Monday, January 24, 2011

Teaching our Children Acceptance

I grew up in a mid-western city where almost everyone I met was Roman Catholic and either Irish or Polish. That said, somehow our parents were able to raise us to be accepting of all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. So when we moved to New York when I was a teenager and were exposed to much more, I was not shocked by it. I was more shocked by all the people there that were not so accepting even though they had been exposed so much more to people different from themselves. I now live in a suburb of Boston that has a lot of diversity.

In my CCD class yesterday, the kids were asked to draw three pictures of people that they love. I had them each share their pictures with the class. Most of the kids drew pictures of their mom, their dad, and one other person. One little girl show her pictures and said I drew my mom, my grandma, and my friend because I don’t have a dad. The other kids immediately asked why. My response was that all families are different. Some families have a mom and a dad, some have just a mom or just a dad, some have grandparents, and some have two moms or two dads. The little girl responded: “and sometimes your parents just don’t want to get married so they go to China to get a child.” She was so matter of fact with a smile on her face which made me so happy. She is being taught that it is a good thing that we all have different families and different stories to tell.

It is important to me that my children feel the same way. They just happen to be members of a “traditional” half Irish/half Italian Catholic family with a mom and a dad. Some of their friends come from “traditional families” of various races, some of their friends are adopted, and some of their friends have gay parents. They have repeatedly been told that all families are different and one type of family is not better than any other. They speak so matter-of-factly about these things. In fact, my 5 year old recently said that he wished he had 2 moms like his friend.

My 7 year old is learning about penguins in school. They have talked about how all penguins are unique just like all people are unique. His contribution to the discussion on what it means to be unique was “So, the one thing that is the same about us all is that we are all different.” Such a great insight! It made me so proud to know that my efforts at teaching my children acceptance are working!

How do you teach your kids acceptance of those who are different from them?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is your New Year's Resolution?

What is your New Year’s resolution? Mine is to try harder not to compare my children and put pressure on one to be as good as one of the others. What prompted this? I note that my son’s first grade teacher sent home when report card came home. Let me share it with you:

"Please do not picture me as being better or worse than all the other children. Remember that all children do not learn to talk or walk at the same time, nor do they learn math and reading at the same rate or in the same way. I ask you not to compare me with my brother, my sister or the kid next door. You can set realistic goals for me, but please be careful not to push me to succeed at something that is beyond my ability. I want you to understand that this report is a picture of my school progress. When you meet with my teacher, you will learn many things about my life at school, even some things that might surprise you. My teacher knows me as I am at school. You know how I am at home. The "real" me is somewhere in between."

I have three children. My daughter (9) is the oldest. She is a mature, bright girl and a good friend. She likes to follow the rules and is the “Ideal Student”. This set up high expectations for me when her brothers came along. Her brother who is 7 is emotionally young for his age and has fewer friends but is just as bright if not brighter. I have had to set different expectations for him in school than his sister. I am not as hard on him with his penmanship because that is difficult but push him harder in other areas. Then there is the 5 year old having to follow in both of their footsteps. He is one of the youngest in his class which is new to me as his siblings both have fall birthdays. I can’t expect him to read as quickly as he is 10 months younger than his brother was at the same point in Kindergarten. When they are older, the 10 months won’t seem like as big a difference but for now it is.

My children are all wonderful! But they are wonderful for different reasons. I want to celebrate their strengths rather than point out the shortfalls compared to others. My parents were able to raise 4 children into successful adults who couldn’t be more different from each other but all love and appreciate each other for who they are. I hope I can accomplish the same with my children.

What are your resulotions? Please share!