“Skin Colored Crayons”: Guidelines for Parenting Biracial Kids“Skin Colored Crayons”: Guidelines for Parenting Biracial Kids
I am sure you remember not too long ago when the Crayola Peach crayon used to be called the “flesh” or “skin color” crayon. When the company considered that more than light fleshed people may want to draw or be drawn, the name was changed to Peach. There is so much I could write on this topic. But, I will start here.
It only took me about a year to be calm enough to write this post. Being a Mom in family with Biracial children comes with a new set of emotional, mental, and spiritual territories to explore and to allow God to mature.
Our family is a beautiful blend of two different cultures. Over the last 13 years of marriage we have faced amazing support from some members of society, and also heartbreaking opposition by other members of society. Each day that goes by, we choose to respond with love, strength, and unbreakable joy – even joy that is chosen through burning and enraged tears.
We are proud of our Multicultural Family. We discussed at length, practical aspects of parenting in a multicultural family long before we ever had children. Some well meaning individuals even discouraged us from having children. They made comments such as, “Is it responsible for you to actually have children? (my personal favorite hearing someone say that a trauma Nurse and a Pastor, both with Masters degrees are considered irresponsible to have children based on the color of our skin)”, “You need to be prepared for them not being accepted. People are mean, and they won’t fit in.” My comment back to that was always –
“My kids will know they fit in. Right here –
Yet, for every negative comment, we regularly get ten more comments of encouragement. Often from random strangers, proud Grandparents of their own Biracial Grandkids who cannot wait to tell us how our kids are “just like their cute new Grandbaby.”
We strive daily to tell our children how much they are valued, loved, and created individually, with beauty and uniqueness. We teach them Bible verses such as, Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” But as parents of Biracial children, it is not just what we say to our kids that matter, but everything we actually believe.
Routinely stopping and examining our hearts. To reveal our own biases and prejudices about life, people, and situations. To purposefully and intentionally foster a heart of love and celebration for unique differences, and not to fear differences. Our children learn what they see us live – not just what they hear us say.
For example: I have heard parents of Biracial children, in public, in front of their own children, make the following comments – “This one got the “good hair” and that one “got the Bad.” – If you believe one type of hair is “good and one is bad” please contemplate that. It is not the truth. All people (and hair) were created in God’s image, as found in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” That means exactly as we all are – beautifully different, we are all, good. How we believe and perceive the world, in large part, is how we will pass on reality to our children. I know that every one of my children has different hair, different features, different personalities. And I know, without a doubt, that they are all, “good.”
So, what does this post have to do with “Skin Colored Crayons” you ask. Everything. The fact is, as parents of Biracial children, we can be very intentional. We can believe in the beauty, pride, and confidence that has been delicately sown into our children from their moment of conception. We can have full faith that each child is unique, beautiful, and full of strength. But it is only a truth of our life, until it becomes a reality in theirs. How can we foster that process of transformation to happen in our kids?
Here are some guidelines we have adopted in our home that have helped us as parents of Biracial children.
Guidelines for Parents of Biracial Children & Family Units Comprised of More than One Culture
1) Always speak positively (words are medicine) of both cultures in our family.
2) Always stand up for, with respect, and non-violence, both cultures in our family.
3) Refuse to allow racist influences (of any culture) into our home. We don’t tolerate it.
4) Never say comments that imply choosing a race, such as “you are my white child to one and you are my black child to another”. All my children are Biracial. The color of their skin is purely the beautiful way that God designed them each genetically. They will always be part of two cultures. They never have to choose one or the other. Encourage them to discover and embrace them both, with unlimited love.
5) Spend time together. It can be weekly family nights, regular family camps, community service projects together, and going on regular parent / child “dates.” We can make our family the first place our children belong. One of our family goals is every day to make sure that our children know they always “fit in”, right here – with us.
6) Strengthen our marriages. If single, strengthen our Self Identity. Children live what they see. Invest in a Family Vision Statement. Make respect rules. One of our respect rules is, “After a verbal disagreement, we will hug or kindly shake hands, even if it is a gesture to resolve we still disagree, but we commit to moving forward to a solution together.” When children observe healthy communication patterns, they will have more self esteem, be better prepared to handle conflict, and have lower levels of anxiety when conflict in their world does occur. (source)
7) Daily, seek the heart of each of your children. Every person is different. We all learn, communicate, receive love, and process feelings in different ways. The same is true for our Biracial children. Every day, in my quiet time, I ask God to give me a view of His heart for a specific one of my children that day. The result has been phenomenal. We have seen a greater heart connection and found individualized ways to encourage each child’s unique path.
“Joy – Still, I ask you, what does this have to do with Skin Colored Crayons?!?!!!?
Well, that was the day I will never forget.
It was, in a sense, a test.
Was all this intentional parenting of Biracial children working? Were our kids processing their own self esteem and was it making positive change in their own world?
Here was one, true, test ~
My 7 year old daughter came home from school (before we started Home Education). We went through the usual banter as we discussed the highs and lows of her day. The next phrase out of her mouth caught my attention and I stopped looking through her backpack and sat down.
She said, “So, then I was coloring my art project, and I already made Dad, and was working on me. I made my dress to match my hair bow … then went to get the brown crayon … to draw my arms. A boy grabbed the crayon from me and said to give it back to him. He said I had used it enough. I told him, “I only drew my Dad and I still had to draw me and also my Sister.”
He said rudely, “Then take the skin colored crayon, you don’t need the brown crayon for that.”
As she spoke to me I could hear the hurt in her voice. I did not want my hurt to get in the way of her processing the event. So, fighting back my own emotion, I calmly asked my daughter, “How did that make you feel?” and after listening, I asked, “What did you do or say?” The next words out of her mouth showed me a huge transformation in her. With confidence she replied,
“I told him that my Family has all different colors of skin
and that not one crayon can draw that pretty.“
She then smiled, with huge confidence, and pulled out her family drawing from her folder, “Want to see it Mom?!” Her eyes sparkled with excitement as she showed how she made details of her dress to match her hair, and how she and her Daddy had the same eyes, and how she was holding hands with her little sister. Each person’s body was drawn with a different shade of crayon, and each person in the picture was smiling. She added small differences to each person – one had blonde colored hair, one had curly big hair, one had braided hair. No person was exactly alike. And yet, when she put all the unique members of her family on paper together, it made a picture she was more than happy to love, stand up for, and bravely share with the world.
In my opinion, that is passing the test.
To my Baby Girl: I made this in honor of you. With every breath I have, I will love, stand up for, and bravely share the uniqueness of multicultural families and Biracial children, with the world. Keep drawing and living your dreams. The world shines a little bit brighter today, because of you.
Want more encouragement to shine? Read Biracial Hair 101