2014 to Mar 2016

A Letter to Livia

Dear Livia,

Since your were born, you often get a lot of questions about how come your mother looks different, or why you look different to your mother.  Even as the nurse wheeled you to my bed-side at the hospital, she took one look at me and asked me why you were so fair, and she double-checked that your tag matched mine, just to make sure she did not mix up the children at the nursery. Sometimes they don’t even ask kindly, they simply ask you where your mother was, even as I was standing by your side, and you might wonder why people were often questioning my relationship to you.

You constantly get praised for your fair skin and straight hair, and wondered how come your mother and sisters have different skin tones and hair textures because people like to point it out to you.  All the time. Sometimes they even like to inform you that you have much more beautiful skin tone and hair, even though your sisters’ skin tones and hair are just as beautiful.

My child, one day we are going to have a serious conversation about colonialism, race, ethnicity, gender and inequality. But till that day comes, I wonder what is in your head when people approach you with these narrow-minded views of beauty?  Naturally, I worry. I hope you have the curiosity to wonder that there is more than enough space in this world to accommodate many versions of beauty.  But I also wish that instead of focusing on your appearance, people asked you what you enjoyed, and what you liked to read.  I wished they praised you for being able to climb really high structures and complimented you for figuring out how to balance a bike. I wished they can see how much you enjoy pasta and know that you got your love for waffles from me. I wished they told you about how you could do a PhD just like your mother and that you could become an engineer just like your father. How nice would it be for once if someone came up to you and said, wow you love figuring puzzles just like your mom!  As opposed to, how odd that your hair is different to your mom’s.

This was why I don’t allow you to play with human-looking toys and dolls.  I don’t want you to have to choose between a dark skin doll with curly hair, and a fair skin doll with blue eyes and blonde hair.  Why can’t a darker skin tone doll have rainbow hair and green eyes? Even your dollhouse is made up of pig figurines – there’s the mama pig, papa pig, little piglet triplets, sister pig and brother pig.   I often watch you allow papa pig to wear a dress and mama pig fixing the toilet and I thought how lovely it would be to watch you grow and know its okay for men to wear dresses (if they wanted to) and women to work as plumbers.

I will try to protect you from stereotypes and shallow opinions when you are outside by standing up for you and your sisters.  So far, I have not been doing a great job at this because I fear offending others.  It is clear now to me that maybe it is worth being offensive so that you learn to be offended as well when people focus shallowly on your appearance and compare your hair and skin tone to your mother or siblings.

You are lovely just the way you are, whether or not you look like me or your dad, and your sisters, even though they look identical, are also each uniquely beautiful.  All four of you came from us.  One day you will flip through our childhood photographs and see striking likeness.  Our love brought you into this world, and I hope our love and wisdom will be enough to sustain you through all of society’s judgements, narrow-mindedness and shallowness.

Love,

Your curly-haired mum

3 thoughts on “A Letter to Livia

  1. Awwwe! This is beautiful. I experience this with my daughter all the time. I am have a nice brown/caramel complexion and she is a fair skinned red head! Everyone always comments how beautiful her hair is…but why bot how smart she is? Or creative? Or silly? Etc…!! Sue dies have dolls of all races and I dont make her choose a particular race. I just remind her that everyone is different and beautiful. We are all beautiful 😊

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