Earlier this week I asked you to share stories of where you see examples of community done right. I’ve gone through the week keeping an eye out and though I see many people out and about, different events, etc, there is one place I consistently see things done right. The playground.
Kids just get it. They are so innocent & full of joy that it never occurs to them to be put off by someone’s differences or to let their own insecurities and fears get in their way. They just jump right in and make friends. They don’t question someone about their beliefs before they give them a push on the swing. They don’t care why others are dressed the way they are or what color their skin is. Hell, sometimes they don’t even bother to ask the other kids what their names are. Because it really doesn’t matter. At least not at first.
Many times I think we shy away from talking about our differences, especially with kids. Don’t stare, don’t point, shhh. I think we’ve got it all wrong. As a mom, I know how embarrassing it can be for kids to shout out whatever is on their mind. They are filterless creatures. I also know, that when we try to distract them or quiet them we are attempting to be polite, that our intentions are honorable. But what we don’t realize is when we start to hush them and avert our eyes from others we are subliminally telling our kids that these things are “wrong” or “bad”. Instead, we need to embrace their questions, use it as an opportunity to open up dialogue and educate them. Not only do we get the chance to share with them another person’s beliefs, but ours as well. If our values or beliefs are different we can use this to open a dialogue about how we can still treat one another gently and with kindness.
Some people might call it dreamy, but I also believe that there is something to be learned from people who’s values or beliefs we don’t agree with.
For example, seeing a muslim woman wearing her hijab
- gives me the chance to educate my children on the fact that people have different religious beliefs than we do & that despite this we can co-exist
- to show my young girls that beauty is far more present in modesty than in what magazines may be teaching them.
- I am able to teach them about the plights of people around the world and how blessed we are here in the USA to have safety and running water and so many things we take for granted.
- I am able to teach them that it is important to show your love for God, as this woman is, even when you are surrounded by others who may hate you for it.
When we encounter children at school that have two mommies or two daddies we have the opportunity to talk about
- different family structures
- that no matter what is “right” or “wrong” it isn’t for us to decide, but for us to be kind & loving.
- We talk about the courage it takes for people to speak up and be true to themselves even if it means people might not accept you. My kids don’t need to grow up gay for that to be an important life lesson.
Out in the community we get the chance to see many of the children that I used to work with that have a range of disabilities & being able to introduce my kids to them is a wonderful opportunity.
- Through these kids they are learning that “different” doesn’t mean “worse”.
- They are able to see what people are capable of even though most people would see them as having a disability.
- We get the chance to talk about how all life is valuable.
- They now know that just because someone can’t speak or see or walk that they are still people just like us; capable of joy and sadness.
Every moment in a child’s life is a chance to educate.
Going out and making a bunch of diverse friends isn’t easy- that’s not what I’m asking. What I AM asking is for you to make sure that race, religion, gender, ability, equality is something you are talking about, especially with your kids. They are going to go out into the world and make sense of it based on what they see & hear. Let your voice be the loudest. #unitecloud & this post aren’t going to reach many people, especially those still spewing hatred and intolerance into our community. These people are parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents to kids and they are speaking up. They are talking about their beliefs. If we remain silent to ours they will win. Let your voice be heard. You don’t have to even be a parent. Maybe it’s your sibling or niece/nephew that needs to hear what you have to say.
Interested in reading more?
Here are some great references:
One mom’s wish for her daughter: http://themighty.com/2015/06/1to-the-embarrassed-parent-of-the-child-pointing-at-my-daughter/
HOW to talk with your kids about diversity: http://thecouponproject.com/conversations-with-my-kids-about-diversity/
Using Playdough to discuss diversity hands on: http://www.bonbonbreak.com/talking-about-diversity-using-playdough/
Have any great ideas on ways to start the conversation? Let’s hear them!