Multiple Choice

Q. You greet your joyous child as he steps off the school bus. He is joyous, and full of joy. Joyous joy that he would like to share with the you, for lo, after three whole days of a substitute bus driver, his regular driver has returned. Joy! To the world! He loudly proclaims for one and all to hear: LOOK MOMMY, IT'S THE BROWN BUS DRIVER!

a) Treat this like the innocent observation that it really was and make a mental note to order a book or two about talking with a preschooler about skin color and race, thus equipping yourself to handle future outbursts or questions in an educated, non-reactionary or white-liberal-guilty manner. 

b) Pretend that your child was talking about the bus driver's jacket or something, even though it's actually navy blue, but you know, your child was just MISTAKEN, like he was COLORBLIND, except...OH SHIT THERE COMES THE CRUSHING IRONY.

c) Take a sledgehammer to the sidewalk, crawl into hole, wait for death from the aforementioned crushing irony.


Q. You stop for a quick chat in the school hallway with a couple of your child's teachers. Another class, on their way to recess, walks by single-file. There's a little girl with a fairly obvious facial deformity among them. Your child notices and starts pointing after her. WHAT'S THAT, MOMMY? WHAT'S THAT? 

a) Take your child aside, where you calmly have a nice chat about why pointing is rude, but since you recognize that his curiosity is natural, explain that everybody looks different because everybody is special, and some people look even more different because of things that happened to them in their lives or even before they were born. But that doesn't mean they aren't special, and they deserve to be treated like everybody else, because we don't judge anybody because of how they look on the outside, okay?

b) Pretend that your child was pointing at something else, start babbling about backpacks or hats or artwork taped up on a nearby wall or some shit like that.

c) Flee. The teachers have him now. He's probably better off. 


Q. Your child approaches you, pretending to be a Stormtrooper from Star Wars. He brandishes an empty toilet paper tube like a laser gun and aims it at your head. He supplies some futuristic-type sound effects: JEW JEW JEW JEW!

a) Casually model the more socially-accepted laser-gun noise of PEW PEW PEW PEW!

b) But then laugh, because okay, THAT ONE IS KIND OF FUNNY. 



I don't think Noah was that far off calling the bus driver brown. He is! Maybe the books will help though...

Man, JEW JEW JEW! was ka-illing me!!! Hilarious.

Hi, I'm Natalie.

I have a friend who had a son who was deaf/blind/immobile. She loved when people asked why he was in a wheelchair/why he didn't talk/why he looked different... because everyone else just pretended that he didn't exist. (She was happy to explain what his disabilities were and why he had themn)


My oldest son was born in the Year of Jordan (1993) and thus had, like, 14 friends and relatives -- of both genders -- named Jordan.

He met a little boy at after-school care who was named Jordan, but his last name began with C. We already had a cousin named Jordan C.! Who was also a boy! WHAT TO DO WHAT TO DO.

Daycare Jordan C. was African-American, and thus became "Brown Jordan." Try explaining the ramifications of THAT with your *very* literal five-year-old. "But he IS brown!" "Well, we don't call people by what color their skin is." "But HE'S BROWN."

Jebus. Parenting is hard.


As the person who is often pointed at (I like to pretend it's because I'm so unbelievably good looking and not because of the whole missing leg), I appreciate it when parents use it as a teaching moment. I prefer that to their observations being ignored. Before I was an amputee I remember being very inquisitive about a girl older than me who was born without her hand. My mom was open and honest with me about why she only had one hand. She also had to tell me MANY times that no, he hand would not pop out if we squeezed her arm. I find the irony of being an amputee now killer. Oh, and teach him not to hit the ground and look up a woman's skirt/shorts for her leg. It ain't there.


Oh jeez I needed this. We've been anxiously waiting for our toddler to start talking. And this makes me more than happy to patiently wait for that fateful, embarrassing day.


GAH. Been there, when my then-four-year-old was taken aback by a group of middle schoolers at the toy store (who were, it's true, a little obnoxious, but also, MIDDLE SCHOOLERS AT A TOY STORE). Her very loud response? "MOMMY, I DON'T LIKE CHOCOLATE PEOPLE!" *crawls in hole* *dies*


On the first one, just smile and say that you're glad he is back.

My husband is black. I am white. Most of my friends and kids are white. Almost all of the younger kids have, at some point, noticed verbally my husband's skin color. Does it bug him? Nope.

As he says "Calling me black or brown isn't offensive. I am. Parents acting like black and brown are offensive words bother me more."

Flipped another way: how would you want a parent to respond to their child calling you white? Would it bother you? Probably not.


If it makes you feel any better, the kids at my son's elementary school (in a very diverse/liberal place) all say "brown" for people of any color. It's what the teachers and principal encourage, actually, as more accurate and relevant.


I should add, though, that a book or two about diversity is probably a good idea for any child. Nothing wrong with intentionally trying to give your kids good values about that topic.


When I was quite little I apparently looked at an African-American grocery store cashier and said, "MOM! WHY IS THERE A BEAR HERE?!?" Imagine my mother's shame and embarrassment.

I don't remember what she did, but a couple years later I loudly and proudly defended my baby sitter's biracial son saying, "As you can clearly see, Alex is not BLACK, he's LIGHT BROWN, and there are PLENTY of reasons to dislike him, but his skin color is not one of them!"


