I’m sitting on an antique chair in my bathroom giving my four-year-old’s daughter one of her usual marathon baths, several of her McDonald’s figurines lined up like miniature divers along the tub’s faux marble edge and Suave’s Go-go Grape bubbles piled high, when she cries, “Look, Mommy!” Glee lighting her face, she holds up both hands, palms out, so that I can see their pale, puckered skin. “I’m getting whiter!” she cries. “Pretty soon, when I grow up, I’ll be white all over—like you!”
I gaze into the sweet, eager face of my child. I stare at her, stunned. All parents, I tell myself, have known moments like these. Moments when we feel infinitely ill-equipped to answer a question, respond to a comment made by a person who is purportedly less experienced, less intellectually developed than ourselves—a person over whom we have been given stewardship but who nonetheless holds it so easily within his or her power to throw us for a loop.