While me and my family, we live in a big city, in our every day actions we still live mostly in our small circle of family and friends. And they are all a lot like us, white Caucasians celebrating Christmas and Halloween, wearing similar clothing and with pretty similar cultural and educational background.
But the world is much bigger then that. And I wish for my kids not to fear the difference, not to despise other ways of living and never believe people who say, that anyone who’s different then us, is our enemy.
I hope they’ll love exploring the world with an open mind and a big heart.
But then again, as I said, our little circle is quite homogenic. And we all feel best when surrounded by people who think alike and act alike ( even while eating some east Indian take out). So teaching my kids about different ways of living and thinking is not that easy.
Luckily, there’s one thing that I’m happy worked out for my family and that helps me here: my kids part-time daycare.
My girls go here three times a week. And their friends are all different, with different cultural and religious backgrounds. Some speak French at home, some English, some Spanish and some Arabic. And the lovely ladies who take care of my daughters, are Muslim with their hair covered. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
By spending their days with them, they live the diversity and tolerance.
And they don’t even see the difference between our neighbor who wears high heels and very short dresses, and their day care educator dressed in a long sleeve and covering their hair. And I believe there’s none. These two women have chosen to dress according to the expectations of their circle of important people and values they where thought as kids. And according to what they believe they should do, in order to fit in to their culture’s norms. One believes she should be modest, and one believes she should be sexy. Both want to fit in the expectations of their family and friends. And I can look beyond that, and be friends with both, and that’s what I hope to be teaching my kids to do.
I explain them, that even me I do things I don’t really like, only because in my culture as a women I’m expect to be doing these things: I shave my legs. I wear a bra. Sometimes even high heels, if I want to look elegant and well dressed. This is our cultural code. Of course, in our society I have a certain freedom and choice. ( That I hope my daughters will feel they have too, and who knows, maybe they won’t do thing as I do). But there’s cultural pressure. My neighbor, she goes a notch higher : she does her hair every day, has fake eye lashes and had two plastic surgeries. And my daughter’s daycare educator covers her hair and never wears shorts. I don’t think we’re that different. In the end we are all women who want to be accepted. Who like to laugh. Who like kids and chatting about our favorite TV series. So I always try to show to my girls how similar people are in many ways. Even if they seem different.
And I hope my kids will learn to be tolerant and to see beyond these first-impression-differences. And that they’ll understand that we are all so similar.
So what I tell my daughters, is that we are all expected to look and behave in a certain way, and that depending from family, city or country, these expectations will be different. That as kids we learn to like certain flavors, places and even music, and that how we act is a result of where and how we grew. But we should always look beyond that, and see the real person.
And so here’s how I try to teach my kids tolerance:
- We read books about children from different cultural backgrounds. Book that talk about being different then others, and abut embracing differences. Books that encourage finding your way and accepting others.
- I try to get my kids in situations where not everyone is the same and different cultures mix together ( Like our multicultural daycare. But it could be a camp, a day camp, a library activity or a festival. )
- We try to travel to place where people live in a different way then we do. ( though not as often as I’d like, I’ll admit )
- I explain them how in the end we are all the same: we want to be accepted, we want to have a loving family and nice neighbors!
- I teach them about their own couture and traditions without undermining others.
I really believe that tolerant kids are happier, and that in the future these kids will be able help their communities better. And that in the end, we are all very alike.