Sometimes I am really, really glad that my son's daycare is so diverse. Hopefully, these race conversations will be much more covert. "Mommy, she looks like Priscilla/Alex/Adrian/Danny/Suzy!" Hopefully, this will cover medium Blacks, dark Blacks, very light Blacks, Asians, and Down's Syndrome. Dangit! There aren't any Hispanics at daycare! Hopefully, the word Vato won't come out of my son's mouth.

Kati, your comment completely cracked me up! Especially the looking up the skirt part!


I went through Q1 at Wal-Mart, land of opportunity for embarrasing questions. As I stood talking to a high school friend's mother and sister, the sister who was a very large lady, my 4 year old child decided to ask the sister if she was pregnant. I shushed her and she pushed forward with, "well if there isn't a baby in there, why is her tummy so big?" The blood still drains out of my face thinking of it.

Another time at Wal-Mart she, then around 5, loudly pointed and exclaimed, "Mommy look at that brown people, he's really black, why is he so black?" The man looked of Nigerian or possibly Sudanese decent. That time I was more prepared and stopped right where I was, admonished her not to point at people and briefly explained about how people are from different countries and have different skin tones and we're all just people.

I still see her look sideways out her eyes at "handicap" people but hopefully we've taught her enough about people that she knows better than to point and say the first thing to come out her brain. lol She's almost 8 now.

@EM - I'm sorry but hahahaha. I can only imagine and pray I never have that conversation.


Funny! & embarassing. My 2 1/2 y/o daughter once carefully observed a lady in the supermarket isles, who had extremely white skin, long stringy black hair, and a weird raggedy black dress. We passed her several times, then little Mel patted my tummy, and shouted while pointing... "LOOK MOMMY!! IT'S A WITCH!!!" This was in 1978, before goths were "popular". I used it as a learning experience that we don't point and shout at people that look different, while blushing a Bright Red, and hurrying out of the store. It still makes me laugh 31 years later.


Fabulous parenting moments, Amy! Ahem ...

My take? Question 1: a. Observant little dude, without the PC filter. Totally innocent remark. Question 2: a. Or what Kati said (especially the thing about looking up the skirt ...). Question 3: Sound effect. Purely sound effect, with no idea about the spelling. Next time, though, I think a papertowel roll would be more appropriate as a light saber.


Two related stories:

When I was little, my mom and I were standing in line somewhere, and I saw a "brown" man, and my question to my mom was, "Mommy, why does that man have chocolate all over his face?" My mom was speechless, of course.

A friend's mom was similarly mortified one day when her daughter screamed and pointed out to her mom the lady who looked like a gorilla, a la',"Mommy, why is there a gorilla here?" You guessed it...a "brown" woman!

Kids are kids. I think most people understand this!

Sprite's Keeper

I think a viewing of Space Balls is in his future. "A Druish Princess".
I had that moment at a store when my three year old pointed to a girl about 9 or 10, who happened to be on the chubby side, and said, "She's a big girl, Mommy." Yeah, the girl heard it and automatically, her eyes filled. I tried to explain what I knew Sprite was trying to say, the differences between big and little since that's "the shit" in the three year old room right now and she points it out everywhere, but instead, my genius brain said, "yes, she's larger than you." Having battled weight myself, I knew as soon as I said it, she would take it the wrong way. She did. I quickly left the aisle.


Oh, I just remembered a time when I was about 4 and my mom wanted to crawl in a hole because of what I'd just said. In my tiny hometown, there were like 6 Black people total. And I'd recently been introduced to the trendy short pants called knickers. Only I got it wrong. Can you guess how? And, of course, there was an African-American woman on that aisle at the K-Mart right then. My mom was mortified! And on the spot sternly told me how I should never, ever, ever say that word again! I've called them short pants ever since! And you just KNOW that woman was wondering "just where did your child LEARN that word?!"


Oh, I'd like to think I take option 'A' but really, Option 'C' looks mighty attractive. We haven't hit that yet with Noelle (3.5) but it's coming. I know it's coming... Thanks to all the other commenters for suggestions on how to handle those remarks.


I reread my comment, and the thing about the lady looking like a gorilla came out wrong. I should have said that my friend pointed out a lady she apparently THOUGHT looked like a gorilla. I would never say that a person actually looked like a gorilla. I should really learn to proofread.

Chrisy in Chicago

I remember my younger brother doing the same thing about a man in a whellechair missing a leg. "MOMMY! WHAT HAPPENED???" with the obligatory finger point. My mom actually took my brother's hand and walked him up to the man in the wheel chair and they talked together about it. Maybe you could do the same thing with the bus driver and the little girl? I'm guessing that the bus driver would appreciate the honesty and the little girl probably has to explain it everyday anyway. My grown-up little brother says that he still remembers that talk and it made an impact on him about how to treat people.

Just a thought.


Oh. My. GOD. Worst worst worst memory of my life. Standing in the pharmacy line with my then-5-year-old son with Asperger's. I hear him giggling but I'm thrashing out side-effects issues with the pharmacist and don't really pay attention because he's sitting in the cart. Finally I hear him giggle, "What a weird face," and turn to see... a lady with burn scars all over her face, like, THIRD DEGREE SKIN-GRAFT SCARS, giving my son a death look. She snaps, "What a rude boy!" I gasp, "Oh my God, I am SO SO SORRY," and dash away, prescription thrown in the cart with my insensitive son.

