FWP: Shades of Beige
PROBLEM: My 5-year-old nephew asked why my skin is a different shade of brown than his. I didn’t have a good answer. (I mumbled, and he moved on.) I thought of talking about melanin, but that seemed far ahead of even his precociousness. Yet, I refuse to play into the typical coffee- and milk-explanation nonsense. But what do I say if he asks again? I was stumped!
MM: That’s rough! 5-year-olds always have a way of making you realise you don’t have legit explanations for a ton of things. I can see why the whole scientific explanation of why people are different colors is out of reach for him, but you’re walking on shaky ground if you try to spin any stories, IMO.
Maybe keep a Pantone shade card of brown in close reach for the next time you talk to him? You can explain how humans come in all shades, and try to distract him by finding out what shade he is. Of course, it’s likely he might ask you why a certain shade of brown is called Burnt Sienna, but I’m sure you know that answers always lead to more questions with 5-year-olds. There might be a lot more getting stumped in store for you…
LG: This is your nephew? There’s your answer! The best part about being an aunty or uncle is in palming off the hard questions. Where do babies come from? Oh, sister/brother dear, your child has a question!
If explaining why people are different colors feels beyond your pay grade (as an aside, since you seem out of the loop, fun aunties and uncles are paid in butterfly kisses, snorkle noises and finger paintings) then you should def call in your unwitting sibling and simply say you knew they would want to be the one to explain this. (Also, should be noted that sometimes being the fun aunty/uncle means getting paid in dirty looks, too…)
SB: Oh my! LOL. It seems like there are going to be a lot of these types of questions coming your way, but as LG said, you have options. Although, what’s most important in a conversation about skin color is probably just having it.
If you’re up for 20 questions, I would go with the ‘people are all unique on the outside and the same on the inside’ approach, and stress that our differences make us stronger as a group. No matter what you say, be prepared for a very unsatisfying round of rapid fire follow-up and be thankful you only get tossed one of these doozies every so often.
RT: Um, awkward. But maybe power through? I think a basic explanation of why people are different colors is in order, like SB suggested. “Everyone is unique” works, and if it doesn’t, then duck and shout out for the parents to take over. That’s what any reasonable aunt would do, (I think). Either way, I foreshadow many tricky questions coming your way, so don’t be stressed just yet. Good luck, my sister-friend.
KB: Isn’t the simple truth always the best strategy when it comes to little kids and their pesky questions? People come in all different shapes and sizes and colors. It’s true, it’s easy to understand, and it’s not going to get you into trouble with teachers and parents. That said, maybe leave “where do babies come from?” for someone else to answer.
Got any first world problems? Write to the Swaddle Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll sort you out. Kind of.