…that’s what I feel like saying when people ask:
- What race is his father? (When asked as a part of just getting the scoop – not intending to have a thoughtful conversation about race).
- Why doesn’t his father want to be involved?
- Does his father know about him?
- Does his father’s family know about him?
- Has his father met him?
- Does his father support him?
- etc. etc. etc. (I don’t even want to say because I don’t want to put anything else in anyone’s head).
I want to say: get to know us and it can become helpful to have these kinds of conversations. But if we aren’t close – or if I just met you today! – please don’t ask me to gossip about our lives. It feels awful. I do appreciate the curiosity (when it comes from a good place) and I’m down to talk about race. But just go easy – little pitchers have big ears. (And in my humble opinion white people especially should think about why they are asking people about the color of their skin. Just curious? Not a good reason IMHO). It’s a super fast way to make people feel very “other” and out of place. Sure, it’s great to be open and to educate yourself on the experience of others – but just not at their expense. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read this). Will being asked about his race everyday negatively impact him in the long run? I have no idea. Maybe it will fill him with happiness about that aspect of who he is. I can’t help but feel protective though.
So, please, think about the question you want to ask. Then think about the possible answers. And then…think about how it feels to give that answer. I’ll give you an example. “Has his father met him?” “…No.” Aaaaand now I feel like shit. If you know us – maybe that’s a starting point for a deep conversation. If you don’t – well you know where you can go and what you can go do. (That would be ‘to hell’ and ‘eat a brick,’ respectively). That was mean, sorry. But really, who wants to be asked about painful issues by a stranger?
The questions above are personal and still very loaded at this point. I haven’t figured out how I am going to tell my child the story (his story) of these questions so, to a certain extent it is helpful to have (helpful) conversations about these things with people who love us. But I’m careful about what I say around my son. His ears are fully functioning already. Just as I was deliberate in not putting him in a gender-box before he was born (any sooner than the inevitable), I’m also hesitant about putting him in an exact color box or a father-status box or a zero personal boundaries box. 5% because I’m figuring out what I’m doing as I go along and 95% because these are things for baby to decide as he grows (and perhaps re-decide and re-decide, etc). There is only a short time where I have the privilege of speaking for my child and I want to do it in the most respectful way.
These questions have been taking me by surprise since before baby was even born and recenlty I’ve noticed I’ve started trying to beat people to the punch at times – just to deaden the awkwardness a bit for everyone. Not really a good feeling either. He is such a miraculously happy, happy baby. I’d rather focus on that. Positive feedback. 😉
Thanks for letting me rant once again. And thanks to all the people who have waited for me to bring this stuff up myself and at my own pace – there are plenty of those out there and I so appreciate you. (And a shout out to my friend Cait for letting me rant about all this in person. Miss you).