Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Live What You Preach

I think I can say that my kids have made me a lot more self-aware. I try to speak more clearly, try to be more self-confident about myself, eat healthier, and so on. But how much of the other things we try to our kids, like tolerance, acceptance, and the importance of diversity are we truly living? How far has prejudice and xenophobia penetrated our society and daily life? (Let's just remember the killer spree of a band of neo-nazis here in Germany being labeled the "Doener Murders".; seriously??)
A couple of weeks ago I was watching a documentary on Tolerance Week. It followed a so-called "wolf-girl", whose face and shoulders are covered in hair, in her daily life, showing her struggles to fit in and be accepted by society, her peers, and even her family. At some point Lily reacted much like a 4-year old would: she giggled and said the girl looked funny. Of course I gave her the speech of how people look different and that everyone is beautiful in their own way. But later on it made me think how much of what I had told my little girl I actually live in daily life myself?
Growing up I knew a boy, who, by false treatment in the hospital when he was born, had developed a condition of excessive hair growth on his entire body. To me, he was always just Tobi. When he first started kindergarten he was doing fine and made friends quickly. A few months later, however, that changed. I remember overhearing our moms talk about the names my friend was called in kindergarten due to his looks. Names, that definitely did not spring from the kids' heads but things they must have overheard their parents say. It took years for him to be accepted again as he was during the first few months, since kids easily learn, not only the positive things but also the cruelties.
I will be honest, I definitely catch myself in situation where I wonder: was this just necessary? Would I want my daughters see me doing or saying that? I am human and far, far from perfect, but I try not to be a bigot. I do not want to teach tolerance to my girls without heeding my own teachings. Thus, I am trying every day to become a better person for my children's sake, to make this world a better one, even if it is only by small deeds. I want both of them to be a better person than I am, and maybe even manage to become a better person myself on the way.

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