Advent in Spite of Christmas (Christmas with Littles Edition)

Christmas is meant to be magical, right? Starry nights, mistletoe, crackling fireplaces and soft snow falling outside while we are snuggled up under blankets with tea inside, watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the 80th time. And it still is—magical, that is– except that for this “brief” (10 year) blip in time, we have a child in our home under five years old. As a mom, perhaps this is what Christmas looks like for you:

1. Pull out the decorations. Unload and figure out where to them put so the kids can’t pull them down and smash every one. Wish you had cleaned the house before decorating on top of the clutter.

2. Set up the nativity set, Advent wreath, Advent calendar, and Advent book and wonder if you are over-doing it in an attempt to be a Good Christian Mother.

3. Give the kids the Little People nativity set to keep them busy while you put brightly colored lights on the tree (you like white lights, but your five year old won the battle this year). You glance over and see that Mary is in the back of a dump truck with the angels in hot pursuit.

4. Day 3 of decorating: allow the kids to “help” you put ornaments on the tree. Eighty percent of the ornaments end up on the bottom fourth of the tree, though you know that by December 23rd, there will be NO ornaments there.

5. Curse whoever thought it was a good idea to decorate trees with toys that kids aren’t supposed to touch.

6. Advent day 1. Begin the Advent ritual: light a candle, read page one of the Advent Book, move the first figure out of a felt envelope and Velcro precariously onto the manger scene at the top (swatting at hands that try to grab all the other figures tucked into other day’s pockets). Tell kids to stop picking their noses, hitting each other and grab the one year old who is throwing ornaments down the stairs because he likes the sound.

7. Figure out how to answer a tiny person who has no concept of time when they ask you, “When is Christmas?”

8. Do all shopping online from the comfort of your own home while drinking a glass of Merlot in the evenings. You forget about the steep shipping and handling fees, but decide it is still worth it not to schlep three children to stores to shop. Your brothers will get one less candle because of this.

9. Advent day 2 : You try and untangle the theology that mashes up Santa, Bethlehem, the North Pole and frosty the snowman, yet this doesn’t stop you from showing your kids the Christmas cartoons you loved as a kid.

10. You decide not to send Christmas cards this year and feel like a Bad Person. You wonder if you should ask people for their address when they ask you for yours, making them believe they’ll get a card in return.

You reflect on how nutty Christmas with small children is. And yet you remember loving being around kids at Christmas time when you were single. The excitement, energy and wonder is beyond what most adults are capable of exuding. And kids take this ridiculous Christmas story of a young woman getting pregnant with God and they BELIEVE it. They dig into the darker parts of the story we hadn’t thought of excavating. And they draw magic out of the dust, the grit and the grime.

So, yes, this is exhausting, but seeing this season through the prism of small people gives you a unique perspective on a familiar story. It forces you to audibly speak what you believe and why you believe it.

Children escort us through the story of Christmas straight back to Jesus.

 Because after another year of appointments and disappointments, moves, job changes, politics, personal and world tragedies, decisions, new friends, old friends and ordinary life, we are ready for a reset.

Advent whets the appetites of our souls for the Jesus who was born in squalor and later turned water to wine, then thundered from the grave. Advent is the pixie dust we sprinkle on our normal lives to remind us that God was there all along.

Life is not as it seems: a teenage girl isn’t a teenage girl, a star isn’t a star and a baby isn’t a baby. Something within us aches for more and Advent reminds us our ache is not for nothing. There is more–and Advent uses the most childlike among us to bring us back to the sacred ordinary of God-as- squealing-baby lying in a stable.

When Your Kid is the Bully

I watched with horror from a distance as my 5 year old son stalked two children much younger than he was and poured water on them—and their mother. For thirty seconds, I actually pretended he wasn’t my son. The museum was crowded and I had my other child with me. Maybe the mom would never know that little boy was my son. But when he started throwing wet straw on them, I knew I needed to intervene.

Another day, I looked across the park to find my son throwing mulch at two boys probably three years older than him. The boys had sticks taller than they were, and the boys were creeping closer to my son.

“WHAT was that all about?” I demanded, marching him away from the park.

“I told them I wanted to fight,” he said.

Shaking my head, I inwardly vowed to never go to the park again.

A few months ago, my two year old daughter pushed another girl off of the play structure that was higher than I am tall. I happened to not be on my phone, cooing at my baby or gabbing away with another mom and I caught the girl by her dress—just one foot off the ground.

What’s worse than having your child get bullied at the playground? When your child IS the bully.

The best advice I have received as a parent happened one day as my kid was losing it at the grocery store. I don’t remember which child, though it could have been any one of the three. A woman pulled her cart up to mine, looked me in the eye and said this,

“Just remember, it’s their age, not their personality.”

Thank God, because at this rate my children will be horrible, selfish, out-of-control human beings. OR they are acting exactly their age.

Growing up, we must have watched the movie Overboard a hundred times. In it, Goldie Hawn’s children are especially terrible. But when the teacher at school begins to complain about them, her character, Annie, jumps to their defense. “They may be rotten, but they’re MINE,” she says.

A bad week of feeling like a failure as a mother demands that I spin this story towards the spiritual. Because for my sanity, I sometimes just need to dig around in the mud for meaning in mundane life. Here’s what I got:

As unruly, loud, obnoxious, disobedient, frustrating and obstinate as my children can (often) be, God has just as much a right to label me as “rotten” to my core. And yet just as I cannot really walk away from my children (though I’m tempted to pretend they aren’t mine), God doesn’t disown us just because of bad behavior. Again, thank God.

God loves bullies just as much as he loves the bullied. The Bible says it is his kindness that leads us to repentance. To all who condemn God’s children, he responds, “They may be rotten, but they’re MINE!”

