A few days ago, I visited my daughter’s classroom for a “gallery tour” of the “self portraits” the kids had been working on for a few weeks in art. The kids proudly walked their parents through the classroom, sharing the different portraits and pointing out the subtle differences in each beautiful drawing. “Addie has green eyes and brown skin and I have green eyes and peach skin. See mommy.” Without judgment or discomfort, my daughter talked about the colors and features that made her and her friends different. At a time when many of us are wondering how to talk about diversity with our kids, my daughter’s gallery tour was a powerful reminder of how much we can learn from our own children. I’m happy to say that we can also learn a lot from our Mom friends.
Wondering how I might talk openly and positively with my own kids about diversity, I reached out Taylor, one of our Mom Ambassadors, who addresses diversity head-on in her household everyday. Here’s a little bit of her story and her advice on how she encourages positive acceptance, understanding, and conversation.
I am a white, 33 year old woman. I have a Middle Eastern/American husband and together we have a beautiful African/Puerto Rican daughter that we met when she was only three hours old. She’s 2.5 years old now and she is the light of our lives. I don’t think about it all that much, it’s our normal, but we are the definition of a “mixed race family.” Recent events have made me think about it a lot more.
I want nothing more than to shield our daughter from this world, from racism, from ignorance. I am guessing that most parents feel like that right now, no matter your child’s race. We all want to make this world better for our kids and we can’t hide what’s going on.
So what do we do? I certainly don’t have the answers, but I’ll share my “plan” and hope it helps. Educate. Serve. Celebrate.
Get to know people of different races. I haven’t always been good about this, but want to try to get to know and understand others. Our kids are going to model their behavior and lives from what they see in us. Embrace diversity and treat everyone as equals…seems like a good start! One thing I have tried to do this week is check in on my friends of color. It may feel too simple, but reaching out can have a huge impact.
Celebrate. It seems like we are intimidated to acknowledge our differences, but I say, let’s highlight them, celebrate them! My daughter and I could not be more opposite when it comes to hair type and skin color. This makes no difference though, because we are and will always be strong, beautiful women. She will always know that no matter her hair type, style or color – she is perfect. There are a lot of great books and stories out there that celebrate diversity and different cultures. We love singing along to El Coqui, reading about Music around the World in Homer. For deeper reading, we love the children’s books on diversity titled People and We’re All Wonders. I’ve also found I want her to know that her birth mother from Liberia and her grandmother from Iran and her mother, born and raised in Kentucky, all have important cultural backgrounds and stories. It’s okay to be different.
Serve others. I want my child to see me helping others. I have to admit, I get busy and don’t do nearly as much for others as I should. That needs to change. She needs to see that we all need help, we all need community and we all need to be there and step in for people in need. That can mean taking someone a meal or standing up to bullies. We need community more than ever.
When I asked my African-American friend how she was doing after this month’s events, what she said stuck out to me, and I thought I’d leave you with this, “I was taught to treat others the way that I want to be treated.” It’s the oldest most golden rule in the book. Let’s follow it and model it for our kids!