A few months back my daughter and I walked into a coffee shop and there was a handicapped person in front of us. SJ immediately pointed directly at the handicap and looked up at me. I was embarrassed. I tried to redirect her gaze and told her to stop. My immediate instinct was to ignore the obvious handicap. Inside I was burning with embarrassment by drawing attention to the handicap.
The whole interchange didn’t sit well with me. When we walked out I sat SJ down and told her that I didn’t know how to react. I tried to translate in toddler speak what handicap means and how some people live with one. I regret my initial reaction because I always try to stress there’s no shame in who we are regardless of color, age, disability, illness, shape, or size.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Kids are curious. They see something out of the ordinary, point it out and comment even if we consider it offensive or crude on the surface. They’re forgiven for this behavior because they are kids and still learning about this big world we live in.
Yet at some point, as “grown-ups”, society hints to not make a fuss and pretend that the “bad, ugly or oppressed” are OK living on the fringes. It’s easier to ignore the things we aren’t familiar with. This behavior teaches our kids to tip-toe around real life truths.
Ways of Old
My mom always encouraged me to just smile, nod, and agree with everyone. That’s what she was taught gender-wise and culturally. Historically, Asian women have been quiet, obedient, non-obtrusive figures who blend into the background but appear whenever needed. Sometimes I could sense the conflicting nature of two cultures pulling at my mom’s psyche – acting the “proper” way vs doing what feels right.
My mom tried to pass on her childhood traits to me, but I think deep down she knew it was a lost cause. Passivity and acceptance weren’t going to win over my opinionated persistent spirit, especially being raised in the States.
Keepin’ it Real
These days SJ keeps us honest. We certainly can’t get away with any bad behavior. I can’t even say “shoot” without her telling me it’s a bad word or Daddy can’t indulge in any road rage without her telling him to “calm down! Don’t get so frus-tated.”
She absorbs E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G but it’s her inquisitive nature that I encourage. I try to stay open to talk about all her observations and unfair realities of this world without undermining the truth. She may be a kid, but she’s not too young to learn empathy. She understands the concept of someone who may need help or who may feel hurt. Being curious and asking questions lead to conversations that help us understand differences among each other.
I challenge you to foster your own curiosity. Are there things you still wonder about? Look it up! Read, ask questions, listen. This world’s a big bad place. It’s never too late to begin a new dialogue and discover something new. Take it from the kids. Point out what’s different and don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Check out my previous post on kids and cultural curiosities. Let me know of things you find curious.