You don't know what it's like - The race issue AGAIN

In the last couple of days the tiresome issue of racism forced itself into my life - not for the first time- things I've been reading, things friends have been telling me, things that I sometimes worry about - but have mainly managed to avoid so far.

Maybe it's time I give it some thought before the whole ugly truth catches up with me?

And which truth might that be?

As a lighter skinned individual with two beautiful daughters a couple of shades darker than myself or my husband (yes that would be Alan again) - I not only have to worry about what my children might be faced with in the years to come - it seems I am not qualified to prepare them adequately. In fact according to some I am not even qualified to raise them.

A most popular opinion amongst those who oppose cross-color-adoption - and they only say this as they love to point out With-The-Childs-Best-Interest-At-Heart -  is that because I haven't experienced racism first hand I should not be raising people who might (experience racism first hand).

For the sake of tolerance, evolution and world peace, I want to try and level with those who think this is a valid point to make. So what is their point?

Only people who have experienced all challenges that life can throw at their children are qualified to raise those children?

We are talking challenges here, right? To say, for example, that only geniusses can raise extremely gifted children to prepare them for a world where they will  be poked fun at and often isolated because they simply do not fit into the norm would not fall into this category - or would it?

It seems the common view here is that being dark skinned is a negative challenge in life that one must be prepared for by a similarly challenged parent. (Honestly people, I am not deliberately trying to be cynical here, but I have difficulties following this train of thought ). Where I can understand the first part of the argument (sadly racism is alive and thriving all over the world) - the second part is totally beyond my possibly limited understanding of life and the universe.

If it was a prerequisite to parenthood to have experienced first hand what we need to teach or protect our children from, 99% of parents would not qualify. The one remaining percent would cruise along on mere luck. What about people with dyslexic children, children with autism, ADD or ADS or a number of new and even unnamed symptoms and challenges yet? What about people who had a perfectly happy childhood and suddenly find themselves parents of kids who are severely bullied at school? Or fall vicitim to internet stalkers? What about thin parents with fat kids, normal sized parents with extremely tall or extremely short offspring?

Ok this boat is now dangerously veering off into Oprah territory.

But you get the picture: there is a bottomless pool of possibilities where we as parents are trying to keep our heads above whater when faced with the Great Big Unknown. With challenges. If we are prepared to learn and grow with these challenges parenthood can be all about the positive experience of overcoming them together. As a family.

I can not mask or ignore the fact that I am light skinned and my kids are not - and I don't want to either (Having said that, Leah caught me this morning applying self tanning lotion to my pinkish legs - and was very  understanding when I explained the process: ok mama you want skin like me!?).

What I want is for people to stop obsessing about skin color and take it for what it is: a fact of life. We can look at it as a negative challenge and seek out all it's negative implications everywhere we go or we can teach our kids to be proud of who they are.  This does not mean that they should ignore the fact that they have dark skin  in a world where light skin is still an unfair advantage for most but that they realise this is not what defines them.

And am I qualified to support them on this journey? hell YES.

Do I think the fact that I was bullied at school before the term was even invented and  therefore have an insight in what could happen to them qualifies me? HELL NO.   I could easily be so traumatised and subsequently paranoid that I see bullies in every corner of the classroom where there are in fact only normal 5 year old girls playing the daily You-Are-Not-My-Friend game. If I haven't healed my own issues of being a victim, all I am going to teach my kids is how the be a victim.

If on  the other hand  I have worked through my own painful experiences in life I am more likely to be able to help and support my children when they need help and support. My experiences do not (and I mean DO NOT) have to be the same challenges my children might have to face one day. The important lesson I teach them is how to live through the moments when life gets complicated or even painful and come out of them a little stronger, braver and more compassionate each time.

For me it was  first a great therapist and later on my partner who helped me on my way as a mother, for others it might be yoga or religion or great friends or loving parents. For some the real work might only start with their children. And this is also ok.

To have the honesty and self awareness to adress your own issues when faced with problems your kids experience or throw at you - is the best piece of parenting advise anybody can get.

And if you feel  you need help yourself, get help. Get it from friends, from family, from professionals, from kind strangers on the internet from your partner. We do not have to have all the answers.  Brown or pink, fat or thin, tall or short - growing up our children will all go through painful life experiences and thank the universe for parents who are simply there for them.


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