Dear Annie: I realize that you ladies are not psychologists, but I value your opinion, so I hope you (and your readers) can help me.
My darling 4-year-old grandson looks 99 percent Caucasian, but he is actually 50 percent African-American. His biological father is in prison and has not been in the picture since he slept with our daughter. We doubt he will ever be interested in his son. We are raising the boy in an all-white environment, and I worry what will happen when he is older and starts asking questions about his father and his race.
My grandson also has several relatives who live in our town, and a few of them have been by to see him. Once he starts school, I believe he will find out the truth about his birth.
What is the best way to handle this? Should we start explaining his mixed-heritage now or wait until he is older? How do we approach the topic of his jailbird father? I worry about his emotional health if he feels we have deceived him. Our daughter lives with us, too, but we are in charge of the day-to-day child rearing. Please give me some advice. – Concerned Grandma
Dear Grandma: Some things are best dealt with head-on. Your grandson’s biracial heritage should be incorporated into his daily life. He may not completely understand how he can look white yet also be black, so explain that “black” can include many different colors. Show him pictures of celebrities and public figures who are also biracial. If you don’t know enough about his cultural heritage, read books and take field trips to museums, and make sure he is inculcated with the positive aspects. He should be proud of who he is.
His father’s status, however, is something that can be postponed until he asks. Do not lie to your grandson, but don’t tell him more than he can absorb, and don’t badmouth the father. The important thing is that he doesn’t think the father’s absence is somehow his fault.