Parenting With a Big Heart: Facing Race with My Toddler
This is not a subject I thought about when I saw that positive line on the pregnancy test. When I found out I was having a little girl, I didn’t think of this subject. Even as they placed her on my chest, and seeing her face for the first time, I did not think about this subject. I didn’t have think about how the world would receive her, if she would be accepted, and loved just as she is. I didn’t because I was her world. However, as she began to grow and enter into new spaces, I did begin to think of this subject, and a lot.
Since we are blessed with a wide variety of trusted friends and family from diverse backgrounds and cultures, I wasn’t prepared for the bias and prejudices children and families can face based on the color of their skin. It wouldn’t be until a couple of years later that I would experience this first hand.
My toddler and I were visiting family and this particular family member lived in an upper-middle class, gated community. Knowing the code to enter the property, I punched the numbers on the keypad, and drove through the opening gate. I noticed a car behind me as I drove through the neighborhood. The car took every turn I took and followed closely. I then entered the driveway of my family member. I had the code to their garage and a key and all I needed to do was unload our bags and my daughter and head inside.
The car pulled in front of the driveway and waited. I immediately knew why this inquisitive neighbor stayed there watching, and why they had followed me. It was because they did not think I belonged there. It was because they thought me to be suspicious.
After realizing they were going to stay there, I began to panic. Within seconds, I thought what if they have already called the police to share their concerns about me? What if the police arrived and my explanation about why I was there was insufficient? What if my daughter witnessed them handcuff me while they got more information, or something far worse?
I called out to the car and asked if they needed anything. They pulled up slightly. It was then, I realized they were afraid of me. I walked over to the garage and entered the code. As the garage opened, they decided to drive away.
I was distraught and had to hide my tears from my toddler. I have made it my mission since then to ensure my daughter will never be on either end of that horrible experience.
I prepare my child for moments like these first and foremost with teaching her how to affirm, accept, and love herself. We daily celebrate who she is inside and outside! It is also vital that I teach her to love and accept others. We are intentional with regularly learning about people from cultures different than ours.