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Same but different

In the classroom, we teach about differences and similarities at a young age. Children being exposed to the differences in the world makes them aware and understanding that they and others can be the same, but different at the same time. This can be a positive experience for them, with the right guidance, and being able to answer their questions in an unbiased way. This can give the children a view of the world that is innocent, yet curious, and accepting.

At the age of 6 months, infants can start to recognize differences in people, by the time they get to preschool they start talking about the similarities and differences that people have, and it is their natural curiosity that makes them ask questions. They may notice that their friends’ skin is darker than theirs or that, their hair is curlier than their teachers. These moments of recognition are teachable moments. I often get parents concerned about the words that the children are using with or for each other when it comes to skin color, language, abilities, etc. It is our job as adults to facilitate and guide these conversations to healthy understandings of the world.

We read a story that is titled "Same Same but different" that talks about two children who write letters to each other and talk about different aspects of their life, home, language, families, etc. They realize how similar yet different they both are, yet they are still friends. In the classroom we know to say "Same same but different!" When anyone notices something that is different such as hair color, skin, language, food, etc.

One example of talking about the differences and similarities of others is our “All about me” themes when we really focus on the individual child’s view of themselves. We use mirrors so that they can see themselves and ask them to draw self-portraits. As they go through the process of the activity, we can focus on similarities, 2 eyes, 2 ears, a mouth. Adults can facilitate conversations as questions may occur about how some people may only have 1 ear, or how they have 2 eyes, but they may be blind. These conversations are child lead, and you are supporting their curiosities and remember always if you do not have an answer, it is okay to say so, and tell them “that’s a good question, let's look that up together.”

Another example is the theme of “changing the world” or “peace”. Having the children understand the differences and similarities in the world, and focusing on getting them to be open-minded, and accepting of all. The world however is not perfect, nor fair to everyone in it, and hearing about things that are happening in our world that are unpeaceful, sad, and hurtful can be a challenge for both the adult and the child. Keeping it as positive as you can and having conversations with your children about the world, is the best you can do. Sometimes people are treated unfairly, and it is not a kind thing to do or see. There are many people in the world upset about this right now, and they want to see the world change, where everyone is treated equally and fairly. Being honest, and truthful, about what is happening, and how it makes you feel helps them understand that we are together in this.

It is hard to be a parent at this time when all this is happening in the world. As I am transitioning into motherhood, this last month of pregnancy, I’ll be honest is scary. I struggle with myself about bringing this innocent little girl into a world that is so divided at the moment. The only way I can feel courage during this time is to remind myself that my job as a mother is to make her world the best I can make it, I can raise her to be an independent, accepting, honest, and kind person. I can pray that she follows the rules, and reaches for the stars, I can be there to guide her and pick her up when she falls, and then remind her that one day, she will have to learn to pick herself up on her own. I will hope that I did a well enough job for her to venture into society independently and make fair, kind, and thoughtful choices.

I have always wanted to be a mom, and as a teacher at heart, I have so many books and lessons that I can teach her about the world, about acceptance and kindness. I, however, hope that these two heart filled passions of mine come together in the best of light for my daughter and my family.

My husband is Korean, African American, and Cherokee. I am British and Russian, or normally seen as “white” or Caucasian. First, I am more than just the color of my skin. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, and I have a stereotype myself. I work hard for what I have, and honestly, I am nothing special. I spend my time caring for people, my heart hurts for others, and on a normal night you can find me crying over other people's struggles, losses, etc. I am “me”, and I am who I am because what I have been through it is nothing compared to the stereotype that I am perceived at times to be. I want my character to be judged, not my stereotype, and even though this is a same but different view of what is happening in the world. I will never understand, but I will stand by all who have ever been judged on stereotype and not who they are as a person.

Our daughter is going to be a mixed baby, of many backgrounds, ethnicities, life struggles, and family trees. She will know it all, the successes that my husband’s side of the family has had, the struggles, and the same with my side of the family. She will be raised to love herself, and others, no matter what they look like, what they can or can not do, or who they are. There is beauty inside everyone if you look hard enough. We will teach her to be cautious and careful and to follow her heart all at the same time. There will be struggles, she won't be perfect, but she will be perfect for us.

The world is filled with "Same Same but different" moments. The children of the world are the future of it. It is our job to protect them, guide them, and listen to them. I hope that you as adults will take the time to pause and think about how we can change the perception of each other. How we can work together, no matter what religion, color of our skin, political view, or favorite sports team we may have. We all have hearts, lets start there. Care for each other, help each other, and raise each other up to support our divided world. As I tell my preschoolers “Peace begins with you.”

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