When we got to the car he got an earful about how commenting on people's looks can make them feel bad. He cried when he realized he probably hurt the lady's feelings. It didn't help her any, though.

All that to say, I totally feel your pain.


My 5 year old son took his first ride on the city bus this week. I live in a very small, very WHITE town. (Sorry, but it is, something like 98%.) As they were preparing to get off the bus a tall, young, bald, brown man got on. My son announced to the entire bus that MACE WINDU was on the bus!! Apparently I need to buy some of those diversity books myself.

Cheryl S.

Honestly, I would have just said "Yes, your regular bus driver is back!" and maybe found a way to ask his name so that we could call him that rather than "the brown bus driver!"

I don't think I would have pulled him aside, but I would have told him right there that pointing wasn't nice and that she looked different because everyone does. I've had this happen with my daughter (she's almost 5) and I just deal with it. The person she's talking about KNOWS she's talking about them, so I'd rather just explain it like it's no big

"Jew Jew Jew" is HYSTERICAL.


According to this chapter of the book "Nutureshock" the right answer to question #1 would be something along the lines of "Yep, sure is!"

(My personal reaction would be more like #3.)


Wait, that didn't come out right.

My reaction to question #1 would be like CHOICE C!

Not like your "Yeah, that is funny" reaction to #3!


My daughter's favorite, FAVORITE stuffed animal is a pink dog we named "Pinky." She calls him Kinky. Tells everyone she loves Kinky.
I prefer the innocence. I'm sure the bus driver knows that's all it is. My son is fascinated by everyone in a wheel chair because he thinks it's SO COOL to have a chair. with WHEELS. Blows his mind.

Missy Carvin

It is what it is. My kid *is* brown and we're not. And we're all learning together how that works.

Here's the thing, we're all just a leeeeeetle sensitive about things, horrifically worried that our single, offhanded comment will mortally wound someone forever and ever and ever. What I can't figure out is this: why is it ok to identify someone by a physical characteristic (the bus driver with the blond hair or the one with brown eyes) but not the most obvious (being the largest surface area), their skin color? It's not that Noah was saying oh no, it's the big mean brown bus driver who's always mean to me. Or that little girl must be bad because her face is different.

The great thing about kids is they repeat what they know. If your kid hasn't heard judgments based on outward appearances, he's not likely to *make* judgments based on outwards appearances, positive or negative.

Wow, that was deep. I think I need to step away from the keyboard now!

Heather B.

I'm looking at this from two ways: 1) As a child living in Upstate NY largely surrounded by a bunch of people who looked nothing like me. People (children at the time) would say horrifying things to me and about my race. Not because they were assholes (though some of them were) but because it's what kids do. But I was 5-13 when these things happened and being on the receiving end of these comments and in public is pretty god damn awful. Yeah, obvious but to this day, just thinking about it and knowing how kids can be, it makes me itch.

2) I'm 26 god damn years old and if Noah were to (finally) notice that I am black I'd probably be like 'YUP!' and then move on.

What I'm saying is that the average adult is gonna be all, "eh, whatever" because they're adults. It's the children who might get these comments pointed at them - from ANYONE - who I would worry about.


Marielle, barely 3, used to tell people, "I like black guys!" or "Look, a black guy!" We finally figured out she was saying, "I like the black SKY." as in night time.

Of course when she saw the little person at the mall last week it was clear as day when she yelled, "LOOK! IT'S A TINY MOMMY!!!!!"


My cousin had his young, truck loving, son in a very crowded grocery store and there was a large woman in front of them as they were at a bit of a stand still. The woman had a beeper that started to go off and the son said to his dad "Look out dad! She's backing up!". Talk about turning red!

Skinny Sushi

A, A, B.

And for reference, once when I was five or so I asked a lovely black woman (whose skin color, for whatever reason, was unremarkable to me) in utter hopeful fascination if her baby was made of chocolate. Man, I was so disappointed when she said no. She smiled and explained to me that God made us different colors because he likes rainbows.

Kids are kids. They say stuff. When I was fatter (and not pregnant), a kid asked if I was pregnant. So, you know...


@Lisa at 2:49,

I am not a bald brown man, and so maybe I do not have the best frame of reference, but if someone compared ME to Mace Windu, I'd probably be flattered. ;)


LOL!! It's not quite the same, but when Ean was in 1st grade he thought his dad was black (he's not) and told everyone in his class about his "African-American Daddy". Many of the other kids (as well as his teacher) had actually met Rich, so I'm sure they were more than a little confused.

Here's a link to the re-telling of the event:


I feel your pain. There was the time in Barnes & Noble where my now 6 year old flipped OUT because two ladies in burkas got in line behind us. He called them "scary monsters", and cried. (They heard.) Or the time at the grocery store where he saw a "little person" and he called her "so tiny!" and laughed. (She heard.) And yes, when we saw her again in a different aisle, this time with her husband, who was also a "little person", I'm not ashamed to admit that I turned the cart around and RAN before he could see them together. (Well, maybe a little ashamed...)


My 8-year-old still describes people by their skin color. There is brown (both African American and Latino), black ("no really mom, she's really dark"), yellow and red. Our "brown" and "red" friends think it's great. After all, "We are brown/red" they say.

