How Do You Teach That?

Three incidents, all rather recent:

#1:  The parent of another girl at Eleanor’s tennis tournament starts asking me about the kids.  She inquired about the regular things.  Did you adopt them?  Where are they from?  What happened to their parents (did not answer)?  And then, she says “It’s such a shame.  There are so many kids here (meaning in the US) that need good homes.  It’s too bad you couldn’t take some of them.”  Lucy was sitting on my lap at the time.  I understand that Lucy is too young to understand that comment, but one day she won’t be.  How do you teach her to be proud of her history when others aren’t?

#2:  Sam had a rather unfortunate discussion with a kid on his bus.  I would love to blog more about it (mainly because I don’t feel like I handled it well and would love to hear what you would have done), but feel like it’s Sam’s story, and so I want to protect his privacy.  Bottom line, the 6th grade has its share of small-minded, ignorant, bigots.  It left me feeling like we haven’t prepared Sam well for dealing with the comments he will have to deal with.  How do you teach an 11-year-old to deal with such complicated issues?

#3:  I just watched an episode of the New Normal.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a new sitcom about two gay men, using a surrogate to have a baby.  Talk about some inappropriate stereotypes…the grandmother on this show is possibly the least politically correct character ever.  The sad thing is, she is based on real people who exist…she just says what some people keep internally.  Anyway, on this episode they faced some discrimination and struggled with how they would teach their unborn child to deal with those same types of comments.  How do you teach that?

Yes, I know there are books.  Yes, I know there are movies.  Yes, I’ve visited the web sites.  Yes, my kids have good role models of all races and sexual orientations.  Yes, my kids’ school has a guidance program where they talk about respecting everyone.  Yes, we watch political races and talk about issues like same-sex marriage, women’s equality, and poverty.  But really, do any of these things prepare a kid when they are faced with stupid remarks?  How do you teach them that?

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10 responses

  1. Hey! I hear ya- it is hard- I have decided to take it one comment at a time, really Duane has gotten more comments than I have- he handles them like a dad!! (ie- if you ask another question your not going to like the answer!) But bottom line, it sucks! I am sorry you have been hammered with these lately. It is hard to know what the right answer is, but I feel like we all get these questions or comments no matter what we do- I have women all the time make me feel guilty for working…well try to make me feel guilty…my new remark back- well I am teaching my daughter that she can choose to work either inside the home or outside the home as a woman in America, not given that choice in many other countries. People are rude, judgemental and have no filter.

    On a good note- I bet you have a plethera (sp?) of friends/family that are awesome, supportive…and so do your kids. Teach them to stand up for themselves AND their friends, teach them life is not easy and it never will be.

  2. For the first encounter, I’d ask the person how many children she has adopted domestically or fostered. For the others, still working on that myself. On an encouraging note, I did kindergarten lunch/recess duty for Emme today and a little blond boy saw Emme hugging me and asked if I was her Mom. I said yes. He said, “Oh, I didn’t know that,” and then turned around and walked away. Maybe that’s evidence for bigotry being a learned quality.

  3. You teach your kids to be proud of their history, of who they are as people, to hold their heads high because they are worthy, valuable and utterly loved. You can’t teach them how to react to others, only give them a solid base from which to start. You can’t teach your kids everything, you can only give them a foundation of esteem and self worth and love from which to view and judge the world, and learn to be judged as well. If they are firm in who they are, then who others are will not matter so much. In that, I think you are doing very well for all of your kids. Love you, friend!

    PS – Favorite Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes:
    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    and
    “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

  4. You take each comment and each day one at a time. Grit your teeth, ask “Why are you concerned about this?” and move on. Ignorance at one of the higher levels recently. My daughter was at a college fair and the UMaine – Farmington rep. greeted her in English and then said “Oh, should I greet you in another language?” (she was born in China and adopted as an infant). She looked at him and answered, “Well, I speak French.” It is good to be a smart-a** sometimes…you would think a college rep. would know better than to make assumptions like that about a potential student, her ethnicity or language of origin.
    Hard discussions are a part of all of our lives as parents – you will do great…hang in there.

  5. I have been struggling with similar issue – how do I teach the boys about racism without them thinking on some level that there is a justification for it? They need to know about slavery, the struggle for Civil Rights, and the Treyvon Martin’s of the world, but I’m scared of them thinking, “all these people think there is something wrong with me, maybe there is.” Luckily we have had no incidents (yet), but I know they will inevitably come.

  6. Tough, tough questions – certainly questions that I have no answer for… yet. One thing is for sure, they will look to you for guidance in how to address the tough questions. This is going to be one area where I know I will struggle, because I am easily rubbed the wrong way at times. I know I need to build a thicker skin and learn how to address the questions that warrant being addressed in a way that will teach my child how to handle the questions as well. I know that will be much easier said than done.

  7. This stuff is so very difficult to navigate. I agree with other comments that you need to handle it one situation at a time, have the conversations, learn from the resources around us. But still….. Our youngest is so very aware of our skin color differences. He says just awful things that make me so very sad for him. We affirm his beauty every single day, but I think being one of the only kiddos with brown skin around here makes it especially difficult. And I’m not sure how you survived that first conversation without some kind of violent act. Do people just not realize how ignorant they sound when they make comments like that?!

  8. OK, situation #1 is my button pusher! People have said that to me right in front of my kids and I have children adopted here and abroad, but that is not really the point or obvious for that matter. Part of it makes me annoyed with them and part of it makes me annoyed with myself! NOT ONCE have I answered that in the right way. NOT ONCE has that comment been said to me by someone who has adopted or fostered anyone. And NOT ONCE have I said something I should, such as: Oh, please tell me more about your domestic adoptions. NO, I say something defensive like: we have adopted from the US before….HONESTLY, do they need to know that? I really need to work on this one. Hopefully I just won’t hear it again.

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