The other day my youngest son brought his art portfolio home from school. I’d pull out a drawing, he’d tell me a little about his masterpiece, and I’d compliment what I loved most about it. Then I came to this drawing:
I looked at him.
“That’s me,” he said.
“That’s … you?” I asked.
“Yeah. We had to draw ourselves.”
It’s a typical 3rd grader self portrait in many ways, except I couldn’t help but notice that the crayon he chose for his skin color is many shades darker than his actual real life skin color. Our youngest son is fair skinned like me, but this drawing showed him to be darker like his father.
I decided not to ask questions and moved onto the next drawing. I didn’t want to make a big deal over it and make him self conscious. Maybe it’s not an identity crisis. Maybe he’s just not self-aware? I thought to myself. Maybe somebody else was using the lighter crayon and he wasn’t patient so he used whatever color was available.
I had tried to forget about the self portrait but then this weekend I found him in the backyard like this:
I asked what he was up to and he said, “I’m trying to tan.” — He explained that he wanted to be more like his brother’s color, (which is not as dark as his father, but almost.)
I’m wondering if this is just a natural part of growing up in a bicultural family where your mother and father are two different shades? Maybe it’s just a normal distancing of himself from me that comes from age – maybe he wants to identify as a male with his older brother and father?
I’m not really sure what to do, if anything – except to tell him he’s perfect the way he is. What would you do?