This is part of a regular parenting column from author, speaker and dad Doyin Richards in which he tackles some of the toughest questions today’s parents face. Have a topic you’d like him to take on? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My 4-year-old son, who is white, recently started describing some of his friends by their skin color. For example, yesterday he said he played on the swings with “his black friend Andre” at preschool. Shouldn’t he just say that he’s playing with his friend Andre? How do I start this discussion with him?
― Dee from Atlanta
This may surprise you, but I have no problem with your son’s labels whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I’ll go as far as to say that your son is on the road to enlightenment (or he’s becoming woke, as the kids say nowadays).
Some white parents get shook when race is brought up and try to change the subject as quickly as possible. But we should talk about race. Kids should be taught to recognize differences ― even if it means calling them out in the beginning.
Your son is in preschool, so you can’t expect him to understand the many nuances of race that, quite frankly, many fully grown-ass adults remain clueless about. As he grows older, your son will stop labeling his friends this way and will become more aware of the unique experiences black kids go through. He’ll learn to empathize with them. And because of that, I’m confident he’ll grow up to be a good human who gets it ― and we need more of those white men in America.
Personally, I’m more worried about the parents who think it’s a good idea to raise their kids to be colorblind and not see race. Those kids are the ones who grow up to post #AllLivesMatter nonsense on Twitter and who question why Megyn Kelly was fired from NBC for her blackface comments. If everyone is viewed as exactly the same, then any cries of racism are dismissed as overblown, we’re told that discrimination never happens, and we hear ridiculous false equivalency stories about how a white kid was a victim of racism that one time a black kid made fun of him.
Here’s the important part of all of this: Your son and Andre are different, but they’re still buddies — and that’s the way it should be.
Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that acknowledging differences always ends up with great results. Hardly. Plenty of parents out there teach their sons and daughters that black and brown kids are evil, scary and dangerous; their kids then never take the time to get to know their teammates, classmates and neighbors simply because their skin is a different shade.
I teach my kids that they can like whomever they choose. They can also dislike whomever they choose, as long as their reason for disliking that person has nothing to do with race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Because people of all races can be kind and loving, the same way people of all races can be bigoted assholes.
We need to teach our children to get to know what’s in people’s hearts before they make a decision about whether to kick it with them or not. But it sounds as if your little one already has that figured out.
Doyin wrote a children’s book about introducing kids to differences, and he’ll be in New York City on Nov. 2 for HuffPost’s inaugural parenting conference ― How To Raise A Kid ― where he’ll discuss these and other issues with attendees.
I saw on social media that you recently had a vasectomy. Congrats! My husband is too scared to get one and is pressuring me to get my tubes tied instead. We have four kids, and the two of us agree that we’re done. I know you’re not a doctor, but can you share what your experience was like? I’m hoping it will help my husband come around.
― Susan from Denver
Yes, I recently had a vasectomy. And I’ve received a bunch of questions similar to yours ever since.
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. The procedure is over within minutes, the pain is minimal, I learned about the usefulness of frozen peas, and it gave me a legitimate excuse to indulge in some much-needed rest and relaxation while I recovered.
As you said, I’m not a doctor, and I won’t dish out medical advice. But your husband’s behavior is interesting here. Why is he pressuring you to go under the knife? Even though tubal ligations sometimes require general anesthesia and are more invasive and costly than vasectomies, only 9 percent of men in America opt for the surgery, compared with 27 percent of women.
Look, I get it. Dudes don’t like having their junk messed with (myself included). But do men think women enjoy pushing eight-pound (or more) humans through a very small passageway? Or that they giggle in delight at having their abdomen sliced open for a surgical procedure?
The fact that your man is putting the full-court press on you to have this surgery tells me he’s a little self-centered. (On a somewhat related note: I swear, if men were required to give birth, there would be dinosaurs out here on these streets instead of us.)
You’ll never hear me tell someone to man up, because that’s a tired phrase with its own set of problems, but your man certainly needs to grow up. Because from my experience, as far as surgeries go, they don’t come much easier than vasectomies. It’s really a sign of love to tell your partner, “Hey, honey, you brought four humans into this world. The least I can do is handle this one. It’s not even remotely a fair exchange for what you did, but it’s something.”
If I were you, Susan, I’d dig in my heels and tell my husband, “I’m not budging on this one. If you want permanent birth control, I suggest taking your ass to Google to find a good urologist.”
Once your husband finds the balls to get the procedure done, he’ll realize that having his slightly altered isn’t such a big deal after all. In fact, he’ll probably start telling everyone who will listen to do the same thing. Kind of like what I’m doing right now.
Because no matter how you slice it, more men need to be involved in the birth control process, and it’s nuts to think otherwise (dad joke completely intended).
Doyin is a father, husband and author dedicated to creating and celebrating a world of great fathers. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook at @daddydoinwork or ask him a question for a future column at email@example.com.