Loving the Skin She's In

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Motherhood is the undertaking of a lifetime. This small person that I am raising is the most important person I will ever meet. She is part of me, and part of my partner, the man I love most in the world. It is hard, therefore, when she doesn’t see how wonderful she is or says things about how unhappy she is with her body. She is so smart, funny, gentle, caring, and beautiful. But my Little Berry sometimes expresses that she doesn’t feel right in her own skin.I should take a moment to point out that we are a multiracial family. My partner is African American. I have Irish-and Cherokee Indian heritage, but identify as Caucasian. I am happy with myself and comfortable with my body. We celebrate diversity. We deliberately seek out people who are not “just like us;” we live in a diverse neighborhood because we want her to grow up meeting lots of different kinds of people and respecting people for who they are, not what they look like. And in showing her that what you look like doesn’t matter, we believe you have to make it matter. We don’t pretend different races doesn’t exist, and we are certainly not Colorblind
This week alone, she has said: “I don’t like my brown skin,” and “I am not brown, mama, I am white like the walls. I don’t want to be brown.” She has also said things about her papa’s skin: “Go away papa, you are a creepy brown guy.” This moment in motherhood pained me deeply. I also should note that Little Berry talks about not wanting to ‘be a girl.’ In truth, this is infinitely easier for me to handle. When she says “mama, don’t call me a girl anymore,” I apologize for assuming her gender and tell her she can be a boy or girl (or a freaking dinosaur!) if she wants, and that I will love her no matter what.She prefers to dress in things that are predominantly ‘boyish,’ or to be more specific, she shies away from dresses, skirts, pink things, hair bows, princesses, and the like. She is definitely a gender diverse or gender undecided child. And I can help her with that. I can call her “my boy.” I don’t push any choices on her in this regard. It is not hurtful, just as it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if she wanted to pierce her ears or cut her hair. Those things are her choices.But, barring some major, Michael Jackson-style body modifications, she will always be brown. And she is beautiful for it. And even if I COULD change it about her, I wouldn’t. It is a huge part of who she is and she gets it from her beautiful papa. Last night after bath time, running on inspiration from a friend, I showed her that she has my knees, and her papas eyes, and his smile, and my toes, and how her skin looks like she took a paintbrush and swirled my colors with papa’s colors and made a whole new color, the warm brown of a nut shell that has just fallen off a tree. I was feeling pretty good. I was feeling poetic and even thought to myself “I wish someone would say these things to me!!”But she looked me in the eye and said “No mama, I am not a brown guy…stop calling me brown. YOU be a brown guy if you like it!” I didn’t giggle. But maybe I wanted to a little.We do the things we are supposed to do: we talk about differences, we tell her about how all families are made in different ways. How bodies are not all the same, but all are beautiful. We volunteer in and out of our community and she loves it. We read books with lots of different kinds of people represented in them, like “Everywhere babies,” by Susan Meyers. We believe that everyone is special, and everyone is different. We believe it is our differences that MAKE us special. We tell our Little Berry how wonderful she is, how beautiful she is inside and out. She likes the inside part. She’s still not sold on the outside.In truth, it is not her ‘fault.’ After all, she is only four. But neither is it my fault: most of her feelings are internalized from the media, from magazines in grocery stores, from the fact that storybooks about minorities are hard to come by, from the fact that even in a diverse neighborhood, she is surprised to see other people who look like herself. She gets it from television where the only black character is stereotyped, too. Motherhood is an adventure. In mine, I am raising a child who isn’t comfortable in her own skin, despite how extraordinary she is. It hurts my heart, but we have a long way to go before she truly loves the skin she’s in as much as I do.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)
  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She'll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she's hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it's pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate's love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they'll respect their own and others'.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children's self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she's trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama's Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, "I'm not beautiful." And while it's hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child's lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today's society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can't give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don't You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma's baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter's clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she's in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry's choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.


  1. How beautiful to so boldly embrace who is says she is.

    My eldest daughter is two but has not noticed differences in skin tones yet - or least commented on them. My father talks about it a lot and I worry she is going to become concerned or judgmental at some point.

    It sounds like you are sending her all the positive and accurate messages she needs to hear. It is hard to counter all the messages we see in the media but I expect in time with your continued encouragement she will see herself as you do.

    1. Thank you :) we do work very hard with her. We love her unconditionally bit do hope she learns to embrace herself fully.

  2. She is so lucky to have you as a mama, I know you will help her embrace her uniqueness. Have you read The Colors of Us? Maybe equating the different shades of brown as delicious flavors would be fun to think about?

    1. I have not heard of this book. Looking it up now!

  3. When my oldest son was about 4, he hated his blond hair and wanted brown hair. I say just stick with your own holding of her beauty and she'll get past it. My son sure did (he's eleven now, outgrowing his blond hair with nostalgia). I know it's not the same scale, but perhaps at her age, it's not all the outside messages yet and more of an experimentation with what she can and can't change? Sounds like you are an amazing mama.

  4. You know, reading this really makes me wonder again about how much these souls come in with. I believe strongly that there are things the come in with and they're wise enough to choose parents to help them sort it all out. Clearly you're doing all you can to support your child with unconditional love and acceptance. I think that will be the magic.

  5. It sounds like you were meant to be her mama. I hope she learns to see how amazing she is! It sounds like she's working through who she is and you are a thoughtful and loving guide.

  6. A couple of other books that my daughter has loved that show multi racial families, and beautiful brown children are:
    Anything by Ezra Jack Keats.
    The Great Big Book of Families: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9594175-the-great-big-book-of-families

    Also fun, with an Elephant who isn't comfortable being the same color as the other elephants: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1223119.Elmer

  7. I love your post, and I can understand how sad it must be to hear your daughter say that about her beautiful self. It really does sound like you're doing everything right to help her transition through this discomfort and one day embrace all the parts of who she is.

    You're so right that culture is doing everything in its power to prevent it! I've been looking lately at how many storybooks for kids have a token brown-skinned character in the background. Never the main character, always just painted in for effect. It's really annoying me, actually, so we've started seeking out more books that "star" minorities. As you said, they're harder to find, but keep looking! Maybe the children's librarian at your local library could help you out. One I love love love right now is "Whose Knees Are These?"

  8. I know she will learn to love herself as she is- with a supportive, unconditionally loving mother that she has in you, she has a perfect shepherd leading her through the journey that is her life.

  9. To be honest, I'm from a multiracial family my mother was Irish-Karuk Indian and my father was African American and I'm still not comfortable in my skin, nearly 25 years after my birth. I know its not what you want to hear but sometimes its good to know that this problem may be carried for a while. Growing up I had to deal with other children asking me if I was adopted or saying I wasn't acting black enough this would even come from cousins on my mother's side. To add insult to injury, we moved to a town which although was the safest in the county, was exclusively Caucasian that had a shall we say, tense mindset to any other race. The point I'm trying to make is, perhaps you should seek out someone who is multiracial as sort of a mentor to help her see that beauty in herself or try standing in front of a mirror and explaining that its okay to say your outsides are beautiful too because as she gets older everyone will want her to fit into their form of beauty rather than see the beauty she possesses. If she still doesn't see it, do not beat yourself up over it mama. Just let her know that you and your partner think she is lovely and that you hope one day she will see it too. Those words will do wonders, let me assure you.

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