In the aftermath of a heartbreaking election season, to pull myself out of shock and grief, I made promises. I promised I would do more. I would listen better. I would speak louder. I would love stronger.
But I’ll be honest, that also terrified me. Here is what we need to do, they said. Call up your congressman. Study this book. Reach a hand out. Further. No even further. Take in all the oppressed and let them know they belong. All of them. Every single one.
It was enough to paralyze me.
Which in itself is the problem right there.
You see because of my privilege, I can care when it really matters, but quite easily retreat into a world that is safe and stable when it feels like too much. I didn’t want to do that. But I didn’t know where to begin. Because adding something to the to-do list that itself is never finished was the part I couldn’t wrap my head around. Where does “saving the world” fit into my schedule? Can I fit it into nap time, among all the other tasks that "perfect" mothers do?
I’m not ready to give up yet. I’m not ready to stop doing more, stop listening better, stop speaking louder and stop loving stronger, not ever. But in the face of paralysis, I know I need to start small. Much like closet clean outs and marathon training, one small step at a time. I realized there is something I can do every single day. There is something I do already. And it is probably one of the greatest hopes we have for a brighter future.
I can raise my children to save the world.
These little people in my house and the little people they encounter are the ones we can count on to carry our mission. If we can teach them to love and celebrate diversity, to not be afraid but to be kind, to see the world as big enough for all God’s children, then we can, indeed, save the world.
And the conversation begins in play.
So my final gift guide for this season is more than just great suggestions for the little people in your life. It is an opening for dialog with your children. We need conversation, one that actually talks about the differences we might see in our world, instead of hushing it. Children have so much insight. Their curiosity about the world is contagious. They are building maps in their brain for the rest of their lives forming the kind of people we need more of as the next great leaders. Fill your homes with toys and books that spark conversation about the incredible beauty of diversity and kindness. Because it is through these thoughtful discussions at our home where they feel most safe and loved and supported that they can gain the confidence to take this mindfulness beyond.
Raising our children to be better is a promise I am willing to keep.
Here are some of my favorite gifts that celebrate diversity…
Provide dolls for your children of varying skin tones. Racial diversity is a fact in our country and the more we are comfortable around it, the easier it is to talk about. Our skin tone is something to be proud of, to love, and to celebrate. After stealing her babies all too often, Caroline decided she needed to get Elliott a doll of his own. I saw this as a great opportunity to pick out a doll with different skin color than the other 29,000 in our house and Caroline agreed we needed a baby with brown skin like some of the children on her soccer team. This lead to a great conversation about how exciting it is that we can all have different skin and hair, to be proud of that, and then to talk about how all the children, all the little dolls need the same love. My favorites in this category are these soft dolls for the littlest ones, a larger baby as they grow, and this Barbie doll, who I want just because that hair is everything.
I'm sticking these crayons in Caroline's stocking. Her illustrations are still in the stage of coloring people green and pink. But as the details fill in, I would love for her to feel inspired to create a diverse look of her people. I want the conversation to lead to an awareness that skin tone itself is not just black and white but a rainbow of hues.
This summer we took a week to study different countries from around the world (in between pool splashing and popsicle eating, of course.) I found it to be such an enriching lesson on learning about children all around the world in a positive light. I think too often the conversation goes to pity of our brothers and sisters who don't have enough (eat your dinner; there are starving children in Africa.) As we learned about how children go to school and how they eat and how they play, the conversation highlighted the differences while also allowing room to celebrate what we do. You need both. Awareness and appreciation. For a child interested in puzzles, this is a great one to begin that conversation about people of our world, how they might be different and the same. And also that these differences can be seen right here in our own neighborhoods.
Socks? That help us raise culturally aware children? These socks are called Pals and they are designed especially to start conversation. They feature mismatched socks in more ways than one. The pair of characters are two unlikely friends demonstrating how a dog and a cat or a t-Rex and a brontosaurus or a bird and worm can be quite different, but still remain Pals. I want these in big people sizes.
The Peaceful Kingdom company creates games that encourage all the players to work together to all collectively win the game. There are plenty of opportunities in a child's world to encourage healthy competition. I love that these games teach a different lesson for our young learners, that cooperation can be a winning strategy as well. Oh if only more of our leaders could get on board with this. We have an owl game from this company, but this version stood out to me because it teaches empathy, a skill we must develop to respect the diversity of our neighbors. Children draw tokens and decide if they can help someone on the board. What a great conversation starter about empathy and feelings.
And of course, as I have said repeatedly, if you do nothing else, read books. There are countless options out there. I chose just a few that stand out. But if I were to give you one suggestion, it is to judge a book by it's cover. An odd request, especially in light of this post about diversity. Here is why: beyond the great books that encourage the conversation of diversity, sometimes it is as simple as just seeing faces that look different than ours. Our children need to have heroes and heroins that look like them and that look like their neighbors. A book about a black child from the inner city does not need to be a book about overcoming hardships. It could be a story about a Snowy Day, something children everywhere (except in Texas) might be able to relate to. So as you pick out books, look for diverse characters, judge that book by its cover, and begin to normalize the beautiful shades of color in our country for our children.
Be sure to add these to your personal library, or at the very least your library hold cue.
Say Hello - This little girl love Ina neighborhood full of many different people speaking different languages, but they all speak the language of friendship.
The Colors of Us - Skin color is a rainbow of shades, a great pairing with the multicultural crayons.
We're Different, We're the Same - Sesame Street has always done a nice job of showing diversity in their neighborhood.
Whoever You Are - How children all over the world may look different but they all share similar ode experiences.
The Sandwich Swap - This not only teaches a great lesson in respecting cultural differences, it also might remind your children to try new foods!
I Love My Hair - Celebrate what makes us different as well as others.
The Last Stop on Market Street - An award winning book of a boy with many questions about his world and the grandmother who is willing to open up his eyes.
One Family - Families come on many different numbers and ways, but are all together as One.
Praying for Peace on Earth this Christmas, and let it begin with me.