“Mummy, why is my skin this colour?”

Children are funny little creatures. Most of the time they ignore you and appear completely disinterested in anything you have to say, however, sometimes they will astound you with their curious observations. In my experience, kids are particularly observant when it comes to noticing the differences in the way people look. Cue: “Mummy, why is my skin this colour?”

It appears Flump is in denial about her own ethnicity. We are brown and from the Indian Subcontinent, yet she considers herself to have “peach” skin. When one of her school friends drew a picture of her and coloured in her face with a dark brown crayon, she was unamused. She felt as if her face had been vandalised. When I explained to her that we do actually have a different skin colour to many of her friends she accepted this but quickly clarified she was not “dark.”

The offending picture.
The offending picture.

On another occasion, Flump very seriously and matter-of-factly told me that the new girl in her class was “a Buddhist.” When I asked her how she knew this she said it was “because her eyes are like this,” and then proceeded to stretch out the outer corners of her eyes. Oh crap, I thought. I’d better address this now before she makes a public announcement at school.

So off I went on my rather clumsy attempt to explain cultural diversity to my then 6 year old daughter. It went along the lines of we are different but we are the same and should treat everybody kindly and equally. We may look, dress or even eat differently but we are all human beings with feelings and should never judge a book by its cover. She took it in thoughtfully and then proceeded to tell me that one of her friends at school was most definitely “a Hindu” because she was going to India for a holiday. Right. Okay then.

From a very early age, children notice gender and racial differences and will often try to identify with one particular group.  I find it interesting that my own kid, whilst quick to notice and categorise the differences in others, does not seem to recognise her own ethnic or racial difference. Of course she is young and still navigating her way through the minefield of cultural identity. She will get there in due course. There is a certain beauty and charm in her innocent curiosity and observations, but I am mindful that this gets steered in the right way.

When Flump finally realises that she does, in fact, have “dark” skin I want to make sure she understands there is no negative connotation. It’s never too early to start exploring race and culture with your child through books, art and discussion. When the penny finally drops for Flump, she will know that being dark is just as beautiful as being peachy.

Learning about diversity at an early age.
Learning about diversity at an early age.
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20 thoughts on ““Mummy, why is my skin this colour?””

  1. Enjoyed the read Shazia. My kids have the opposite issue they think it’s cool to be brown and compete with who is brown like mummy and not white like Papa! Identity is interesting and mostly determined by who they think is cool at school.

    1. Thank you:) I find it fascinating how kids process identity issues. You can almost see their little brains working overtime. And yes, I think you are right..kids want to identify with what they perceive as cool. Thanks for reading. x

  2. Great post – I’ve told my kids never to describe anyone by their skin colour as one said once – ‘the one with the dark face’ when describing another child – I was of course horrified !!

    1. We have all been there, Sharmeen, don’t worry ! Hence the need to discuss these matters with our kiddies early on. They are still learning and figuring things out, I guess. Thanks for reading:)

  3. Thanks so much Amateur Man! Really pleased you enjoyed the post. Thanks for sharing your own experience with us. Congratulations on expecting your first child. Be prepared for the most wonderful, rewarding and chaotic ride of your life 🙂 I’m going to nose around your blog now! Looks great!

  4. Really enjoyed reading this one. Noticed such comments b my girls too. Imaan doesn’t take note of skin colour but size and features! Some very embarrassing comments. Alot still to learn.

  5. I remember when L asked me that “why my skin has not colour?” She was 4 and I was not ready, so my answer was something like, it is supposed to be spanish but because there is no sun in London, you are not so tan.

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