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Archive for August 26th, 2010

Jonah knows his alphabet, numbers, and colors very well.

He loves to play “what color is that?”  and even has learned some harder-to-name colors, like “tan” – but he inevitably adds an “s” at the beginning of the color, as if he’s saying “it’s white” really quickly, and it comes out “s’white!”

The other day Andy and I had some fun with Jonah and skin color.  We like our neighborhood; it’s like Sesame Street, filled with people of all colors, ages, races, religions, and sexual orientation.  Jonah knows the next door neighbors, an African-American family whose skin colors range from coffee-with-cream to very dark brown.  First we asked Jonah what color mommy is.  “S’white,” he responded with confidence.  (This is almost literally true.  I am not a tanner and have never had anything but pale, or, when burned, very red skin).

“What color is daddy?”  we asked next.   “S’tan,” he answered.  (Also accurate – Andy’s got the farmer’s tan associated with working outside in a t-shirt).

Then we asked him about the next door neighbor’s youngest girl, who has the darkest skin in their family.  “What color is K–?”  Jonah took longer this time.  “S’brown,” he said.

Next was the oldest girl in their family, with the lightest skin.  “What color is T–?”   Without hesitation, Jonah said “S’tan.”

Then “all done” he declared, downright annoyed –  as if we were asking him stupid questions, splitting hairs about variations in skin color when what he really wanted was to identify the vibrancy of the lake-blue sky or the unquestionable green-ness of our front lawn’s crabgrass.

Sometimes Jonah is my best and brightest teacher.  I’m not claiming he has a guru-on-the-mountain wisdom about the unimportance of skin color, but the way he perceives the world is certainly unique – it carries an innocence that’s long-ago lost in most children by the time they’re his age.

Silly boo

In a lot of ways, he lives a life free of so many useless, bullshit human emotions.  Jonah has no inhibitions; whether he is angry, happy, scared, or excited, he exhibits what he is feeling with an unabashed clarity.    A joyful Jonah is a wonderful thing to witness.  He giggles and shrieks with laughter, caring not how loud he is or if he is in a socially-acceptable place to exhibit such excitment.  Some intuitive part of him recognizes bliss as beautiful, powerful, and pure.

Jonah is never embarrased, self-conscious, or guilt-ridden.  He is afraid of almost nothing, and certainly scary concepts like war, death, monsters under the bed, impending school tests, etc. are far beyond his comprehension.

Toy commercials on TV do not induce the common automatic response uttered by most kids:  I want that! Jonah does not nag us for the latest game system (we have none), he does not beg for candy at the grocery store,  he doesn’t feel a desperate need for a cell phone (though he loves to play with mine), he doesn’t know Christmas from a hole in the ground, and, as far as he’s concerned, birthdays mean only two things:

1)  Singing Happy Birthday to You ad infinitum, and

2)  Gobbling copious quantities of (preferrably) chocolate cake, with lots & lots of frosting.

He does not attempt to hide or disguise his emotions.  He assesses people based on his own little system of measurement (to which I am not privy) and then behaves accordingly, cuddling up to his favorite people and being less friendly with those he does not really care about.

He doesn’t try to spare anyone’s feelings, which is possibly the one real downside to his “truth serum” zen lifestyle.  At his annual family birthday party, he expresses very little interest in the majority of the presents he is given, and will then adore his favorites with impunity, even if it means choosing to play obsessively with the $10 moneycoin bank over the $200 stand-up keyboard.

He doesn’t seem to possess empathy, though he does understand when he has physically hurt someone and he usually acts appropraitely contrite:  “okay?  okay?”  he’ll repeat worriedly – though, to be honest, I’m not sure if he’s worried that he’s hurt you or worried that he’ll be punished.

I don’t think he understands the concept of lying, but he can be manipulative, over-acting his distress when he’s denied something like black soda, or to go see the train.

So despite his skill at naming colors, he evidently is uninterested in variations in skin tone.   And even as I attempt to avoid reading deep meaning into his skin-color-apathy, I am  unaccountably proud of him for this – for, in a manner I think we could all learn from, he simply takes people for what they are – how they treat him – how they act – without any consideration whatever for the color of their skin.

And that’s pretty cool.

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