Tanner was born my first and only son and, of course, our oldest. He then became our third son and youngest, and finally became one of the middle sons of 4. Now he proudly takes on the title as the middle of six. Tanner is sweet and sensitive and very, very calm. He reads with a single minded obsession only matched by my own childhood. Tanner is passionate about injustice. He reads books about World War II and has taken an interest in understanding the Civil Rights Movement. He loves sports but extreme competition is not for him. He would rather let you win so you could all be friends at the end of the game.
He is also a very typical twelve year old boy. He can't find the socks on his feet or the shoes he left in the hallway. Brushing his teeth or his hair is a chore that his mother inflicts upon him. He tends to assume everyone else thinks like him.
One of the interesting parenting dynamics of being part of a multi racial family is teaching your caucasion children that their experience is often different than their own siblings. This is a very hard concept to fathom when you are young but slowly Tanner is beginning to understand. Tanner understands that noone ever asks him where he is from, but they do his brothers. He understands that on the ice he might get some trash talk from other players just like his brothers, but that it never crosses the line to talk that devalues his personhood, equal to everyone else on the ice.
Yesterday my 12 year old was playing games on miniclips, a weekend only privilege at our house and time that is coveted. Miniclips is a relatively kid friendly web site with lots of arcade style games that I have never had any sort of problem with. Tanner had been playing for a few minutes when he suddenly shut the computer off and walked away.
"Mom" he said, with a look of deep concern on his face, "I think that game I was playing was racist. I didn't know right away, but once I did I stopped" Making certain I knew he would never willingly participate in anything racist.
"WHY?" I asked, my mind jumping immediately to worst case scenarios.
Tanner went on to explain to me that the game (based on a Winter Olympic Theme) had various teams you could choose to play. The characters on all the teams but one were all white and all had positive names like "Champion" or "Challenger". The last team was made of a single black character and under his picture? OUTSIDER.
Yes. Racism. Sometimes its overt with name calling or spray painted slogans. Sometimes it's subtle like identifying anyone not white as an outsider. I was proud of Tanner for being able to recognize that. I am not sure alot of 12 year olds would.