Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Your Grandma Black Like Mine?" Lessons From a Three Year Old

This photo was taken on Christmas morning. My little guy rode shotgun in the red shirt, while my nephew Kyo (in the white lab coat he'd begged Santa for) was at the wheel. A couple of my siblings were standing by to catch them in case the boys careened off the trike or suddenly decided that sharing was no longer fun.

As it happened, Noah and Kyo got along great that day. No stitches, no bite marks, no punches or kicks. It was downright serendipitous. 

Over our Christmas visit, we'd been practicing colours with Noah. And because Noah and Kyo are always in each other's arms (or at each other's throats!) the colour lessons must have brushed off on Kyo. My no-fun, adult aim was to try and put some accuracey into Noah's vibrant descriptions of our beautiful world.

In December, Noah had his way with the colour wheel:
"Look at the blue tree mommy!" (Um, yes... except it's green, like most trees!)
"You eating green toast mommy?" (Do you like green eggs and ham, Noah? Yum! My toast is brown.)
"Look at Santa Claus!! He's got nice yellow shirt! Right Mommy? Okaaaaay?" (Sigh... okay. It's yellow!)

I think my efforts went a little overboard, because on our next visit, Kyo had lots to say about colour, too. "My grandma is BLACK." He announced as we were getting our shoes off. I smiled as Noah chimed in "Yay, BLACK GRANDMA!" and both boys giggled to themselves.

"Sarah, is your grandma black like mine?" Kyo asked. "My grandma is white." I replied. At that point, Kyo and Noah scampered up the stairs and onto their next adventure.

I didn't think much of the conversation until dinner time, when Noah said something about "Black grandmas!" in between bites of "purple" mashed potatoes. I briefly explained to Kyo's mom about our conversation and how Kyo had told me with great pride that "My grandma is BLACK!" 

At that, Amber burst into giggles. "But Kyo's grandma isn't black, she's white!" We tried to figure out what Kyo must have meant. In the end we weren't sure... maybe because Amber's mom wears a lot of dark clothing.

What was clear, though, was how UNimportant colour was to my nephew and my son. It didn't matter if they got the colour right. Maybe I should let my son call Santa's suit yellow and potatoes purple for a little longer.

As he grows, Kyo will keep learning about himself and his heritage. He'll be able to articulate with pride that the colour of his skin, the shape of his eyes, and the curl of his hair were determined by his African, Asian, Aboriginal, and Caucasian ancestors.

Until then, if Kyo's not sure what colour his grandma is, or if Noah insists that trees are blue, I'm going to let them. We won't stop celebrating the colours in our family, but we'll learn more about colours another day. These little cousins just want to be 2 and 3 year olds on a tricycle for a while.