Thursday, November 14, 2013

Former Wallflower/ Smiths Fan Gives Birth to Future Homecoming Queen! HELP!

So I seem to have reached a stage of parenting that I've been dreading. My daughter, just turned three, has suddenly noticed that not everyone is the same and she is very interested in people's differences and often very vocal about them, which becomes very awkward for me.

I'd hoped, rather naively I guess, that since my child has grown up in a very diverse area, in a very diverse family, around a very diverse group of friends that maybe she would be blind to differences. But nope, and maybe it's a natural part of her development to want to categorize everything, but it causes me some anxiety.

She points out people in wheelchairs. She asks me about skin color. The other say she said something about "black people" which I have been ruthless about not ever saying around her because I want her to just see everyone as "people" and not black or white or anything else. She asks me about her friends who have two daddies. She wants to know why a little boy in her class wears Cinderella shoes. And oh my God, I'm so scared I won't have the right answers.

I was horrified when she said something about her "brown friends" recently. I have friends who are African-American and Indian and she plays with all their kids, so they are whom she was referring to, but I don't want her pointing out stuff like that! I handled it by trying to be nonchalant about it and telling her that yeah, everybody just looks different and that she is brown too because she has brown hair and eyes. I told her that people come in all kinds of different ways and that we all look different and no big deal. I hoped this would satisfy her but she still keeps pointing it out.

So far I've handled everything this way. Yeah, everybody's different. Some people have two daddies, some two mommies, whatever. Some people can walk and some can't so they go in wheelchairs. No biggie.

I hope it's no big deal.

For the past couple weeks, she's developed a fascination with an adorable little boy in her class, E. E is, I guess what they're now calling non-gender conforming, because he paints his nails pink and likes to play dolls and princesses with the girls. My daughter calls him a "Princess Boy" and I'm not sure how she means that. I don't think that E is transgendered necessarily. I think he will probably just grow up to decorate houses, style hair or work in theater, but whatever the case, I don't want my daughter to bully E or to make him feel weird or like an outcast. So far, she says she likes playing with him but she has a lot of questions and a few times she has expressed frustration because she says boys shouldn't wear dresses or like pink or play princess. I always tell her that anyone can play or wear whatever they like and there are no rules about that, but she is a bit stubborn about this and I'm concerned. I want E to feel normal and I want E to BE normal in my daughter's eyes.

I'm scared that Little Lawns is going to be a bully and I want to nip it in the bud right now and I want to make sure that she grows up to be compassionate and a defender of underdogs and kids who are bullied.

Little Lawns was born lucky. She's typical in every way, she's pretty, smart, privileged and extremely strong-willed and opinionated. Her confidence amazes me and she's clearly very much a leader.

In short, she's not much like me. As a kid, I was shy, scared and I got picked on badly. I wasn't a leader and I just wanted to fit in. I couldn't relate to girls like my daughter. What irony, I know.

But now I've given birth to a future cheerleader and because our personalities are so different, I'm not sure that I know how to parent her in the best way that she needs to be parented in order to make the most of her personality. How can I channel her bossiness, her bravado and sauciness and her amazing confidence into a force for good? How can I prevent her from going down the wrong path and turning into a mean girl?

I need some advice on this. Help me, readers!


Kerry said...

Noticing differences and trying for form them into what makes sense, into what the child sees as "normal" or "usual" is a normal part of childhood. I think your nonchalance about different is absolutely good, and it's true- we are all just people, all colors, all styles, everybody. She just has to learn to accept differences that don't conform to what she expects, and it might take a while. I hope the Princess Boy keeps to what he wants in life and doesn't conform. Keep the dresses and pink nails!

This is the stage in life that kids are trying to figure out what is normal. What should they be like? And they do want very clear categories about things that boys do and things that girls do. They want to be able to tell if a person is a boy or a girl.

I think you're doing it right. Hang in there. She'll get it.

Amanda said...

I think that promoting that everyone is different(& it's okay/a good thing) is the best you can do.

My Mom was a bit more modern hippie & I grew up in an area that was 99% white, middle class, Christian type Midwestern America.

By the time I was 7, she had taken me to a variety of ethnic restaurants, festivals, etc. & always promoted that everyone was equal - no matter what color they were, who they were dating/married to, or what language they spoke. My birthday dinner for many years was Japanese or Ethiopian. She started dating a Jewish guy when I was around 8 & moved 20 minutes east, to live next to one of the largest concentrations of middle eastern people in the Midwest. I grew up with a mishmash of religious & cultural influences that still influence me today. I thought it was normal - but it wasn't & my husband, who grew up a few miles from me had a completely white bread/non diverse upbringing (thankfully that has changed through the years). I have friends in every color spectrum, nationality, sexual preference, & religion.

All you can do is encourage her to accept everyone. She is also being influenced by what she hears from others (at school, on the TV), so the best thing is try to head off any negative things with a more open minded view. Ask her "Why do you think that?", so you know how to address the issues.

Good luck! It is hard work raising an open minded kid in today's society.

Emily said...

