As the tears kept coming, I told her yet again that, yes, she was different from a lot of other kids but it was a great thing to be different. I said, "You have to be proud to be different." Try telling that to any kid who is 6, when your greatest goal in life is to fit in. So I tried a new tack. I told her that I, too, was different because I didn't have a husband, but I didn't care; I was proud to be different. (To which she replied—bless her loyal heart: "Mommy, I'm glad I don't have a daddy!")
Now, in the wake of the inauguration, I tried yet another tack. "Brookti," I said, "when white kids tell you your brown color is yuck, you answer, 'Well, our president is brown'—and see what they say. When brown kids tell you that I can't be your mother because I'm white, you answer, 'Well, our president is brown and his mother was white'—and see what they say. When kids tease you about being African because Africa only has wars and poor people, you answer, 'Well, our president is part African and he's proud of it'—and see what they say. When kids tease you because you don't have a daddy, you answer, 'Well, our president had a single mother'—and see what they say."
And here's something I haven't told her yet, but I will. I'll say, "Hey, Brookti, tell the kids it's a whole new world out there now, things are going to change; we should be proud of our differences and what we have in common, and we should celebrate them, just like our president—and see what they say."
Betsy Berne, author of the novel Bad Timing, is working on a memoir, Single White Mother.