When our preschooler starts noticing racial differences

I glanced in the mirror today and noticed some dirt on my cheek. I brushed it off and then realized Daniel was watching.
“What you doing, Mama?” he asked.
“I just had some dirt on my face, but I wiped it off,” I said. “Does it look OK?”
“No,” he said. Ask a 3-year-old a question and you get an honest answer. “You have something up here.”
And he pointed to his forehead. I looked back in the mirror and saw a few freckles.
“Oh, those are freckles,” I told him.
“Freckles?” he said. “What are freckles?”
So I explained that some people get freckles from the sun.
Then Daniel looked at his own tanned arms. “I don’t have freckles,” he said.
And so we talked about that—not for the first time, but he’s only 3 so I certainly don’t expect him to retain everything we discuss. I explained that Baba and Mama have lighter skin and get freckles in the sunshine, and Leo and Daniel have darker skin that tans beautifully in the sun.
I reminded him that he and his big brother were born in China and that Mama and Baba were not—and that that was part of the reason our skin looked different. I know he doesn’t understand all of it, but I always answer as truthfully and clearly as I can. I want him to know that we can talk about anything.
Daniel sat there listening and looking at our arms. I wondered where the conversation would go. Would he want to talk more about racial differences? Would he ask about adoption? What could be running through our little boy’s mind?
“Mama,” he said very seriously, “we are talking about something that is boring.”
Fair enough. So we went back to talking about how far he can throw his new ball that lights up when it bounces. There is nothing boring about that.

Catholic Review

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