'I Want to Wear My Hair Blond'

Dawn Wallace of Killeen, Texas, is the mother of three children, including daughters Christina, 2, and Courtney, 7. Dawn, who is African American, says she and her husband, who is Asian Pacific Islander, are very sensitive to questions their children ask about difference.

"It hasn't happened so much with Christina yet, but when Courtney was about 5, she would come home and tell me she wanted to wear her hair 'blond,'" Dawn says. "I didn't understand what she meant at first, but then I figured out that she was associating blond hair with wearing hair down or loose."

Dawn says she explained to Christina about the different textures and types of hair and talked to her about the nice things about having naturally curly hair.

"You think kids don't notice these things and that they don't matter, but [kids] know when they see someone who doesn't look like them or who has different features," she says. "I guess it's natural to have questions like that when you are growing up and learning about other people in the world. I've just tried to answer whatever she asks me; I would rather her hear the answers from me than learn things from other people or on TV."

Explaining that it isn't right to judge people based on their appearance is just as important as answering her daughter's questions, Dawn says. "I tell her that you can't ever judge a person based on how they look; you have to judge people by their character."

Aside from questions about race, skin color and hair texture, Dawn says that when Courtney attended preschool, she began to form a strong opinion about what boys and girls were "supposed" to do.

"She took gymnastics," she says. "When she saw some boys in the gymnastics class, she stared and told me she didn't know boys could do gymnastics because it was for girls."

Dawn says she explained to Courtney that gymnastics is a sport open to anyone who likes to jump, flip and tumble. "I've always told her that girls can do everything. I guess I needed to let her know that boys and girls can do everything."

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