My daughter took her two small children into a Subway Fast Food to get some sandwiches.
As they were standing there a middle aged (50 ish) year old woman came in. The children are in a “hi phase” and say ‘hi’ to everyone they encounter. As they did with this lady. She responded kindly and with smiles.
As she walked by the three year old little person said “mommy that lady is a boy”. The lady had very short hair. And before my daughter could even respond, the woman spun around and coldly exclaimed she was a woman. The three year old said to her mother “no she’s a boy”. My daughter explained to the little one that some people wear their hair very short, just like Mamo (me), even girls (me again). And some boys wear their hair very long. The three year old accepted the explanation very sensibly with an “oh”.
The lady of short hair refused to acknowledge the children as she left when they kept telling her ‘good-bye’.
My daughter then calls me, very upset.
My daughter doesn’t care what kind of hair anyone has. My daughter doesn’t care what most people’s choices are, about anything, unless it involves unkindness to anyone. This is the child who would cry when we drove down the street and she would see elderly people and automatically assume they were alone in life because they were alone on the street for some reason or other. This is the child who would come home from school and cry because someone at school was made fun of by someone else.
What she cared about was this woman’s reaction to a three year old’s observation.
A three year old who’s basic norms are: men have short hair because daddy wears his hair very short; women have longer hair because mommy wears her hair longer.
Not surprisingly ALL of my grandchildren have at one time or another told me I look like a man. Why? Because their fathers wear their hair short and their mothers wore their hair longer.
Can we breathe for a second?
Like it or not, the words “norm”, “normal” or “norms” are not dirty words.
A child will associate “norms” of their life and use them as comparisons as they get older. A three year old making an observation, expressing it to her mother, and her mother taking that opportunity to start explaining differences to a child….is a good thing.
Surely the child has seen things she didn’t understand, or observed things that are starting to pique her curiosity. She is just now able to start verbalizing in statements and questions.
If you want children, or adults for that matter, to accept differences, we cannot be afraid to notice them, acknowledge them, and explain them if someone is open to or asking for explanations.
Some people ask because they are curious, they want to know and understand. Personally, I see that as a very good thing.
If somebody’s “norm”, for their entire life of 40, 50, 70 or 90 years has gone unchanged, unchallenged or never deviating, why wouldn’t they be confused, or curious, or even scared when it does change. And why wouldn’t we want to take any opportunity given, to enter into a conversation with someone who notices.
Even with a three year old.
Isn’t one of the best parts of being different-sharing it-and learning about one another?
Maybe we should be a little bit more like the three year old and learn from her. And her mother.