What's So Bad About Being Different?
When bullying gets so out of hand that the White House has to organize a conference specifically addressing bullying prevention...you start to realize that this problem might be a lot bigger than we think. Everyone is concerned about bullying, even the President, and parents are really stressing out, worried that their child could be bullied...or a bully.
With all of this pressure, it's easy to understand why parents are working overtime to make sure their child doesn't grow up thinking they're better than anyone else. Well intentioned moms are telling their daughters that, "We are all the same" and encouraging them not to see differences. Is the problem that we are different, though, or is it more about knowing how to accept the different? What's so bad about being different anyway?
I live in a city where there are many opportunities to experience diversity. Whenever my daughter and I go out, I point out people that have a unique characteristic like long hair, or who might be carrying something that is unlike anything anyone else has, like an instrument. I use affirming language such as, "Oh, look! Her blue hair is so bright and pretty! It reminds Mommy of the ocean." (Yes, I have actually said that before!) The response that I get whenever people overhear me, or I when I personally address them, is that they are flattered and appreciate being noticed.
Now that my little girl is getting older, she can identify differences for herself. She gets excited when she notices someone who is not the same as her, and wants to get their attention to say hello. She will often comment on the thing that makes them different, and whether it's someone with a big tattoo ("Arm! Your arm!"), or a person in a wheelchair ("Roll!"), they always smile and speak back. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that she's super cute, but I often get the sense that people like to be acknowledged.Continued on the next page