Zoey is starting to get old enough to have conversations that might really matter. Not that conversations about princesses and poop don’t matter. It’s just that talking about things like god and race seem to carry more weight. Just a little bit. As these conversations leave me reeling, hyperventilating, and wondering, Did I answer that right? Or did I just scar my child for life?
Yesterday we were in the car and Zoey says, “Mommy? You know that lady who made me?”
“Um . . . yeah?” I answer, unsure if Zoey was talking about her first mom, god, or a robot (which she has been obsessed with lately. Demetri is often greeted at the door by being asked, “Daddy, are you a bad robot?”)
“Well, you know how that lady who made me painted me brown?”
“Yes . . .” I’m still unsure who she’s talking about exactly. “Yes, your skin is a beautiful brown.” Ha! I handled that last part well!
“Well, that lady painted you white. And Daddy.” Zoey pauses and I can feel her kicking the car seat.
“Yes,” I say carefully. Please, please don’t ask me about god. Yet. I make a mental note to resolve my crisis of faith and sort out my god-type beliefs immediately. If not sooner.
“Well, do you wish you were painted brown?” Zoey’s question hangs in the air. My brain starts spinning — do I say yes and express dissatisfaction with my skin color? Do I say no and possibly insinuate that I don’t like brown? WHAT DO I DO? “Daddy says he wishes he was painted brown.” Well . . . Daddy is a total kiss-up.
“Brown is a wonderful color,” I start. “And I guess I’m happy how I am . . .” Is this the right answer? Am I doing OK? Maybe I should have said I want to be brown. Or maybe I should have avoided the question. Or maybe I should have offered Zoey a Starburst to keep her quiet. Or maybe I have NO BUSINESS being a mom.
“But Mommy! We don’t look the same!”
Ohshitohshitohshit! This is one of those moments! I have to answer the right way or my daughter will end up addicted to drugs and in prison and a country music fan. Deep breath: “That’s just on the outside, sweetie. On the inside we are a lot alike.” I pause, waiting to be struck down by lightening or otherwise smote for my answer, but nothing happens so I go on. “We both like pink. We both like hugs. We both like cheeseburgers. We both like to be kind . . .”
“Yeah,” says Zoey quietly at first. Then louder, “Yeah! And we both don’t like pickles or spiders! And also Daddy has short hair and you have the longer hairs.”
“That’s true,” I nod my head, “Daddy and I don’t look totally alike either. We don’t have to be the same or look the same to love each other– that would be boring.”
“Yeah,” Zoey chirps. “I don’t like boring!” Then she starts singing a made-up song about robots and I know the conversation is done. At least for now. There will be more questions and bruised feelings and maybe anger. But there will also be love and acceptance and joy. It’s all hurtling towards us in the tornado of time that is our life. Our lives. Together. As a family.