It takes all sorts

18 February , 2014

Conversations with Nicola can sometimes leave me a bit stumped. To a certain extent I blame school for this. I don’t always get the frame of reference of what she’s talking about…but I try. I really try. I have to figure out where they were trying to go with something and then work my words of wisdom in to fit the theme, and at times turn it on its head if needed.

Example: Any of you who don’t have the “standard” family set-up of mom, dad, maybe a sibling or two will probably enjoy the family themed lessons just as much as I do (as in NOT AT ALL). This year for instance they had to make a family tree, but not of what their family actually looks like – just a standard sort of template tree. I calmed myself down about this figuring it was actually more about the cutting out of circles than about the tree, and for some reason all 20 children in the class had to have a mother with red hair, a dad with dark brown hair and two siblings – one of which had to be a baby, and one a brother, plus a grandfather but no grandmother. At some point I do hope we’ll get to discuss a tree that actually sort of resembles the one we are.

This obviously raises all sorts of questions and I try to answer them in a truthful and sort of PC way whenever I can. When Nicola wants to know why she doesn’t have a dad or siblings like her picture has, I say families are made up of all sorts of people. Almost no one’s real family looks like that. You get families where there is only a mom and a daughter, like us. You get families that only have a dad, some where there are two moms or two dads, some where the parents and the children don’t even look like each other. The more important thing is that they all love each other and consider themselves family, than whether they look like a cut out template family tree.

Then she says something like, “Mmm…yes” and just as you think she understands and agrees with you she adds, “but MY pink dragon has a baby brother” or something similar. I just breathe in, breathe out and let it go. No doubt we will discuss this again next year when family tree week rolls by, and maybe she’s taking in more than she is willing to admit to – she often quotes me on things I have said years ago, and never again, with frightening accuracy. So just because she starts talking about pink dragons, doesn’t mean that she didn’t hear or believe me.  

Other than the skill of cutting out circles, I think this kind of thing is probably good for a different kind of life lesson too. It’s about cookie cutters, and not necessarily being one. The powers that be have expectations that you are not always going to meet, and that’s okay – you just be you, and let them deal with their own expectations. I’ll be the one here in the background instigating that it’s okay to cut out the circles if someone says cut and paste THIS family tree, but to make a big stink about it if they expect the same saying cut and paste YOUR family tree, and it doesn’t look like your family.

Yesterday, she let loose one of these conversations on me again. This time it was about skin colour. She says, “Mamma, het jy geweet mens kry bruin mense, EN skin colour mense?” (Mom, did you know you get brown people, and skin coloured people?). Me, “Ja, ek het geweet – maar Nicola bruin is ook ‘n velkleur. Mens kry mense in pink, beige, geel, ligbruin, donkerbruin, swart – amper al die kleure – en hulle is almal “skin colour” want dit is die kleur wat hulle vel is.” (Yes, I did know that – but Nicola, brown is also a skin colour. You get people in all kinds of colours, pink, beige, yellow, light brown, dark brown, and black – almost all of the colours you can think of – and they are all “skin coloured” because that is the colour that their skin is. She looks like she’s thinking this over and then says, “yes, AND you get them in skin colour…but not green or blue, right mom?”

Hahaha, no – I haven’t seen people in green or blue yet either. I guess we’ll park this for the next round then. Thank you to whoever at her school taught my daughter that the light peachy colour crayon is skin colour. And when I say thank you, you know I mean something altogether different, right?

Do you have these kinds of conversations with your children? I can’t be the only one fielding these kind of questions…



  1. Jip – het gehad – lank gelede. Jy doen absoluut wonderlik. Ons moet ons kinders heeltyd reghelp teen die idiote daar buite.

    • Jy vertel my – dis jammer daar is so baie van hulle!

  2. I had the same thing with Luke. One day, he was about 4 or 5, we were in a lift and a huge, impeccably dressed African gentleman entered. Luke, not being shy, said “Hi, how are you?”, to which the guy gave him a flat ignore. Luke very politely turned to me and said “Mom, why won’t the chocolate man talk to me?”! On another occasion he came home from school to tell us about his new “girlfriend”. He described her hair, posture, voice everything. Right at the end he added “and she is not skinny color like me, she’s more the caramel kind”. Chocolate, skinny and caramel, those are his definitions of skin colors!

    • These sound more like sorts of coffees than colours of people, but I think it’s sweet.

  3. These conversations will become precious to you as she grows…and you are going to be challenged often that I can guarantee.

    • They are already precious to me Lynette, that’s why I write them down here – I don’t want to forget them. At least i know that she feels comfortable talking to me about just about anything. That is definitely something that i would always like to encourage.

