You know how on those decorating shows, they always talk about colours “popping”? Like when you have a room that’s decorated with a certain colour scheme, but there are a few things here or there that, although they are part of the overall design, really shine and catch your eye?
Well, my daughter has had this effect on my world.
There’s a lot of discussion around the colour of skin, particularly where adoption is concerned. There’s talk about which colours of skin can parent which colours of children’s skin. There are studies that focus on the well-being of a child who does not look like his parents. There are discussions of “colour blindness” versus not. There’s all kinds of stuff out there, pros and cons, if you look.
I don’t generally pay much attention to this kind of stuff. I did, in the beginning, and filed away the points I thought were useful and chucked the rest.
My child has brown skin. I have white skin. (Well, in truth, pasty yellowish-pinkish skin. Winter makes me look sickly. But whatever.) I mean, it’s pretty straightforward. I don’t need studies to tell me that there are differences, and there are going to be questions and issues to deal with along the way.
But the thing that caught my attention and made me think about it happened this morning.
My daughter’s diaper leaked overnight, as it often does. So when I got her up this morning, I took off her sleeper and changed her diaper, and then I put her down in just her diaper on the carpet in her room to play while I changed her bedding. Her room faces east, so the sun was coming up and the room was getting light. I started to come back into her room after tossing her bedding in the laundry in the next room and giggled to myself, “Hey, there’s a baby crawling around in that room.”
But then, with the light and the carpet and all, I really noticed it. Wow. That baby is the most incredible colour of brown. She’s like a rich creamy coffee colour. No, maybe she’s like milk chocolate. And the shiny black curls… and the little pinky-brown toes…
She was just faffing about on the carpet, but oh my doG. She popped.
She was gorgeous.
Screw the whole colour-blindness thing. Who could fail to notice all this gorgeous colour?
Sure, there are lots of times — most of the time, in fact — when I don’t notice the colour of our skins, or that they are different. I’m too busy being her mom, and she’s my kid. I am too busy wiping cereal off her chin or rounding up the cups she’s strewn across the living room or pouncing on her and kissing her when we’re crawling about on the floor.
But then there are these moments where it hits me. It’s like you have black and white TV and somebody shows you a colour film for the first time. “Now in SuperColourVision!!!” or whatever. You look at her arm or her lips or the freckles on her cheeks and marvel at the incredible richness of her skin, the gorgeous spectrum of colours that is her.
And you know what is kind of funny? I am starting to look at some white babies and thinking, “Wow. That kid is PALE.” It’s not that they aren’t gorgeous in their own right with all their lovely pale pinks and creams in them, but I’m so used to looking at my daughter that sometimes I look at these other kids and they seem to be… lacking in colour. Needing some sun. Something. And then I come home to my child who is a feast for the eyes. (Actually, she’s a feast for the senses. But, as I realize the diaper bucket needs emptying, and that I might need to check for hearing loss at my next doctor’s appointment, not all the items in the feast are what you want to partake of all the time.)
It’s not that I suddenly have a pro-brown bias. I just don’t gaze as long and as lovingly at most white kids as I do at my own to notice the richness of their skin and hair. And I can imagine that for parents of a multi-racial group of children, the variances of gorgeous colours would be an incredible thing to enjoy and appreciate every day.
I know my daughter notices colours in me. But it’s not in the way adults look at differences in people’s colour. She notices colour with a child’s sense of discovery. She thinks the stripe of blonde in my mostly-brown bangs is hilarious. She’s fascinated with the white tips of my nails. She notices with some alarm when I have on warm gray socks, as opposed to being barefoot. But she notices them, and then she moves on. It’s all part of the discovery of the colours in her world.
Maybe that’s something she has given me. An opportunity to re-discover the colours of my world. And with the benefit of age, to appreciate them more.
For us, the fact that I have different skin colour than my child is not resulting in colour-blindness. I think in the fabric of our lives, she’s making colour pop. She’s making me see colour where I didn’t notice it before, and appreciate colours in all sorts of places. She’s showing me that there’s more colour in the world than I ever paid attention to before.