mummy, your face is brown
My precious girls are incredibly articulate for people who have only been on this earth a little while. Sometimes it’s just a little frightening. They have that way that children do of placing ordinary ideas or events into startling relief. I remember a conversation that begin with, “mummy, your face is brown”, a statement of fact delivered calmly by 4-year-old Lileith, to which 6-year-old Rosa responded knowingly, “that’s because everybody’s different, isn’t it mummy?”
Yes, my face is brown, unlike Emi, Lileith and Rosa, and my girls have never seen me in a dress, or with long hair. Lileith was quite convinced for a while that she must have come from me as her complexion is slightly darker than her sister’s. I was honoured by her conclusion, and even though I would present her with the truth each time she repeated it, I was just a wee bit sad when she finally understood that I was not the mom who birthed her. Thankfully, that realization doesn’t seem to have changed a thing – I’m still just her mummy with the brown face; the one who makes her giggle and tells outlandish stories. We have many such conversations these days, about skin colour and gender and religion, and Emi and I find ourselves scrambling to keep up with our relentlessly inquisitive children.
My kids, they notice the differences, and the similarities between each other, their moms, our family and all the others around us. And right now, it’s all good. They share the playground by our home and the one at school with kids from brown families, and white families, and brown and white families, and they don’t seem to give it a second thought. It’s not the town I was raised in where my siblings and I were 1 of only 2 families of colour in our neighbourhood. I was so used to seeing white faces all around me that I would go for long periods without remembering how those eyes peering from those white faces would see me. Leaving small town behind and embracing the big city opened up the world to me, in all it’s many colours and scents and sounds. Rosa and Lileith were born to this magnificent complexity and see themselves as just one way of existing within it.
I both marvel at and find myself deeply relieved by the diversity of race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, economic experience, and even religion, that surrounds us in every aspect of our lives – our neighbourhood, schools, work. I can see the influence this has on my daughters; their ready acceptance of new friends and the histories they bring with them; their delight in music from far away and a willingness to try foods and listen to stories that are beyond their experience.
For now, my ‘difference’ remains a non-issue, although they often talk of finding me the perfect dress. I’m not Emi, their other mom, with her beautiful European face surrounded by gorgeous long dark hair. Whatever creative licence they would like to take with my physical being, it’s all about making me ‘pretty’. For my girls, normal is … every possibility. How wonderful!