We were driving to work and I had a conversation with Baby Girl - it came out of the blue. I was totally unprepared for it. It was heartbreaking and it went like this:
Little Miss O: I want to be like Lucy
Me (knowing exactly what she meant, but hoping I was wrong): What do you mean you want be like Lucy?
Little Miss O (touching one hand with the other): I don't want to be like this
Me: What do you mean you don't want to be like you - you are you and you have beautiful brown
chocolately skin - like Mummy and like Daddy...
Little Miss O: I want to have blonde skin.
We arrived at nursery and my heart was somewhere in the pit of my stomach. It's a conversation that I imagined I would have to have with her someday - just not today - and not when she was aged three and not when I was about to drop her off to play without my supervision - and not when she was sitting behind me in the car and not with me unable to hold her beautiful 'chocolately' hand whilst she told me she doesnt want to be black!
The conversation was just wrong on so many many levels. Heartbroken, I tried so hard not to make a big deal out of what she had said. After all, she is only three.. she says a lot of random things.. like she'll say 'I don't want to go to sleep for a week!' or 'I'm not your friend anymore' or 'my baby brother gave me the biscuit' - this one is especially random as she doesn't have a baby brother...!
But today - this random comment hurt me so much. I took Little Miss O into nursery and I tried hard to acknowledge her comment without showing emotion about it (I was in shock partly!) and making her freak out over the issue but I tried so hard to say the right thing - whatever that is in such a situation!
As we walked into nursery, I pointed out the multi-coloured faces of the children and staff and commented that everyone is different and that's why everyone is special. I explained that that's why God loves us all, because he made us all different on purpose and that 'Mummy and Daddy love you very much!'. I don't know what she absorbed from our little 'chat'. She seemed very excited to enter her room and see her friends, but as I walked back to the car, the flood gates opened and my eyes filled with tears.
I got into the car, closed the door and just collapsed on my lap in the passenger seat - no doubt Mr O thought I was insane. I was distraught at having to have had that conversation so early. I felt disappointed - what had we done wrong? Why did our three year old already want to be someone else - a white girl?! I blubbered through my tears to Mr O saying 'now, she wants to be white (sniff!) - tomorrow she'll realise she will never be white (sniff!) and then the next day (sniff!), she might decide to bleach her skin (sniff!) and then she'll want to relax her hair like all the other girls in the playground (sniff!) because he thick afro wont be 'pretty' enough (sniff!)...
I went on and on and on! I was
A couple of years ago, I would never have said that to a colleague (in fact anyone other than Mr O) that I am 'so upset'. I would just have said 'fine', which I know understand to mean Freaked out Insecure Neurotic and Emotional! : )
Now, I know that this post has been super long. It's long because today's conversation with my daughter was one that I imagine will shape our relationship - I almost feel like I have had a revelation!
Thankful for realising that everything I do and say (and don't say) has an impact on my beautiful, bright-eyed, afro-headed brown baby and the way she sees herself and the person she will become.
Thankful for not feeling compelled to say 'fine' when I'm really really not! [big achievement for me!]
Thankful for all the hair accessories that I got for free today - to prolong the wearing of my current favourite twist-out hair do.
Thankful for finding my Matthew Williamson pashmina which I bought about 5 years ago even though I couldn't afford it. I bought it because it had my (then) initials 'M.W' on it! I enjoyed wearing this pashmina for 3 years and then I lost it! My aunt returned it to me - and then I lost it again for about a year, so I am so so so so happy to have found it today and I'm wearing it now and I will probably sleep in it! - just to make sure I don't lose it again!