On learning resilience

My daughter is a process thinker, if something upsets or moves her spirit she needs time to work it out inside before she tells it to my husband or me. A month ago she had a situation in kindergarten that upset her. She took her time to sit with it and eventually told her dad. The dad called me and told me that a boy in kiga had told Shay that she could not play along, and he didn’t like her because her skin is dark. I was thrown back because

  1. I did not expect to have this conversation at the beginning of her 4th year, I thought we had at least 5 more years.
  2. I had seen Shay n said boy playing together so nicely.

My heart broke for her. I have experienced my share of racism n microaggressions, but at this point in my life, I already have some things figured out.

  1. I have a strong sense of self, so what any random person says about me is irrelevant. It might sting but I will not give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me stung.
  2. I don’t care about peoples foolishness, I’m done educating anyone about race. Stay hateful, stay ignorant, I’m living my life, bye Karen.

Now, when this happened to her it hits quite different, I swear I felt her emotional pain so deeply I was in tears. This incident bothered her for almost a month. She looked to me for answers. I was not ready and I am not ready to tell her that she will meet people who might not like her just for being dark.

I’m not ready to open her eyes to the hate that’s directed towards black and minority people for nothing we have anything to do with. She is only 4 and so carefree. One day she believes she is Elsa and has super powers to freeze things, the next she is Moana n talking to the ocean, then she is a shark or a unicorn, at times a witch others a fairy. I am not ready to bust her childish bubble. I refuse to do it, I won’t do it.

If you know Shay, then you know she has a kind spirit, she is naturally a sweet kid. Very spirited as well. She loves confessing her love to the people she loves, n just being affectionate. She is one of the most sharing person I know, well I used to know one more person like that, my dad, but he is resting now. She loves her friends and loves being loved by them, so this rejection hit hard but it is character building.

Before my knowledge of this incident, she became obsessed with my skin colour and would give me ever so many compliments on how beautiful it is. I didn’t think much of it because she is forever giving compliments. Then when I found out what had happened I conclude it explained the sudden obsession with my skin colour.

We talked about it, about how she felt, we talked about how in life she will meet people who might not like her, the same way that she will meet people who she won’t like and that’s okay. We agreed that it was mean and hurtful what the boy said, if he was truly her friend he would not be mean to her. So people who say mean things to us are not our friends. We talked about her skin colour and agreed that it was as gorgeous as can be. We talked about my skin, daddy’s skin, the boy’s skin and agreed that while we all have different yet beautiful skin we cannot tell anything about who we are just by looking at it, so the boy was indeed being very foolish.

She said something insightful. That may be said boy was not being mean but having a hard time with his big feelings, so she was going to ask him on the next day if he meant it. As an adult my anger, pride and ego would not allow me to do that! I wanted to tell her that was a terrible idea but I held back. Isn’t it amazing how pure kids are, the innocence, the forgiving nature, it fascinates me. I didn’t want to kill this, so I did not talk her out of it, plus I tell her that at times when we have big feelings it is hard to be calm so we say mean things we don’t necessarily mean.

I talked to the childminder because as much as it is uncomfortable it had to be addressed. I believe emotional safety is just as important as physical safety so it was my duty to advocate for my lil girl. She talked to the boy and his family and hopefully, we shall not have to revisit this topic, at least not in kindergarten. Shay did follow through on her idea and came home happy last Monday, announcing that they were friends once again. I don’t know how to feel about that but I told her I was glad.

We are very intentional in raising a self-confident girl and nurturing her self worth. I need her to always know that how we feel about ourselves comes from within us not without. Nobody can tell her who she is, only she gets to define that. Kids are mirrors that reflect the views of their elders. I’m sure Shay will meet some kids that reflect the foolishness and stereotypical ideas of said elders. Unfortunately, I cannot shield her from this. So I have listed the things and ways that are in my control to help her young mind navigate the world outside of our little one.

Things that are in my control

  • Intentionally putting her in an inclusive environment where is represented, I romanticize living in the countryside, having a slower-paced life, but that would mean a total lack of diversity so I put that dream to rest.
  • Leaving the communication doors open. Being open to her curiosity. once we met an older lady with dwarfism and Shay pointed out “mommy look a baby granny” loud enough for everyone to hear, I did not shush her but I did give the lady an apologetic look. I explained dwarfism to Shay and told her I was gonna let her know the correct terminology once i found out, but it was not baby granny.
  • celebrating and teaching our cultural strength, Her Kenyan and Russian background, the language advantages.
  • Teaching her that blackness is not monolithic, there is a vast array of cultural, history, ethnic backgrounds and experiences and she doesn’t have to fit any box that is not constructed by her.
  • Advocating for her even when it's uncomfortable.
  • Teaching her diversity, people come in all shapes n forms n colour, even if she is growing up in a widely white homogeneous city there is still a lot of diversity in the world at large.
  • Constantly educating myself about things that aren't necessarily in my preview and how to discuss and teach them respectfully. Like dwarfism for example.
  • Nurturing her compassionate and spirited little self, as we unfold layers of who she is with love and acceptance.

1 Comment

  1. Where do I start? First of, I imagine how hard this experience might have been to you as a mom and to Shays evolving self. I appreciate you finding strength to put it down for us. It’s unfortunate that race seems like a topic we will always be confronted with in one way or another.

    I love how intentional the insights you highlighted above are and Shay is really blessed to have you in her life to guide her. You are a great mom Ezzy.

    Liked by 1 person

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