How children see this world and how they simplify what they see into words is a continuous source of fascination to me. It can be funny. It can be embarrassing. Always it is a learning experience of how to explain things in the future in a less confusing and open to misinterpretation way.
And they know nothing about being politically correct.
Take the scenario of The White Person Versus the Black Person.
Every time my 3.5 year old sees the white person, he flips out. He does a crazy happy dance (typically while strapped down in his car seat) and thrusts his finger in an excited jabbing motion towards it and shouts “I see a white person! I see a white person! I like the white person!”
Never did I think such a phrase would be uttered from his mouth with the same jubilation that used to be reserved for fire trucks and bulldozers.
Eventually, the other phrase spews forth from his lips.
“I see a black person! Look Mommy, a black person! I don’t like the black person!” This too is accompanied by much excitement and pointing as I count myself lucky no one other than me and his sister (and occasionally CG) can hear him.
Because to listen to these comments, you’d think we lived in a world where everyone’s skin is magenta, purple, and other vivid colors. A world where black and white are in the minority, so naturally a child would be excited to see such exotic things.
In actuality, the objects of his glee have absolutely nothing to with a person’s skin color and everything to do with these:
- the white person that lights up in the crosswalks.
- the black person in the No Crossing sign.
That’s right. He is blissfully happy to see these two signs as we drive around town, as if each one possessed the magic formerly reserved for emergency vehicles, construction equipment, and giant towers. He is currently Sign Obsessed, especially when it involves any figure of a person.
And CG and I are working to slowly alter his terminology to a more correct form.
Not to be confused with the dramatic over the top PC form which would be to teach him “Caucasian” for “white” and “African American” for “black.”
That would just be silly. And asinine.
He doesn’t even notice the skin color of people. He notices toys, if they’re a boy or a girl, and if they have a coveted cool shirt on (a kid had one with Bob the Builder on it the other day and he really wanted one in his size). But not skin color.
Instead, we are endeavoring to teach him the proper names for the signs. My dear friend Bobbi was the first to explain crosswalks to him, and must have used the term “white person” to explain when they could cross on their way to the grocery store. So he applied this across the board as a way to name the signs.
Only what the heck are you supposed to the white person in the crosswalk? The Do Walk Sign/Light/person?
Let me know.
We are making progress. He now knows that all signs with a black line through them mean Do Not Do That. It makes for more interesting utterings.
“That’s a NO smoking sign. That is so we don’t catch on fire.”
“That’s a NO diving sign. Or we will crash our head in the pool and need to go to the hospital and get stitches.”
But you still can’t beat driving down a street with all green lights, and white person after white person greets him in the crosswalks.
He nearly explodes with so much excitement, you’d think cake and ice cream were involved.
And I can only wonder what will be the next Object of Fascination. Because I sure didn’t see this one coming.