had a similar situation with my ds1 who was distraught when I said he is not 'English' (he was 6). I was surprised at his reaction (crying...I think mostly because of football). I explained that Daddy is Sri Lankan and I am a bit English (and a few other things too) and that I like being mixed like smoothie. A smoothie made with strawberries and bananas and grapes and apples is really nice. But we live in England so of course we will support the English football team and Team GB in the Olympics. I also explained that a lot of his friends are not English either. He thinks it's really cool now that his best friend's Mum is Polish and is always going on about it. For me, it's not really about skin colour, but about acknowledging my kids have a heritage which is not about England.

Could your ds just want to be like you so saying you are 'white', he wants to be white as well and sees it as distancing himself from you if you are 2 different colours? I always tell my kids what gorgeous skin they have, which is like mine in Summer but theirs is all year round, and like Kewcumber said (wise words) not make it about 'white', 'brown', 'black' but a spectrum of colours.

MERLYPUSS Fri 26-Apr-13 11:02:07

My boys have an asian dad. I tell them that they have brown eyes like daddy, dark hair like daddy, long legs like mummy (I wish) and their colour is mummy and daddy mixed. They say they are cup of tea colour not coffee like daddy and not yellow (?) like me. They say they are a 'mix up' of both of us. DT1 is constantly trying to tan himself to go dark which makes me laugh when he rolls his trousers up on the most overcast of days. In reality they look dark mediteranan. Georgeous boys.

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