Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
On the morning of June 28 I woke up early and reached for my phone to catch up on social media before I started my day. The first eight posts in my Facebook feed celebrated the new gay marriage ruling. I switched over to the CNN app to confirm: The Supreme Court had just released two rulings, the first declaring DOMA unconstitutional and the second overruled Proposition 8 in California, which made gay marriage legal again here where I live.
I shifted in bed to gaze at my still-sleeping two-year old daughter and wondered: Will she grow up in a world, finally, where families made up of two mommies or two daddies is accepted as normal? Will she be largely unaware of the discrimination I experienced in my own life before she was born?
Last month I took her to our local Pride Parade for the first time. I told myself I wasn’t taking her because it was Pride, but because I thought she’d enjoy the spectacle of a parade downtown. But as we sat on the sidelines and I pointed out the women on motorcycles, the amazing acrobatics of the SF Cheer Squad, and the queens dressed in colorful sequins on towering heels with towering hair, I found myself wanting to say more. I wanted to point out how that kid has two daddies and that one has two mommies and those two men are dressed like women and that woman kind of looks like a man or maybe she used to be a man and that’s all OK. But I held my tongue. It is enough, I think, to let her see and absorb whatever she sees. When she’s older, if she has questions, I’ll answer them as fully and accurately as I can. The best I can do is expose her to what is different than she is and let her see that “normal” is a wide range.
She was awed by the spectacle of the parade, but not, I think, because she was seeing a display of queer-ness. She was awed by the colors, the crowd, the noise, the big trucks lumbering under ribbons and flowers and gyrating bodies. She was trying to figure it all out, not because she thought any of it was wrong, but because it was new. She mimicked some dance moves, she pointed out some pretty fairy wings, and she counted the little dogs as they passed. She absorbed the experience, the same as she absorbs any other new experience.
My little girl loves motorcycles, tools, bugs and trees she can climb. She also loves tutus, her baby doll, butterfly wings and the color purple. In our home we may have the traditional arrangement of a mother and a father, but the mother has hair an inch long and the father wears his to his waist. Mama cooks most of the meals, but also wields many of the tools. Dada is soft-spoken and physically affectionate, and matches Bean’s pink and purple outfits with better flair than Mama does.
Before I met my daughter’s father, I was “married” to a woman. I use quotes around the word married because this was before it was legal for two women to be married in this state, or in any state. We had a wedding, with flowers and a cake and little canisters of bubbles on every guest’s seat. I wore a red dress and she wore a charcoal grey pinstriped suit. We each carried flowers. After we exchanged vows the woman who presided said, “In spite of the laws of California, I declare these women wife and wife.”
We registered as domestic partners, which provided a few protections under California law, but it was not equal to being married. We couldn’t file either state or federal taxes jointly, we couldn’t be assured of permission to make medical decisions for each other, or even visit each other in the hospital. After the notable wrongful death suit brought by Sharon Smith after her partner was killed in San Francisco, more protections were rolled into the California Domestic Partnership laws, but they still fell short of equality and were only valid in this state. If we traveled to neighboring Oregon, or to Nevada, or almost any other state, we would not be considered family to each other.
We separated after five years, when talking and tears and counseling were unable to bridge our growing differences. Ironically, since we were not allowed to be married, we still had to go through official divorce proceedings because we owned a home together. For same-sex couples, the legislative system is tangled and often unfair. I have no marriage certificate from that relationship, but I do have a divorce decree.
That chapter of my life is closed, but I have often wondered when or how I will tell my daughter about it. Will I show her my wedding album? Will I leave it for her to find in my things when I am old, or after I am gone? Will I trot it out as evidence for the validity of a different way of life, to teach her acceptance if she ever needs to learn that lesson? Will I attempt to explain the politics of my choice to marry the woman I loved then when I wasn’t allowed to, but haven’t married the man I love now when I am?
I have always believed that gay marriage would be accepted in this country, and I hoped I’d see it in my lifetime. But in a time when states are still rolling back abortion rights, I didn’t expect it quite so soon. And yet. Here I am in the middle of my life, my child still almost a baby, and it is here. She will likely not remember a time when a same-sex couple could not marry. The gratitude I feel in being able to make that statement is immense.
So maybe the things I want to explain to Bean won’t need so much explaination. She will have absorbed my politics by living beside me and seeing what I stand up for and defend. She will have lived in this open-minded community that we call home and will have school friends whose families are combined in all kinds of ways. Maybe, without me saying anything much, it won’t seem so weird when someday we look through that wedding album and she sees a much younger me in a red dress, kissing a woman. The story I can tell her will be about someone I loved before, my hopes and dreams, the grief and healing that put me in a place where I could find and love her father. Instead of being a story about defiance and politics, it will be a story about love. As the story of any marriage should be.
Do you think diversity should be actively taught to children, or is modeling it enough?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
- The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
- Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
- Differences — sustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
- Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
- Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
- Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
- People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
- Call Me Clarice, I Don’t Care – A True Message in Diversity — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
- Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
- Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
- Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
- The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
- Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
- Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
- Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
- Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
- The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out, but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
- My daughter will only know same-sex marriage as normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
- Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
- EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
- Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
- Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
- 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
- Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
- 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
- Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
- Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
- The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless response to her son’s apparent prejudice.