  4. The teachers at Sienna’s school seem to be pretty good with this type of thing. Her friends are a different story. I’ve had to explain that she can’t be brown like her best friend, even though she doesn’t want to be pink anymore. Also that her brother wouldn’t be brown when he is born (back before he came along). I’m just glad she described herself as pink and not skin-coloured.

    • I sort of suspect this might be a friends thing too, and not necessarily a teacher thing – except for the family tree, that one is squarely in front of her door!

  5. You only have these discussions because your daughter is incredibly smart and is interested and invested in her environment. And yes, “thank you” to those insensitive pricks who indoctrinate our children virtually from their infancy with their antiquated, bigoted ideas of what is “proper” and what classifies people as people…

    • I must say that I find it fascinating to see how she puzzles these things together for herself. I must say that i am not impressed with those people either, but I guess you can’t always dodge them or change them – sometimes you just have to learn to live around them without becoming one.

  6. Oh, you’re definitely not the only one. Believe me 🙂

    • Hehehe…I guess all parents have their fair share of these conversations. 😉

  7. I thank the Lord we are so far past that stage and it is now my childrens job to answer all these type questions… I walk away from some conversations when I hear the words “Mommy, by die skool…” time for me to go… either that or I sit and laugh my head off…

    • Hahaha, I can just see you doing that! I have to keep a straight face, even when it’s hard.

  8. quite honestly, that would seriously cheese me off. I’m really impressed with your patience. Because there is no standard definition of family (if you’re not m, f, 2 kids, what are you? abnormal? no ways!)

    • Anomoly? I don’t know – I don’t concern myself with other people’s views of what I should be. It’s just a bit tricky to teach Nicola the same skill – but I’m sure we’ll get there.

  9. My parents got divorced when I was a teenager. My kids knows that their granny and grandfather lives in different houses. One evening during supper my mom was telling a story about the time when she lived in my dads house. So my four year old asked why she lived in grandpa’s house. She said because they were married. That triggered another why, and I realised that this discussion is going to end with him worrying his parents divorcing. But we managed to get through it without any drama and more understanding for friends in single parent situations.

    • That must have been very hard, growing up. I can’t even imagine it, my parents are still together (although they’ve had their fair share of bumps along the way). Nicola does ask me about her dad more and more, it’s becoming increasingly tricky to tell her a pretty version of the truth. I think she gets it, but she doesn’t like it. Often she tells me that she misses him (even though she’s never even met him). I’m glad your little guys weren’t too traumatised by it all.

  10. Ag ja, and so we get challenged every single day – but its these little things we will remember some day . Good luck! (btw expect a family tree in grade 3 again – at least we could structure it ourselves

    • I look forward to it – it is going to be the most kick ass family tree out there. We come from a big family, even if it’s not a cookie cutter nuclear one. 😀

  11. The family thing annoys the hell out of me at school. I hate that they teach them mom, dad, 2.5kids and a dog – anything else just doesn’t fit.

    Yeah my kids have skin colour questions/observations – we deal with them honestly and now they are bigger we try flip it back to them “why do you think…” etc

    • That’s a great way to talk about it!

      Yeah, I had a bit of a showdown with the teacher. It took me 40 minutes to get her to understand why this was a problem for me. Apparently I am the first parent to complain about it in 23 years!

      From now on she will either refer to that crayon as peach, or put out a selection of skin colours.

      I took a bash at the family thing too, but I don’t think that one’s in the bag yet. *sigh* On Feb 21, 2014 11:12 AM, “123 Blog Myself” wrote:


  12. One day my kid came home and spoke about the “brown people in the plastic houses” i.e. the squatters. He was about 3 or 4 at the time. I had NEVER had any kind of conversation like that with him before. My Mom always says that my kids world doesn’t start and end in my house. We do occasionally talk about it but the context is obviously different now that he’s older. As far as I can tell, child2 has no clue about this stuff.
    Oh and that family tree issue would annoy the hell out of me too!
    I think that there’s another family tree in Grade 1 and they redo this nonsense in Grade 3. Just so you’re prepared.

    • So true what your mom says… And it’s not just the teachers, I get to see a lot of other people’s houses through what their children talk to mine about at school. On Feb 27, 2014 9:40 PM, “123 Blog Myself” wrote:


  13. OMG I so forking hear you! Every bloody year my knucklehead had to do a “family tree” and then have to explain why his was only half full!
    The one teacher asked why I don’t get pictures of “the rest of his family” so he can finish it properly – after I explained to her that they weren’t actually family.

    • Hahaha, luckily no one has suggested that to me yet. I can just imagine!

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