Monday, September 19, 2016

Don't Let Her Think This Way.

"Kids are born thinking people are people," my early childhood literacy professor told us, "Kids are taught that people are different." 

I felt my heart melt into the bottom-most pit of my stomach, and immediately scrambled for a pen. Blog post, blog post, blog post, my head chanted as I practically emptied the contents of my bag directly onto the table. There was one pen and one small spiral notebook amid the textbooks, flash drives, a family pack of Skittles I was using for a math lesson later that afternoon.

The quote itself concerned multicultural literacy. Race. Ethnicity. Gender. Culture. Socio-economic class. These are the things children are literally designed to ignore, and if you don't believe me, you don't spend enough time around children.

One day, I had two students in class who were very good friends. One lived in an absolute dump, and the other had everything she could dream of except a pet. Well, the one who lived in a dump had seven cats, and the girl who lived the life of luxury desperately wanted to be like her friend. She did not notice that her house was old, that the utilities were never on, or that the neighborhood wasn't particularly safe. She noticed that she had cats, and therefore, thought the girl was absolute royalty.

That's only one story. There are thousands more just like it. Kids don't notice differences in people. But you know what they do notice?

When their parent calls someone "that black girl" instead of "that funny girl."

When their family prohibits them from spending time at another child's house because the child is less fortunate.

When girls are told they can't run because they're girls, and boys are told they have to run because they're boys.

I'm sure you get the picture. Even if you know absolutely nothing about children, you probably know three things. They require a lot of attention, they don't mind making a mess, and they are extremely observant.

If a child can pick up on these social-cultural cues from those around them, why do we assume they don't pick up beauty distortion cues as well? Just as you don't have to call an African American by a dirty name to qualify as a racist, you also don't have to tell a child they are fat to be part of the self-esteem problem.

Just as children are born ignoring the differences in people, they are born appreciating the differences in beauty. Children don't just grow up hating themselves. We teach them to.

How many diets have your children seen you go on?

How many calories have they seen you cut?

How many meals have they seen you skip?

How many times a day do they watch you weigh yourself, or how many hours do you spend at the gym instead of playing with them? Where do your priorities lie, and do you honestly think they don't notice? Do you honestly think they can't see?

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but if you answered yes to those last two questions... You're wrong.

I have so many people question why I am going to be a teacher if my passions lie with beauty distortion, self love, and blogging. There is no clear-cut answer, but allow me to try. One, my passions also lie with teaching. Two, I want to work on the front end of the self-esteem issues rather than on the back end as a social worker or therapist. And three, it is important that there is at least one person in a child's life who convinces them they are worth it. I had 2 years in an early childhood program. 13 years of public school. 4 years of college. And will have additional graduate coursework after this. All those years of education, and no one taught us to love ourselves.

If we don't actively work towards teaching our children to love themselves, the world will teach them not to.

So that's my thought of the day, and here comes the dose of advice to go with it:

Be careful of the messages you're sending to your children. Your actions speak louder than your words. If there's one thing in the whole world a child wants more than anything, it's to be a grown up. Your world is enchanting to them. I know you can't understand why. Quite frankly, it doesn't really matter. The point is, they are watching. They are learning. And they are following what you do.

Don't set them up for failure because you aren't confident enough in yourself. Both of you deserve to be happy and healthy.

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