Noticing differences and building categories and rules is very normal and healthy at that age. Let her explore the topic at home explain whys, relatives tend to have similar hair/ skin, glasses help people see, wheelchairs help people move around etc. you can also tell her that people might worry about looking different and she should be careful about hurting their feelings when she talks to them. For the boy doing girl things bit just keep pointing out things people like that don't fit the " rules" blue is a boy color but you like it, pants used to be just for boys now girls wear them, everyone should be able to wear what they like.

Gina said...

First of all: Relax. Her asking questions and pointing out differences is a normal part of her development. It's impossible to live in a color-blind or homogenous world - differences are what make us special and it's silly to pretend they don't exist. And since you are the one raising her, I have no doubt she will never treat people differently because of their differences.

The best way to respond to her questions is to do like you have - be straight-forward about them. It's normal for her to be inquisitive. I remember both of my kids saying an asking things that made me cringe and have the same worries, and now I see the kind and accepting people that they have become and know they were normal.

As for the gender non-conforming boy - do you read Raising My Rainbow? She has a son who prefers girl things and her insight might help you figure out how to deal with it.

maggie said...

This just happened to me! We don't live in a terribly diverse area, but I was happy that my three year old daughter's day care is pretty diverse, and I try to expose her as much as possible to differences, but I've never really talked about it. Then the other day she mentioned the name of a girl in her dance class and I asked if she was a friend and my daughter said "no, she's black, I don't like her hair" and I just died. I don't know how she learned to describe someone as black either.

Since then we've had a lot of discusssions about differences and gotten some books. We got a book "me and my amazing body" I think, that mentions skin color being different while everything underneath is the same, and we've also been reading "whoever you are" by Mem Fox

I remembered watching a video about this and how not talking about race actually backfires. I just found it again here:

Accordig to them, this is the age that kids start noticing differences and trying to categorize things. I had been thinking it was too early to talk to her about these things, but obviously not.

Anonymous said...

This reminded me of my daughter. When she was about 3, she started asking about Japanese people. She went through every family member one at a time asking if they were Japanese or not. She finally figured out that everyone on dad's side was Japanese and everyone on mom's side was white. She grew up to be smart, a cheer leader, later a paralegal, very independent, no children, not married... just a well rounded, open minded person. Hang in there. Relax. You're doing everything right.

mcgrimus said...

Mean girls are mean because they lack confidence and want to feel better about themselves by putting down others. From what you've said, I don't think your daughter has that problem. Kids often say cringe-worthy things. They eventually learn.

Michee said...

You're a mom who pays attention and responds to your child. I say keep doing what you're doing. Childhood is one phase after another; something else will come along and replace this soon enough. The thing is, no one ever knows if they're doing it ALL right (and really, no one ever does that) as a parent until their child(ren)is/are grown. At the end of the day all you can do is your best and keep loving her.

beatgrl said...

Don't worry, you can't teach her how to think and act, you can only lead by example. She will get it.

Kate Z said...

I think that it's great that you want to make sure you're sending a message of acceptance and difference-loving to your daughter. I do think that there's some merit to the arguments that race-blindness isn't necessarily the right way to go. As uncomfortable as it's been, I haven't stifled my kids' questions about race or said "that's not important" because I think it gives the wrong message. There IS a difference, and it should be celebrated! "That person's skin is a different color than yours because he is a different race. There are all different races, and some have different cultures! Isn't it exciting to learn about all the cool things in the world?" Messages like that...

As for the little boy in your daughter's class, I would just keep selling the same story you're giving her now, personally. As she gets older, you can start talking about "gender constructs" and how the ideas about what boys like and what girls like are fake things that we made up as a society. But for now, you just have to try to be the strongest voice in her world. The entire society is telling her that he shouldn't like the things that he does, so you've got to struggle against that, and tell her in an age appropriate way that the whole society is full of crap.

Heather said...

1/ It's normal to try and sort things at this age. Help her understand that it doesn't change what people are like on the inside.

2/ Go buy two dozen eggs.

Anonymous said...

You're doing a good job - I got the impression the reason she kept pointing out skin color was because she wanted your confirmation that yes, everyone's different. There's nothing wrong with noticing variety in the human race from skin colour to eye colour to height to straight hair to curly hair. To shy away fro that would send the subliminal mesage that this is wrong. So, make sure to acknowledge and validate what she's pointing out and then teach her what is proper language to use. As for EE, because she's only 3, things are still very black and white in her world, girls do this and boys do that. it's confusing that EE doesn't fit into this black and white view. It's normal, she's only 3. She has a limited scope of worldview, but good news, it will continue to expand as she gets older.
If it makes you feel any better, when my son is three (we're white), he went up to a black man at a tea party and asked him why he was so dirty. i was so mortified. We lived way out in the country at the time and my son had never seen a black man before. Then if that wasn't bad enough already, my son proceeded to try to rub the "dirt" off, like licking his fingers then rubbing the poor man's arm. Oh my god. Of course I apologized profusely but that guy was not happy.
Anyway, back to my point - shes only 3. Validate it when she points out something out. She's right that it's not common for boys to do "girl" things because that's her reality. Let her know that yeah, it's different but nothing wrong with that. When she gets older, then you can give more elaborate explanations.

Anonymous said...

There are actually some very beautiful books that celebrate differences. You can also talk about how different you are from other people and point out her differences from other people too, and that not one is better than the other. Good Luck!

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