Clearly, we have chosen NOT to have the conversation hoping to achieve some smuggity-smug high-minded "it's not a big deal unless we make it a big deal" plateau.


Sometimes these things fall out of your mouth when you're an adult, too, and you embarrass yourself! Hubby worked at a non-profit where 95% of the workers were white women. And usually hot white women. He was one of 3 men. Hubby is the minority (being male). Hubby is white, one other dude is white, one other dude is black. On an office visit, I manage to say to the Black dude, "hey, how do you like being a minority around here?!" Smack your forehead!


"out of the mouthes of babes"

This isn't so horrifying but I had my 4 year old in the cart in line at a grocery store (seems to be a running theme here). There were around 4 older gentlemen with gray hair in several lines. My daughter proclaims with much glee "MOM, THERE ARE LOTS OF GRANDPAS HERE!" I closed my eyes for a second, took a deep breath and the older man behind us said "yes honey, I'm a grandpa".

And my alltime fav, it was just her and I in the car. My husband had left me for a married women in the same neighborhood as me and I had to drive by her house, every weekday morning and see my husband's truck in her driveway. One day my daughter said "Mom, how come Sherry gets two mans?" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. side note, husband leaving me was best thing ever!!


Oh, and I forgot, the correct spelling of the light saber noise has to be juu, juu, juu which would make that one a non issue...


Honestly none of the above would faze me. Why be ashamed or embarrassed that your children notice the uniqueness of the world?

The bus driver *is* brown, pretty sure he knows he is ;) - I would smile at the driver and say to my kid "He is! Although he'd probably appreciate it if you learned his name. How would you like to be called "the blue-eyed kid all the time?"

Because skin color and eye color and deformities are not the issue. *Noticing* those things are not the issue. Treating people poorly, judging them because of it *is* a problem.

When you shush a child and usher them away, you're saying that what they noticed was wrong, shameful, embarassing. Pretty sure there's nothing embarrassing about having brown skin.

Laura Menard

I can remember my brother and I at a very young age, maybe 4 and 6, watching a group of people outside and calling them "poo-poo people"...oooh, shudder.....
Then many years later I am strolling through the Walmart and my daughter asks "why are we the only white people here", well, she was right, we sure were, at least as far as we could see.


My son used to love the movie Mary Poppins, and his favorite scene was the chimney sweeps singing and danching and chim-chim-churee-ing. He called those guys "Dirty Man", their faces were covered with soot. One day we went to Wal Mart, and although he was not a sheltered white boy experiencing his first glimpse of a dark skinned person, something resonated deep within him on that day. Something that caused him to point at every African American person in Wal Mart and shriek "DIRTY MAN!"



In my son's preschool class there were 2 Noahs- Noah M. (whose name was always mispronounced as "Monkey") and Noah G. (whom for most of the year was only referred to as "Brown Noah"- I only learned the "G" part much later). Nobody seemed to take offense to least not Noah G. I'd even heard him refer to himself as "Brown Noah". Because he IS brown. Noah M. though... oh, he hated that people thought his last name was "Monkey". I was unsure how to treat these terms at first but realized that there was no judgment in it, just 4 yr olds being factual.

However, my 3 yr old threw me the other day when our cashier at Target was a very plus sized guy that my sweetiepie pointed out to the whole store (or at least Lane 12) "Look momma, he's FULL!" I didn't know what to say about that. I offered the guy an apologetic look and continued to dig in my purse for my coupons.

It makes me feel better to know that everyone seems to have similar experiences when their kids are small.

Megan (Best of Fates)

Sounds like you have your hand hilariously full with that one!


May I recommend the book Nurtureshock by Po Bronson? It has a great chapter on race (and why white parents typically ignore the necessary conversations). I especially feel better about this type of conversation (race, specialness, differences, etc) when I know that my child NATURALLY puts things into categories. At that point, for me, it's about pointing out the similarities (we're all people) and having him find ways in which we are the same, even though we are different (Yes, Georgina has brown skin and you have white skin, but you are both very smart people and you both like peanut butter. A person's goodness has nothing to do with what they look like on the outside. How else are you the same?"). Of course, I think the whole point of that Nurtureshock chapter was that white parents need to have the conversation and that no matter how they approach it (assuming no racism), it is better than ignoring differences or pretending that a multicultural environment will automatically make a child into a racially-accepting and upholding person.

JessieGin AZ

I always cherish reading your parenting related blogs (well all of your blogs but parenting ones for sure) You always hit the nail on the head at describing the entire experience from all angels and degrees LOL

We had a "brown" moment last year that I bumbled my way through after my son referred to his new across the street friend as "the Brown Christian not the Christian from school"---I tried to explain how describing someone based off of the color of their skin is not polite and even went the whole uber pc route of "african american" if you HAVE to use a descriptor and his friend Christian (8 years old) looked at me and said--but I am brown so its no big deal plus "I'm just american not african american"--LOL put me in MY place


Have you read Nurture Shock yet? There's a chapter in there about studies showing that avoiding discussing race quite directly and openly (as opposed to silence or "we are all awesome" vague statements) leads children to conclude that their white liberal guilty parents must not like brown people.


Thanks for all the good laughs!

At around 3 or 4, my daughter started putting family relationships together (like, how I'm her grandparets' daughter, her uncle is my brother, that sort of thing). We read Pocahantas, and when she asked what "ancestors" meant I said they're relatives who lived a really long long time ago and are now dead, like, her grandparents' grandparents.

