It was my very first post. I worried that it would send the wrong message. I did not want my blog to be about race or skin color or any of those things. I wanted to talk about children and parents, my child and my parenting. In the most universal way possible. And yet here I was, with a brand new blog and a brand new post with two “color” words in the title. I published it anyway, and hoped other parents would see the “universal”-ness behind it. It really was about insecurities that children feel so easily; and how we as parents have this incredible superpower to make them feel safer and stronger. I created 23 drafts before publishing it, and then updated it several times after that!
I did manage to get several hundred hits, and even a few comments that were encouraging and uplifting. But it was all pretty low-key until I sent it to Medium and they agreed to pick it up for their “Human Parts” imprint. Suddenly people were tweeting it, recommending it, liking it. And then the comments started to pour in. As every blogger knows, the 5 seconds before you open a comment are nerve-wracking. You imagine the worst, what if it is an angry or hateful comment? What if it is criticism you are not ready to hear?
But there was no anger or hate. My cynicism has been severely tested in the last few weeks! The feedback I received was unexpected and surprising in ways I had never imagined:
1) Several parents from the Indian/Indian-American community wrote to say they can relate. Nothing surprising there.
2) A few comments came in from the African-American community – this was also not supsrising.
3) Two people from African countries responded. This was very surprising because I did not know I had an audience there! The comments continued to be along the lines of “yes we go through the same thing”.
4) A few parents from the hispanic community chimed in. There was a lot of conversation here about the “accent” complex that hispanic children develop.
5) I thought that was about it, until I started hearing from an expected group of people – people I assumed wouldn’t have to worry about this particular aspect. In other words, people referred to as “caucasians”. And in the most unexpected turn of events, they were also telling me that they could relate! Their stories were about themselves as well as their children. They talked about their own insecurities with pale skins, and worried that their children are growing up wanting fake tans. They wished their own parents had had this conversation with them. They told me about fears that transcend hair or skin color – the pressures of social media, about bullying, about gender stereotypes.
It was an overwhelming experience over all, and I came away with a few epiphanies worth sharing:
1) All parents worry about the exact same thing. Maybe the context is different, maybe the parenting styles are different, but we all want our children to grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. That really is all there is to it.
2) We are more alike than different. That is an over-simplification, but it’s true. Unfortunately, it’s a truth that is almost impossible to embrace. Everything in my environment seems to be aimed at clouding that view – the news, the mommy wars, pop-culture, stereotypes – everything is telling me that we are doomed to a future of conflict and differences. After all, I wanted my post to appeal to “everyone”, but I was still surprised that there were so many different kinds of people who could relate to it. But like it or not, we are all the same – in more ways than one.
3) Words are more powerful than you think. Millions of bloggers are throwing out simple words every day and it is all making a difference. You may not see it, but what you write is out there, making its way into people’s lives and affecting them. It is an incredible responsibility.
I have had the unexpected honor of knowing that I have been able to touch people’s lives with my words. As far as I know, it was all positive – it gave people hope, it made them nostalgic, it even made some people happy. And I hope I can always do that. I hope I can generate conversations, even arguments, but within a framework of kindness and acceptance.
When we were mouthy teenagers, my mom loved to throw this metaphor at me and my brother “Words are like mustard seeds, once they fall you cannot gather them back”. As always, I hate admit it, but my mom was right!