It has happened with each of our children around the age of four.
"Papa, you are brown!" Lucy proclaimed while she stroked his arm the other day.
"What color are you?" he asked.
"I don't know..." she giggled. "I'm cream." she finally replied.
"You aren't brown?" he returned playfully.
"No, I'm cream." she decided.
We looked at each other from across the room, the same look of surprise it was happening again. When Josiah was four, he lamented that Jorge wasn't gray like the rest of the family.
We chuckled over the color gray and tried to figure out where or why he came up with it.
He seemed genuinely sad over our differences in skin tone.
I have felt a little more uneasy each time it has come up wondering if we have failed in helping our children identify with the beauty of our bicultural family and more importantly, their Latino heritage. Was their interpretation just a literal observation completely appropriate in their development or was there more to it?
My obsessive parenting brain went straight to analyzing. We moved from Miami when Josiah was only 8 weeks old. We left an extremely diverse area with full immersion of the language and culture that had been so familiar to Jorge and I for so long. We found ourselves in the place that was the capital of the confederacy, north for us yet so more the south than we had ever experienced in our lives. Sunday dinners of our favorite Nicaraguan food from the fritanga and greetings of kisses cheek to cheek were very much over. While Jorge spoke some Spanish to our kids here and there, but with no local family to help fill in the gaps it was hard to keep the bilingual train going. Even with all the excuses, it just came down to a lack of intention and effort to stay connected to all the parts of who my children and husband are.
How much does our cultural identity shape us? What happens if we lack the exposure and immersion of a particular heritage? So here we are, brown, gray and cream, wondering what to do next. Is it too late?
If you are part of a bicultural family or of a different race or culture, how have you preserved your roots? Even if you are not, what are your thoughts or suggestions on the subject?
Please share in the comments.