A few weeks later my in-laws were visiting, and I overheard her say to my MIL, "You're my grandma, and you're going to die soon."

Thankfully, MIL is in good health and in no danger of dying any time soon, so she took it in good stride, but I have to admit I thought it was hilarious.


At the Target near our house the security guard is a little person.

About a year ago, my then four-year old son sees her and screams (at the TOP of his lungs): "LOOK MOMMY! ONE OF SANTA'S ELVES!"

She heard. Everyone heard. My mother who lives in another state heard.

Cheeks aflame with mortification, an attempt to explain to him that people come in all shapes and sizes...and the chick comes over to us with this smirk on her face and says to my son "Yup. And if you're not good for your mom I'm SO gonna tell Santa on you."

So yeah. Sometimes you just bite it. Parenting is a study in biting it.


I'm not sure why "Jew Jew Jew" would be considered hilarious...your child didn't mean anything by it, but you as an adult who knows the meaning...why is it funny for him to be chanting Jew over and over? That's pretty are the comments from other readers suggesting it's funny


Agree with Wendy, Missy, and Sasha--the bus driver IS brown, no need to be embarrassed. I am Asian and my husband is white, and I am always talking to my daughter about the differences in people's skin tones, asking her who else we know that is Asian, etc. I even asked her once, when I couldn't figure out which kid at her daycare was the one who had invited us to a birthday party, "Does A have brown skin like J or light skin like V?" As long as he's not saying "Hey, the *racial slur* bus driver is back!", I wouldn't worry about it.


Oh, and also? I have found that using "African American" as a descriptor has its own issues. A couple years ago we were on vacation in France with my then 7yo. As we walked around Paris she piped up with "Wow, there are a lot of African Americans in France."


All of these stories are seriously cracking me up! Note to self: when you have kids, avoid Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, and the grocery store!!


Eh. One and Three probably wouldn't phase me that much, but Two would be a Serious Come To Jesus for me (and should be for everybody else, too), because as a kid who acquired a facial disfigurement at a young age, I can tell you that as a kid, every time somebody asks "What happened to your/her face?", it sucks.

It sucks so goddamned much, and as a little kid, it tends to fuck you up.

If it makes you feel any better (it didn't help me at the time), most of the people who asked the question were adults, people who sure as hell should have known better.


When my younger daughter was in kindergarten, she came home one day and told me that "Savannah was the only white girl in class today." Since we are of English and Irish decent, I curiously asked what she herself was. "Oh, I'm tan," she said. I asked what I was, then. "You're white!" (Guess I should get in the sun more often.) I then asked about her very pale friend Krista, in a different class: "She's clear."


My kids (4 and 7) call with a white beard Santa. No matter what time of year it is. I've given up explaining to them, and just started hoping the gentlemen will not be insulted if they hear them!


My little cousin said re: a grocery clerk, "Mommy, why is that man chocolate?" My aunt is STILL DYING from it.

Flee. Ha!


My nephew screamed and pointed in the middle of the mall, "LOOK A CHOCOLATE MAN!"

I went for the crawl under the planter and pretend you aren't with that kid method. Because really, what do you say when a 4 year old does that?


We grew up in Orange County, Ca not a very diverse community. When my brother was 4 years old back in 1994 there was a knock at the door and my dad went to answer it. A few minutes later my mom said "Honey, go see who's at the door." My brother took off ahead of me and ran back "It's OJ Simpson!!" My Mom's jaw dropped as I realized that was the only African American my brother had seen from his recent noteriety- and therefore assumed that was indeed who was at the door.


Oh, lawsey. When mine was about four, he was running around the veterinarian's office and I told him to sit down on the bench next to a largish woman. He refused, I repeated myself, and he pointed at her and said emphatically, "I don't want to sit next to that FAT lady!" There' graceful way to really handle that kind of thing.


When I was about five my dad took me into a gun shop in rural Pennsylvania. I looked around and then shouted at the top of my lungs, "So Daddy, are these rednecks?"

Also, a friend of mine told a story about when she was little and went up to a black lady who was breastfeeding her baby and asked if the baby liked chocolate milk. The woman just laughed.

Lucy's mom

Funny post but some of the commenters' stories are hilarious - particularly BK's.

When Lucy was three she attended a daycare that was extremely diverse. One day coming home she was telling a story about two little girls in her room who were twins. She said "you remember them mommmy, they're the little girls with the brown faces". I looked in the rearview mirror and said "Lucy..." in a stern voice and she responded "No mommy, that's not racy. I asked Miss Lorena (her teacher) if it's racy and she said no. And then I told her I liked her nice brown face."

When I took Lucy to daycare the next day Miss Lorena came by me and said "I like Lucy's sweet white face too and that's not racy." We both laughed and I learned something from my kid and her teacher. Not a bad thing.


Exactly how is that funny? Your child is a child. You are an adult. Would it be funny if he yelled nigger nigger nigger? What will you do when your kid yells Jew Jew Jew at someone and thinks it is OK because mommy thinks it is funny? Why don't you go into some of the restaurants you and your husband like, the ones owned by Jews, and yell that and see how funny it is?


