At some point in the journey of parenthood, all of us find ourselves in a minority.
Maybe you find yourself feeding your little one with a bottle in a room filled with breastfeeding covers. Maybe you’re the only working mom in your group of friends. Maybe you celebrate different holidays than most around you. Maybe your spiritual beliefs are not the same.
It can be embarrassing to find yourself in a minority, especially when you didn’t expect it.
I grew up in a large and very diverse city. The norm was being surrounded by people with different backgrounds and beliefs, and therefore it wasn’t assumed that yours were shared.
When we moved to smaller towns and communities, I started to become aware of those things that put me into that unexpected minority. We lived in a very religiously homogenous community when our children were very small. I struggled with finding mom groups and friends because we weren’t a part of the same church. Eventually, I found great friends and started to feel less like I was living on the outside. As my kids get older, I have continued to become acutely aware of when I catch myself struggling with being honest and open.
Often my kids are my role models.
My kids are quick to make people aware of their assumptions. They seemingly don’t have the inner dialog I struggle through, weighing the pros and cons of outing myself as the “other.” At guitar lessons this holiday season, my son quickly asked his teacher if he could learn the dreidel song instead of a Christmas song. He wasn’t embarrassed to speak up the way I would have been. I often just leave it unspoken, but my son was unencumbered by the anxiety and embarrassment that stands in my way, making me worry about inconveniencing friends. I flash to past feelings of being in the minority.
I see in my kids letting others get to know them. They welcome the attention that comes with being different from the person beside them. They may not always feel this way, but I plan to do everything I can to encourage them to own their unique otherness. To inquire and support their friends in their otherness. To ask questions to gain understanding without creating unease. To know that understanding and accepting a friend’s beliefs or differences does not diminish their own.
With that understanding comes tolerance and a new appreciation for those around us. My hope is that their friends will come away with more acceptance and less assumptions.
Isn’t that something we can all aspire to?