So... I feel like I haven't posted a "real" entry in a while. I don't know. I've been working A LOT, and since I try to avoid talking about work.... not much to say. Except that I found out that the homeless couple I spoke of here once before, the one I wanted to do a long project with, are using again. They're back on crack. I'm so sad for them.
Anyway, Shannon was talking on her blog last week about how Gaby married two of her Barbies during imaginary play. She was speaking generally about teaching tolerance and raising her daughter to be conscious of social issues. She's said before that talking about difference in terms of skin color is pretty easy for them because they're a biracial family, but sexual orientation is a tougher topic for a preschooler. So where do you start?
I posted this long comment over there, but I'm thinking you might like it, too.
"I have a very clear memory of an outing with my dad to the local Sportsmen's Club where he occasionally shoots targets and gallon jugs of water with his Civil War era rifles for fun.
I was about 5, wearing big blue headphones to muffle the noise of the gun shots. I was sitting behind him, playing with the stones around the place where the people with guns stand while they're shooting. There were a lot of metal casings on the ground from the various different kinds of bullets people use.
I was entertaining myself by sorting them into little piles and making up words for the different kinds. I was kind of babbling to myself, calling them things like "jigger" and "pigger" and "migger." My dad finished his round and pulled off both of our headphones.
We were going to go look at the cows in the stream by the Amish farm next to the Sportmen's Club before heading back to the car. I told him all about my little piles of metal casings and what I had named them- the jiggers, et al- and I had named one pile "the N-words." I had NO idea what that word meant. I had never heard it before. It was just a logical progression for me alphabetically. He swooped down to my level and told me in NO uncertain terms that I was NEVER to use that word, EVER. I started to cry, actually, so he took me out for ice cream and tried to explain it all in terms of vanilla, chocolate and soft serve swirl ice cream.
We talked about the Civil War, and the guns my dad collects, and why people fought to end slavery. And we ate ice cream.
As I got older, my parents also took my sister and I to a unity rally when the KKK marched through our town. We stopped at Civil Rights landmarks like Ebenezer Baptist Church and MLK's birthplace. We went to Stone Mountain in Georgia so we would know what Dr. King was referring to in the I have a Dream speech. (Also, we rode the cable car.)
As for teaching kids about LGBT issues, you could buy a copy of "Heather Has Two Mommies," a children's book by Leslea Newman, but it's also probably about waiting for the teachable moments. I had a friend in college who came out to his parents right before he left for his freshman year. The first thing they said was, "You know, you can experiment with same-sex relationships and not be gay" (meaning, "We know your best guy friend is your boyfriend.") And he said, "Nope, I'm really gay."
His parents looked at each other and said, "We will always love you, and frankly, we've known since you were four." As it turned out, he had asked his mom when he was 4 if it was okay to love the male teenage star of an 80s family sitcom. In that moment, his mom (not expecting what was coming from her pre-schooler) said, "It's okay to really admire someone and want to be like them when you grow up." And he said, "No, I love Male 80s Sitcom Star like you love Daddy." His mom became extremely flustered. After that, he apparently refused to watch the show or see this actor's movies. His mom felt guilty about it until he came out at age 18, and now- 9 years since his emergence from the closet- it's one of their favorite family stories."
So, in the interest of generating comments, (because LO do I love thee, comments, and YE I checked my blog and the COMMENTS, they runneth over), what do you remember about your parents teaching you about race, class, gender, sexual orientation? Do you remember learning about the "N-word?" The first time you saw a homeless person? Did someone help you understand something in a "teachable moment" that's stuck with you your whole life? Have you ever taught someone something about tolerance and saw them have an AHA! moment when what you said made sense?