The Time is Now
Recently Bella was invited to a birthday party for a friend from her crèche. At her age, she is not involved in extra murals or sleepovers, so we do not get many chances to meet the other parents in her class. This always results in slightly awkward birthday parties. Picture arriving at a party venue, where three parties are occurring simultaneously, hundreds of adults and children running around everywhere and you have never met the parents so you have no idea which party you need to be at. Totes awkies.
And so began one such Saturday two weeks ago. Baby-Daddy and I walked in to the party venue and told Bella to go and find her friend Nora, hoping she would locate which party we had to aim for. A woman approached us and introduced herself as the birthday girl’s Mom and said she recognised Bella from crèche. Yay! Party established and met the Mama. Sorted! A few minutes later, another woman approached us and introduced herself to us as the birthday girl’s Mom. Putting two and two together, we got the picture pretty quickly. We made our way to the parent’s snack table for the awkward ‘hi, which child is yours?’ conversations. I didn’t even think about it again until the party ended and we got into the car and headed back home.
Bella was eagerly opening up her party pack, and between pulling out sweets and toys, she announced to us that “Nora doesn’t have a Daddy. Nora has two Mommies”. Baby-Daddy and I glanced at each other, not sure where this was going, replied with “yes baby girl, and what do you have?”, waiting for the awkward reply or questions about why our families were different. Pulling a Liquifruit from her party goodies, Bella just looked up and said “I have a juice”.
And that was it. She did not have a question, she did not require an explanation and she was not saying it because she didn’t understand. For her, Nora having two Mamas was as mundane as her having a fruit juice. And my heart just burst with pride! Pride for my daughter’s innocence, pride for her kind nature and pride for her acceptance of something different.
As a parent, there are many moments when you sit back and just stare at your child in awe. And very often, it is in those moments that your child is teaching you something, teaching the world something. Their innocence and untainted way of seeing things around them is so unimaginably perfect. The way my little girl equated same-sex marriage with nothing but a juice made me sit back and revel in her innocence and purity.
Since becoming a Mama, I have often thought about how to handle questions about a whole host of topics, from puberty and friendships to adoption, inter-racial relationships and same-sex marriages. How do we raise our children to be accepting of others in a world that is filled with conflict? How do we preserve their open hearts and minds when they are surrounded by judgement?
A week before this incident Bella had told us that she was fat. I kid you not, my two year old who is probably the smallest child in her class came home saying another child told her she was FAT! You know these conversations will happen, but you expect them to happen later in Primary School, not in crèche! But once again, the word ‘fat’ had no real meaning to Bella. She wasn’t upset by it; she was just saying it matter-of-fact to us, as if she was saying her favourite colour was pink.
I was devastated that this had been said to her. Not because Bella had been affected by it, but because as a parent we try so hard to say the right thing and to do the right thing, and it could all be brought down in a second, from a peer at school whose Mama hasn’t taught her daughter the same values that you have taught yours. But in that moment, when my little girl announced “I have a juice” in reaction to same-sex marriage, it reminded me that no matter what happens out there in the world around them, we as parents have to at least try.
I had never referred to another person using the word ‘fat’ in front of Bella, in the same way as I had never discussed our gay friends, thinking that a toddler was too young to grasp such concepts. But I see now that this is the best time to have these conversations. Their minds are like sponges and their hearts are completely open and loving. It is the perfect time to teach our little ones about kindness and acceptance and differences in others. The time is now, Mamas!
So I sat down with my baby girl and we had a chat about the world. We spoke about the fact that there are children with a Mommy and a Daddy, and children with two Mommies and children with two Daddies. There are children with no Mommies and Daddies at all and there are children who are a different colour to their Mommies and Daddies. Some children live with Mommy and Daddy and some children only live with Mommy. There are small people and big people, brown people and white people. People are like flowers – they come in all different shapes and sizes and colours, but they all live in the garden together, they all drink the same water, they all face up to the same sun.
Bella listened to it all, and I am not sure how much of it soaked in. But one thing I do know is that my little girl is an example to me and maybe to us all. An example of how a child approaches differences with interest and acceptance, how a child respects other people’s life choices, how a child has an open mind and a loving heart, all of which can be moulded whichever way we as parents act towards and around them. It is up to us to do our very best to preserve these qualities, to teach them to be kind, to teach them to acknowledge differences so as to learn but not to judge, to teach them to see the good in everybody and to expect nothing less from anyone else in return. The time is now!