My best friend is white. Her son and daughter are my godchildren. A couple of years ago, I was tickling him on the floor and he accidentally bumps my knee (where I had a boo boo.) I said, "Be careful Buddy, Aunt Gina has a boo boo." He said, "You can't see it so good on your color." Curious, I said, “And what color is that Buddy?" He said, serious, "Chocolate." Then he tried to lick my arm. I love that kid.


Oh my goodness, these stories are cracking me up!! Especialy "Jew Jew Jew..."!! When my brother was about 5, my mother was at the grocery store with him. We lived in Upstate NY, and my brother had never seen another black person other than Sanford, (And he LOVED Sanford) and that was on TV. So, imagine his delight when he saw a black woman in the grocery store-he proceeded to run up to her and tug on her dress yelling "Hey!! Excuse me!! Miss!! Do you KNOW SANFORD?!?!" When my Mom pulled him away he could be heard throughout the store saying: "But Mooooooom, they're both BROWWWWN!"

Pretty sure we started shopping somewhere else after that!


Was this all the same day? Haven't had any of these moments with my 2.5year old yet, thanks for the heads up, I may only send her out with my husband from now on *g*


I am a large woman with dark hair, and I was at a restaurant downtown with a group of people from work for lunch. There was a table near us with several adults and a 4-6 year old little boy. He was finished and was looking around, and came over to me and tapped me on the shoulder and said "You look like Wendy the Snapple Lady." I smiled and said thank you, I think I do too. His mother turned bright red and called him back to the table and tried to apologize. I said don't worry, He was very sweet. Kids connect things they see with other things they see. Therefore, I appreciated being compared with Wendy the Snapple Lady, and not Jabba the Hut.


My kids are in a very diverse school - it is only ~30% white, with the rest being from various Central and South American countries. When one of them is trying to help the other remember someone, they have detailed conversations about the color of their skin: "Daniella is a little bit darker than Luis, but not as dark as Aaron." It used to freak me out, in a total overreacting-PC kind of way, but now I'm used to it. And, fortunately, they've learned to just have these conversations in the car.

The best was when my older son couldn't say r's or l's. He didn't substitute other sounds, but just skipped the sounds altogether. "Frog" was "fog" and "play" was "pay". Not a big deal with these words. However, the "gray flag" socks he had? Yeah, that one wasn't good...


When we were waiting at the pool for my daughter's swimming teacher to come over. I saw the teacher, Melissa, and pointed her out to Megan. Megan yelled "DAT'S MY FAT SWIMMING TEACHER" and ran over to give Melissa a hug.

We have never called Melissa fat. Or anyone really. Maybe she learned that word at daycare?


@Balebusta, he't not chanting Jew, Jew, Jew like it's 1944. He's making a little-boy laser-weapon noise, which sounds like chu, chu, chu or zhu, zhu, zhu or pew, pew, pew depending on how you transliterate it.

And it's funny because a) it's #3 in the series, and b) he has no idea what he's saying. Give it a rest, hey?


I once had this conversation with my 4-year-old about one of my Indian neighbors:

L: "Mommy, why is she different?"
Me, nervous: "Um, what do you mean?"
L: "She's not wearing her glasses today."

What she *does* notice and publicly point out are overweight women ("That looks like Joan! Because she's fat.") and bald men, like her daddy. She doesn't seem to be making any judgments, just observing. Still embarrasses me.


I teach English in South Korea. There is no /z/ sound in Korean, so my students pronounce the word "zoo" as "Jew." This means I've gotten all sorts of fun sentences from my students such as, "This weekend, I went to the Jew!" or "I want to be a Jew doctor," or my all-time favorite, "I don't like the Jew, it's dirty and loud."


Oh, don't you love the tact of kids?

My friend's son is currently running around grabbing people's crotches whilst yelling "DO YOU HAVE A ZIZI OR ZIZETTE? (French for .... well, do I need to translate? ;))

My daughter heralded our shy 17 year old babysitter's arrival at the w/end by saying "Hey Pauline! You have *MUCH* bigger noobies (boobies) than Mama". Thanks doll.

Followed by the Mother's Day card for traditionally built m-i-l lovingly drawn my son in which Nana resembled nothing so much as an over-inflated pink hot air balloon with comedy stick arms and legs.

Oh yes, and on the see-saw the other day I heard a child yell "WANK WANK WANK" to imitate the noise it made.

We always have a quiet word to explain why this isn't appropriate afterwards, but anyone who gets offended by a child's natural (and not malicious) curiosity about the world at this age needs a new shot of sense of humour :0)


To be honest, I think the only people who get offended by comments like that that kids make are people who in denial about themselves. The bus driver had brown big deal. I have a huge birthmark on my stomach and I used to get asked about it alllll the time when i was a little kid getting changed for gym or whatever. A lot of kids liked it 'cause they thought it looked like a heart. it was what it was, i wasn't offended.

Even now...I personally follow that old advice of not asking if someone's pregnant unless i can see a baby coming out of them...but the other day I was wearing a dress that made my chest look great but puffs out at the stomach a lot...a lady presumed i was pregnant. I wasn't offended like she thought i would be, because I'm honest...the dress does kinda make me look pregnant! Plus I could do with losing weight! (although it would have been nice if she hadn't followed that comment up with "You must get that a lot." sigh)


Once when my oldest was about 2 years old, we were vacationing--I think it was in Texas. We came back to the hotel to get something from our room, and there was a cleaning lady in the hallway. Now, at this time, my son was watching Star Trek: Voyager like the huge Trek geek-offspring he was.

