Baby girl: “Daddy, you need a haircut.”
Husband: “Do I?”
Baby girl: “Yes, but not too much. Just a little off the top. You don’t want to be bald because then people would laugh at you.”
Husband (after some laughter): “Well baby, I don’t really care if people laugh at me. If they laugh at me because I’m bald, then they’re not good people, right?”
Baby girl: “Right.”
Husband (to me): “Man, every conversation these days turns into some great life lesson, doesn’t it?”
Me: “Yeah. sigh…”
And, it’s true. There seems to be no shortage of conversations we’re having with our 4-year-old these days that turns into some greater message or life lesson.
If she says anything about curly hair, there we are reinforcing the idea that “curly hair is so beautiful!” If we’re talking colors, once again, my husband and I pipe in like a PSA ad to say, “Don’t forget black! Black is such a pretty color.”
To some of you, this may seem a bit unnecessary or even extreme. Why do we continually have to say these things? Why not just let her live her little 4-year-old life, right? But, the truth is that when you’re raising a multicultural child, you have to constantly look out for signs and provide the proper message to your kid. She is surrounded by dolls, ads, friends, and other images that are not like her, so it’s up to her father and I to surround her with images and messages that are like her and remind her that she too should be admired.
And, it’s not just the media we’re up against. Even family members can be culprits – without really recognizing the side effect. Just a few weeks ago, my own mother said, “Ay no! That will make her hair more curly!” when my husband said he wants to braid (corn row) my daughter’s hair. Once again, there we were saying, “There’s nothing wrong with curly hair!” It’s even difficult for me at times, to be sure I’m sending the right message to her. I have to catch myself from saying things like, “I like my hair better straight,” since I don’t want her to perceive that straight is necessarily better.
It can get exhausting at times to always be thinking about what you’re saying/doing/watching and whether or not it will affect your impressionable 4-year-old’s self-esteem. This is even more true if you’re in what’s considered the “minority” group of society.
In a way, though, all of these conversations are also helping me to feel better about my own self. Who knew that by trying to ensure my daughter grows up confident, in turn, I would help myself feel a little more confident in a body I’ve known for 30 years?
Additional thoughts of mine on multiculturalism: