Clearly, I took a bit of a break over the holidays. For a few reasons, I suppose. One was practical – we had a lot of fun extra things going on leading up to the holidays and spent some time traveling. Another was emotional, I suppose – much of what I *really* think about isn’t always suitable for public consumption (at least for someone like me who values privacy despite popular belief that I am extroverted and forthcoming!). But, I think the main reason has been trying to sort out what this space is really to be used for in light of number two above so I feel like I need to explore that a bit to work it out.

I started Like Me Like You Kids because I see a gap in marketplace. But, that makes it sound more business-y than my heart feels about it. From my own experience, I found it more challenging to find well-designed toys featuring kids of color or even reflecting a diverse spread of kids. I have found it frustrating to find books who have beautiful, strong main characters who also have brown skin. While I am thrilled to introduce books into our household that feature historical characters, I find it bit odd that in order to have someone on the pages of the books look like my son, it has to be a story about someone who has already lived or about slavery. I feel nervous writing that, but it is something I struggle with when I choose books. I don’t mean that I don’t want our actual American history to be taught in our home – I do. But, I still see a huge gap in books.

My reading material and thoughts are often centered around race as I try to wrap my head around raising a black son in today’s world. But, that feels heavy and scary. I launched this site not because I thought it would solve all of these issues but that perhaps I could help make a small dent in the way parents think about raising their toddlers and preschoolers. Perhaps by starting with the basics toys and books that celebrate people of all races, we can raise a generation who isn’t racist and stuck in privilege. But, frankly – focusing on toys feels a bit silly. The problems of this world are enormous. And a big problem is our desire to stay comfortable. To tell ourselves we aren’t racist. To blame past generations. To use words like diversity. I don’t even really like that word particularly because the way white people use it is to mean people who are not white. As in “oh, it’s diverse there” meaning one time I saw someone who didn’t look like me. But, I use it and even use it in our vision statement here because in the truest form, it SHOULD be beautiful. It should be a gift. But, I digress. And, I think I might continue to digress.

I feel sad that despite most people’s stated desire to live in a diverse place or to raise kids with diverse friends, it all kind of breaks down in reality. This post by Kristen Howerton on Rage Against the Minivan certainly expresses it all too clearly. She talks about a youtube video showing two white girls opening black dolls on Christmas and their clear disappointment made worse by the fact that the mom (or person taking the video) knew that would be the reaction. It has taken me all day to look the video up since Kristen kindly didn’t link to it and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it first hand. It is good that I did because not seeing it just me sitting in denial. But, it is incredibly sad.

Part of my stated vision for Like Me Like You Kids is based on the notion that developing identity IS based on being surrounded by things that look “like me” so I don’t take issue with a white girl wanting to have a white doll. But, the second part of the vision, I am realizing might be the part that most resonates with what is broken in this world and that is the “like you” part – the idea that “others” are beautiful and have worth. It seems that is the part that might have helped these young girls be excited about dolls that look like someone else. But, that begs the question – do the dolls look like anyone they know? I need to hold on to the idea that if someone who is friends with my son got a doll that looked like him, they would be excited because it looks like their friend who has brown skin. The relational connection is real. It doesn’t solve everything, but it is real. How are we to value and love others as different when there is no one in our lives who is different (and not just racially)? I do not stand in judgment on this topic as I often wonder if I might have begun thinking about these issues as deeply if not for our son. But, I do think we need to challenges ourselves out of the comfort zone so that we ARE in relationship with those who are different than us. Otherwise, how will we ever grow and change and be part of making peace not just being comfortable?

So, as I spend early January reflecting on the next year as people often do around this time of year, I am really trying to decide how I want to use this blog space as well as the business to make an impact. But, I am first processing through the question Kristen Howerton posed on her post today, “was diversity reflected under your Christmas tree?” and how that relates to what we do at Like Me Like You Kids.

And, as I do that, I cannot help but think about the following things:

  1. How would diversity have been reflected in our home if we had given birth to or adopted a white child?
  2. How was diversity reflected in the homes of my friends this Christmas?
  3. Can dolls, toys, art and books really make a difference in how we raise our kids and the way they view others?
  4. If the answer to #3 is yes, how can I be part of curating or creating “things” that really meet this need?
  5. Why does it feel okay for a black child to have a white doll and not vice versa?
  6. What messages are we giving our kids that lead them to identify brown and black children in studies as dumb and ugly rather than smart and pretty?
  7. Why is it so hard to admit racial bias, racist thoughts, and white privilege?

I have deeper questions too, the ones that keep me awake in the night, the ones that punch me in the gut when yet another black teenager is killed (usually without any sort of justice), the ones that make me cry in fear wondering how old my son will be when he transitions from adorable to scary in the eyes of the world. But, those are still feeling pretty private. So, to hold you over until I speak on the topic myself, please read this incredible post, To the White Parents of My Black Son’s Friends.