The lady had shoulder length hair and was Hispanic. My son pointed and said, "LOOK! Mommy! It's a KLINGON! It's B'Elanna!"

The lady, God love her, took it in stride and even made a mock-battle-cry face at him.

Then, later, we're walking through the hotel again, and a really tall African-American guy was walking towards us. My son said, "MOMMY! It's WORF!" The guy just laughed. Thank God.

Later we had a serious discussion how black people are NOT Klingons, they are not from another planet, they are from Earth. He was actually disappointed, because Klingons! On Earth! That would be awesome!


I've got a cousin with cerebral palsy who has just moved to town and so my kids are getting to know him for the first time. I've explained to them that it's a lot of work for him to make his muscles do what he wants them to do, and that is why he talks/walks/moves differently. The two big ones (10+7) are good with this, we had a discussion, they asked some questions, no big deal.

But my 4yo keeps wanting to hear and discuss the explanation at top volume. That's how preschoolers are, I know, but it is embarassing. "He has to work hard to move his muscles, right?" "Why does he talk like that? Because of his muscles, right? Mommy? MOMMY? RIGHT?"


Thank God for Jim Henson. Because, like Heather B. above, I grew up in Far Far Upstate NY and never even saw a real live non-white person until High School. But I grew up watching Sesame Street - the old original episodes - where kids & adults & monsters of all colors and sizes & abilities ran around and played and sang together like being different colors was no big deal.

I am convinced that that exposure to difference prepared me to interact with people different from me (skin color, sexual orientation, family dynamics, language differences, cultural differences, etc . . .) in a very natural and unbiased way even though I grew up in a very homogenous culture.

I think we worry about difference too much these days and try to push "acceptance" or "diversity training" or "sensitivity training" on our kids without giving them good examples of natural, healthy interaction. Lets face it - nothing about a kid under 8 or so is reliably 'sensitive' to the differences in others. Even then, it's sketchy until they reach their teens. It's cool that Noah has a 'brown' bus driver that he is excited to see. That's soooo much better than the biases that American culture teaches us to harbor against black men. Just tell the guy that he is Noah's favorite - it will make his day.

And keep your eyes open for the Sesame Street Old School DVD's. They're brilliant, I tell you!


My two year old once saw a Hasidic Jew with a very long white beard on the street(we live in Brooklyn) and said "look Mommy, it's Santa!" at the top of his lungs.
Hilarious, but also mortifying.

On another note, my skin's brown, and that's a fact. I can't imagine the bus driver was offended by something that is a fact, and not something he is ashamed of. Noah has no idea that having brown skin is any different really than having white or beige skin-except as a physical description. Which is awesome right? And the way it should be :-)


I know this may be hard but try not to be embarrassed if your child says something like that. As a Black woman, I understand why children say those things. I don't understand why parents get so embarrassed. It sometimes makes me feel as if the parent's have been saying things they shouldn't in front of the kids. I know you haven't but you get what I'm saying, right?


Okay, seriously? SERIOUSLY?

Joan, I cannot get over the irony in your comment. The word "Jew" is the correct term for a person of the Jewish faith. It is NOT a slur or a derogatory term. Obviously it CAN be used in a negative way, but so can so many other words that are otherwise innocuous.

Which you demonstrate perfectly by using the word Jew APPROPRIATELY in your final statement. You would never EVER say "The ones owned by N**s!" Because that would be a SLUR.

I'm pretty sure if her son were shouting the N-word, she would not be laughing about it.


Ok, it's taken me a while to comment. I admit, I've been a lurker.

Our kids are almost identical.

It's scary. Yours is the good one though.

No, I'm not kidding. Check out my blog and take a look at my kid. Your son and mine look almost alike.

I fell out of my chair and his father screamed like a little girl.

Mainly because he thought he impregnated another woman without knowing. Yes... another.

He's weird like that.

But your kid. Is the good one. Mine is the evil :-)


Noticing color is not racist, judging people by their color is. It's ok for kids to see things like differences in skin color. If he starts generalizing or stereotyping people based on their color, THEN you have a problem.

My daughter's friend has a lot of "strawberries" on her body. My daughter, 2, loves to pull at them. When I see it, I simply say, "that's part of Ella's body and it's not okay to touch Ella without asking."

Don't make a big deal about the "Jew" because then he'll start to think it's a bad word. It's harmless.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)


Arun says I am pink, he is yellow and his Daddy is brown. However, we talk about skin color all the time - in Indian culture, skin tone is a huge conversational topic. Good or bad, unfortunately.


I have occasionally accidentally bought brown dolls for my kids. I never notice till they're side by side with a white doll, not that I care... I just buy whatever's on clearance. I consider this a good thing, but we've had a few family members ask us why we'd buy a black doll.
We also go out of our way to buy Bibles illustrated racially correctly, had a Chinese student live with us last year, and hang out with a (relative to the town's population) diverse group of people. But S still comments or points sometimes. people can't understand what she's saying, which makes it harder to have a conversation, but this thread reminds me how important it is to try.
And I ditto what Balebusta said.


