It’s no secret: I’m a white Mommy of a brown Baby.
Just ask one of the jackasses who randomly stop Ana Lu and me to ask, “Is she yours?”
There are incredible challenges inherent in the dynamics within an interracial family; particularly families like ours in which two Caucasian parents adopt a child of a different race. It’s not every day a mother hears her 4 year old daughter scream, “I don’t like your blue eyes! I don’t like your curly hair! I don’t like you because you’re WHITE!!” I’ll talk more about these inevitable obstacles in a future blog. Here is an excerpt from that piece:
Last year Ana Lu learned she’s not a little girl with brown skin anymore, but a minority. Up until then her brown skin had always been just a color to her. Simple. Brown is a color. But after months of heart wrenching teasing followed by weeks upon weeks of tears, Ana Lu sadly learned that having brown skin can make her feel “less than” people with white skin. She was 4 years old. Only FOUR freakin’ years old yet she has already seen the stomach-turning face of racism; the bitter taste of it in her mouth, the suffering in her tender heart and the utter confusion in her young mind. Our society tells her she is in a lower class. Worse? She knows her white parents aren’t in there with her. Racism exists. Discrimination continues. Don’t deny it. Don’t kid yourself. Don’t ignore it. It does. So we’re going to talk about. Or my handle isn’t 2am Candor.
Bridging the Interracial Gap
I expressed to a Latino friend how challenging it can be as the white Mommy of a brown Baby. I explained that I want to keep Ana Lu connected to her Latin roots, but in a way that is authentic. However I’m not about to go sportin’ a Guatemalan Huipil (a beautifully embroidered traditional blouse) or act like I can cook Pepian (a delicious, traditional dish); it would not be genuine. It works for many other white parents, but for me it would be a bogus lie.
He listened patiently while I whined and then exclaimed, “Hey! You should do ‘Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day) with her. She’ll love it!” He went on to explain the Latin custom and shared how as young children he and his siblings scurried around the eve of Dia de Reyes putting their shoes out in excited anticipation of the gifts the Three Wise Men would bring while they were sleeping.
Below is a description of Dia de Reyes. I don’t dare attempt to manufacture a description of the holiday in fear of butchering Dia de Reyes’ rich history:
On January 6th, Latinos celebrate Día de Reyes, or Three Kings’ Day. The colorful and lively celebration…is embodied most in the story of three wise men visiting a newborn Jesus with gifts.”…According to custom, a small figure of baby Jesus is baked into each Rosca, to represent the fact that he had to be hidden and protected at birth…Much like on Christmas Day, children receive three presents… And again, similar to how kids leave milk and cookies for Santa Claus, Latino kids will leave green grass for the kings’ camels… “For us, the holidays haven’t finished yet,” Casals said , “The big celebration for Latinos is Three Kings’ Day.” More about Three Kings Day
What better way to interest Ana Lu in Latin culture than a tradition that includes gift-giving? Let’s be real, she’s 5 years old, not a cultural anthropologist.
On the eve of Dia de Reyes, I described the tradition to Ana Lu. She hung onto every word, absorbing it all in. It felt like Christmas Eve to her because the custom includes children putting their shoes out to receive gifts.
Once I finished explaining the holiday, Ana Lu bolted to the shoe basket, enthusiastically rifled through it, and pulled out her black patent leather Maryjanes. She eagerly lined them up on the doormat. She stood back, grunted, picked up the shoes and switched them out with her sassy little pink cowgirl boots. She turned to me, “These are better, the Wise Men can fit more in my boots.”
Gotta hand it to her, always thinking.
Ana Lu then grabbed one of her plates and sprinted to the fridge. She returned with two mini-apples and a clementine for the Wise Men and carrots for the camels. Grass is tradition but she went with carrots. Again with the thinking: More carrots for the camels, less carrots for her.
January 6th was a fantastic day as Ana Lu and I enjoyed adding a new tradition to our family unit. I’m thrilled to have another aspect of Latin culture woven, authentically, into Ana Lu and my life. I can’t wear a Huipil, nor cook Pepian, but I can speak Spanish and celebrate Dia de Reyes. I’m cool with that. And although I know that most of the cultural and religious significance of the custom is likely lost on Ana Lu, it will be fun as she learns more about it over the years. We both will.
The Best Part
On Dia de Reyes I overheard Ana Lu bragging to a little friend about how she’s Guatemalan.
Yes! Nailed it.
Later that night, when I lay down to sleep, I soaked in the joy of hearing Ana Lu boast about her heritage, her beautiful brown skin. I can’t lie, at the risk of sounding egocentric, the only thing that echoed in my head as the white Mommy of a brown Baby was…
Not too shabby for a white girl, Gretchen. Not too shabby for a white girl.
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