The other day I was thinking about all of my 4 year old daughter’s friends and I came to startling realization- she has no friends of different backgrounds, particularly white. As I thought in my mind, I’m not even sure if she’s played with anyone of another race. As I thought about this I instantly became distressed. Not because she needs to have a token ‘multicultural’ friend but because I realized that maybe I haven’t exposed my daughter to all the various ethnicities and races there are in the world. That made me sad.
By the time I was 4 (going on 5) I not only had friends of different colors but the elementary school that I attended was predominantly Caucasian. I knew about cultural experiences of my own, but I also was curious about cultural events like quinceaneras and Bar Mitzahs. By the time I went to middle school almost all of my friends were of another color. As I grew older I began to have more friends that looked like me, but I can’t tell you the lessons I learned by being around various cultures. I knew what Bar Mitzahs were. I understood what it meant to be Hindu and your parents dressed in strange (to an elementary student) clothes. I witnessed friends of mine that had difficulty speaking English and struggled with the language that I spoke so easily. All of these experiences made me into an adult who appreciates all cultures.
But my children have grown up in different circumstances. My oldest son has interacted with kids of all ethnicities due to summer programs and trips we’ve taken but my youngest children not so much. So I’m making it a point to expose them to all types of different things. We go to different restaurant, festivals and cultural events that will show them that not everyone looks like them. Both of my smaller kids now love sushi and Indian food and I’m hoping to get them to enjoy a little Korean barbecue. It’s my job as mom to make sure my kids are ready for the world. I’m not going to make my daughter befriend some random child due to their color but I will give her the opportunity to interact with children who are (and are not) like her.
My husband and I have even discussed possibly moving so that we can be in an even more diverse neighborhood — all in an effort to further expose our kids.
I know there will be people who will ask me why I’m so ‘gun ho’ on diversity, but I really thinks it makes kids more versatile when they have to get in the ‘real world’ and realize things are not always ‘black and white’!
Do you make sure your kids are exposed to kids of all ethnicities and races?