No time to read all the comments, but for (1) I'd just say that I'd want to avoid sending the message that differences in skin tone are something polite people just don't notice or talk about -- that makes it seem like having dark skin is vaguely embarrassing or wrong. My mom kills me because when she needs to mention that someone is black (or Asian or any kind of non-white), she sort of lowers her voice to say it -- which seems to me just way, way more racist than she would ever dream. So I'd probably give pretty much no reaction at all.

(I think that I feel pretty much the same way about physical/mental disabilities -- I'd make the point that people don't like to be pointed at or talked about as if they weren't there, but I'd stay away from the approach that suggests the nice thing to do is to pretend someone isn't X or Y; it makes X or Y seem like a personal failing.)


Awesome post and all these stories and how totally guileless kids are. The chapter on race in NurtureShock was fascinating to me - how we all naturally separate people/objects into categories but do need guidance that different /= bad.

My older son has a severe speech delay, including not being able to say the word "man," although he does just fine with "boy." Needless to say, he calls all male persons, including adults, "boy" - which is generally just fine, except when he screams, "HEY, BOY!!! HEY, BOY!!!" at any black adult male he sees. (Did I mention we live in the South? D'oh.)


My nephew is a very observant 4 year old and has recently provided my brother-in-law and his wife with some major red in the face moments. A couple weeks ago they were eating at a restaurant and the waitress had a large gap between her front teeth. According to my sister-in-law, he looked right at her and asked, in a tone like you would say it to a child, "Uh oh, looks like somebody's missing a tooth!" My sister-in-law apologized and explained to my nephew that people are different and we don't need to loudly proclaim their differences. A few days later they ran into another person with an obvious difference in appearance. My nephew said "Mom, he's different and I'm not going to say a thing about it!" Man, I love that kid! I think every kid makes a comment that makes us parents want to crawl in a hole. It's just part of the fun of parenting.


Just out of curiosity, are you sure it's about skin color? Because Noah does attribute colors to things other than colors.

I agree with most people - having the discussion is better than skulking away embarrassed!


In the early/mid 80's, when many African American people were emulating Michael Jackson with the jeri curls, my mother had my brother at the MVA and he was growing restless. She was trying to soothe him and he yelled back at her, "But I can't be around all these greasy people any longer!" My mom crawled out of there, completely and utterly mortified.


In the early/mid 80's, when many African American people were emulating Michael Jackson with the jeri curls, my mother had my brother at the MVA and he was growing restless. She was trying to soothe him and he yelled back at her, "But I can't be around all these greasy people any longer!" My mom crawled out of there, completely and utterly mortified.


The commenter above whose kid said "there's a lot of grandpas in here!" - ok, aww, I actually think that is cute :) . Bc if she loves her grandpa and all that, it's kind of sweet.

(Though I can see how a guy might be offended who doesn't see himself as a *grandpa* type, but...nonetheless).


Ugh! I just knew someone was going to get all prickly about the jew thing. Its FUNNY because he is saying something with meaning without realizing it. Like how my two year old nephew says "cock" for "quack". :) cocks are not especially funny but in that context it is. Smirking about it right now....


BTW- maybe I'm not up on my PCness but I can't think of anything offensive about the word Jew?.?.


When my daughter was 2, she walked up to an African American man in the mall, pointed at him and yelled, "Monkey!"

If I could have melted into the floor right then, I would have.


You're right... him chanting "Jew" over and over and pretending to shoot you is pretty funny. And not offensive at all...


OH EM GEE! That reminds me of that one time when we had a friend over and our daughter, then 2.5 or so, pointed at the tv, when a unicef commercial came on showing a starving child from India, and yelled "Monkey!".

Me: *nervous giggle* No honey, it's just a kid! *more nervous giggling*


Went to the grocery with my then 3 year old son - he says to the Cashier "Wow, you're really brown". She says "why yes, and you're pink". He looks down at his arm, smiles, looks up and exclaims, "I am!" The cashier told me, what a cutie. It was great.
**I am sure the bus driver did not mind at all!


I think finding the Jewish comment amusing is in very poor taste. Not because he is saying "Jew" over and over, but he is saying that while pretending to shoot you. Just my take on it.

I have a degree in Equity Studies (the studies of -isms), and one should not define a person using a single word. For example, someone is not a Jew, but is a person who is Jewish. A child with autism is not autistic, nor is a person with a disability disabled. The difference is that we aren't defining the person by a single word, but letting the word be one part of the person's self definition. Also, it is a way of forcing people to recognize that he or she is a person before anything else...


I get it that Noah is a kid, and just like all kids, will say things that are honest but inappropriate. I get it that sometimes it will be awkward and uncomfortable. He'll learn with age.

I don't get it why *you* think shooting at you and yelling "JEW" is funny.

With anti-semitism on the rise and Helen Thomas telling Jews to go back to Germany and Poland being the #1 video on youtube, this was in rather poor taste.

I'm a long time reader, I love your blog. But not this post.


One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.


My 4-year-old is very interested in the ways we tell people apart. He wants to know what color shirt the president wears and how what color God's hair is. (No just particular in his questions, but extremely hard!) And of course, this leads to a lot of pointing out skin colors. Which is fine, when it's done in the living room, but not so much when we're at the grocery store and he's pointing out the African-American, Somali, or Asian people he sees and comparing their skin tones to his biracial and Hispanic friends. It's hard to take all the embarrassment out of those conversations.

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