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November 21, 2008

Diversity Training Starts With Mom

2_2 Last week I encountered my first "teachable moment" in regards to diversity with my children.  We were at Chick-Fil-A when a rather (ok, extremely) large man walked in, prompting my oldest son (age 4) to scream across the restaurant to his brother (age 3), "Look, Drew!  A VERY FAT MAN!"  Yes, I did want to melt into a puddle and die right there.

Not sure what to do (do I apologize to the man on my son's behalf?  make my kid apologize for something he doesn't even know he did wrong?  drag my son into the bathroom and discipline him?  discipline him in front of the man? pretend I hadn't heard?), I collared my son and hissed at him to PLEASE BE QUIET, while I packed up all of our stuff and slunk out of the restaurant, avoiding the man's gaze.

After lunch I had planned to go next door to the grocery and pick up something for dinner.  The walk was just the opportunity I needed to seize the teachable moment.  Once we got into the parking lot, I (gently and lovingly) tore into my son about how rude it was to comment about people's appearances and how we should never, ever say things like that about other people.  Once I calmed down a little and got my bearings, I tried to bring it down to his level and talk about how not everyone looks the same, but that's okay and we should appreciate other people's differences and not point them out, blah, blah, blah, blah. Although I've never understood this myself because to me, pointing out our differences is inherent in appreciating and celebrating them.  When I was done with my tirade, he looked at me and asked very pointedly, "Why are we walking to the grocery store instead of driving?" 

Afterward, I felt like I had failed to rise to the challenge as a parent.  My background is in social work and ironically, I have had extensive training in diversity and "PC" is my middle name.  But when it came time to talk to my kid about differences in others, I was totally tongue tied and at a loss as to how to behave myself.  My husband was no help at all, as his response was to comment that, "I'm sure the man knows he's fat - it's not news to him."  Um, yeah.  Not the point, Captain Sensitivity.

I've replayed the scene in my head several times this week and I'm still not sure how I should've handled it in front of the man.  But I have had another (more brief and to the point) discussion with my son. But since there are many kinds of diversity, I'm sure this won't be the last time I have this discussion with him and since he has two younger brothers, I KNOW this won't be the last time I have the discussion. Tips for next time, anyone?

An original Deep South Moms blog post. Cara writes about parenting her three boys on Baby Bunching, The Fox Factor and at Atlanta Parent Online.


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