Perhaps my children acting out is forcing me to wrestle my own perfectionism to the ground. Because sometimes I care more about other people thinking I’m a good mother than I do about actually being a good mother. And God won’t let me get away with that attitude.

So while I am tempted to confine my children at home for the remainder of their days as children, staying in our safe playground in our private backyard, I will continue to risk badness at our neighborhood park. My children leave me open to attack by other bystanders who have their phones out, ready to mom shame. Or, more likely, out of the ashes of my smoldering pride, a new friendship may be born out of the many “me, too” moments shared only by parents who have been there.

So, yes, my child just hit your child. I am sorry and I am doing the best that I can to teach them to be decent human beings. But before we label them, let’s wait and see what the next twenty years will do for their impulse control. God knows I’m still a work in progress, so I’m trusting my children are, too.

When Your Kid is the Bully

Why I’m Not Apologizing for My Kids and Doing Hospitality Anyway

Lately I’ve been asking myself if I still enjoy hosting people in my home. Gathering around the table, feasting, having deep talks over plates piled high with food in the glow of candlelight is the goal, right? The adults belly laugh, dabbing tears from the corner of their eyes, then grab another steaming roll to dip in their homemade soup while the children run off to laugh together in the backyard. This is my expectation. No, this is my illusion.

Instead, hospitality looks more like this:

I wait until the absolute last minute to tell my three children we are having guests, because they turn into crazed creatures pulsating with energy the second they know more attention-giving bodies will be in our home. Instead, as soon as my pre-arrival stress is about to erupt, I plug them into a movie to do the last minute meal prep, sweep the floor, pick up the toys and issue marching orders to my husband-turned-servant. Seconds before our first guest arrives, we scan the house, noting that it is worth having guests over just to have a decluttered home even if for just a second. But then the reality check arrives.

The doorbell rings and one of my children hides, while the other rushes to the door, suddenly all disheveled hair and stained clothing and immediately drags any newly arrived kids to their messy bedroom. The guests make their way to the kitchen and plant themselves at the kitchen island. My husband delivers drinks while I try not to screw up the whole meal in minutes because I am now not only stressed and hungry, but distracted. The kids race through the house, dumping the toys from every basket, crashing trucks over our feet and racing them on the hardwood floors. They reach grimy hands over the counter to blindly grab at olives, cheese or chips at the edge of the counter.

I calmly and slowly remind my children of “what we talked about before our guests arrived”—they should play outside or in designated rooms. Go there right now. Please. They ignore me. I stand there, hands covered in garlic, knife in hand and keep smiling at my newly-arrived guests.

Welcome to our happy home.

We had a family over last weekend with three children the ages of our children and one man who came solo. We spent the entire afternoon preparing. The food was overcooked and too salty, and I learned the downsides of the popular “open floor plan”—namely that the child chaos ricochets around the room and is impossible to escape. The four older children (all five and under) sat alone at the kitchen island, dueling with the plastic knives they had snuck out of the drawer and turned their food into ships and guns. The other mom and I tried to feed our babies finger food and unsuccessfully police our other children all while trying to talk about plans for a new small group. The older kids finished and the three-year-old girl caught her finger in the sliding glass door and wailed the remainder of the time. We all stood up, leaving our one male friend eating his apple pie alone at the table.

When the baby, too, began to cry, the parents abruptly announced their decision to abort mission. What was meant to last 2 ½ hours lasted 1 ½ hours. They were all out the door in minutes, leaving my husband and I standing in the kitchen, counters piled high with dirty dishes and over-stimulated kids running through the toy and food-littered floor. “Let’s go for a walk,” I said.

And so in the quiet after the chaos, I did what any halfway sensible adult would do and reflected on the wisdom of continuing the stress, anxiety and humiliation of having people to my home during this season with little ones. Maybe this isn’t the time of life. Perhaps I just said I liked hospitality because it seemed like the Good Christian Thing to do. “God, is this really…” And before I could even formulate the thought into a prayer, God interrupted.

“You do it anyway.”

Wait, what?

Do hospitality anyway. You do it in the stress and the mess and the raisins smashed into the carpet. You do it even though you are hollering over three preschoolers telling knock knock jokes with no punchline and talking about poop and pee at the table. You do it when your children throw tantrums and blatantly disobey you in front of your friends and family. You do it because doing life together means not hiding behind closed doors, but inviting people into your actual life. And real life is not pretty. It is not organized, perfect or pristine. Hospitality is not comfortable, clean or controlled.

Three of the four books in the Bible about Jesus’ life and ministry tell a story about his friends trying to keep the kids away from Jesus. I’m sure the children then were not so different from kids today. They had dirt under their fingernails, food on their faces, didn’t know how to use inside voices or walk—not run–inside. They didn’t know they shouldn’t ask people why they are fat or handicapped or black. They probably announced that food was “yucky” and peed on the floor when they forgot to go to the bathroom. They probably fought to hold on to their favorite toys and didn’t like going to sleep in the dark. Those Jewish children probably acted just like my kids.

And yet instead of being embarrassed, Jesus invited those messy, noisy, belligerent children to come to him. He didn’t tell them to clean up or straighten up first. Instead, he reprimanded his well-meaning friends who were eager for a constant atmosphere of contemplation and miracles. “Don’t stop them,” he scolded them. “For the Kingdom of God belongs to people like these.” The Kingdom does not belong to the perfect adults (ha), but the imperfect, loud, obnoxious kids.

Somehow, the Kingdom of God belongs to those with the greatest impropriety. The ones we are embarrassed of are the very ones to whom the kingdom belongs. Instead of working for our children to be seen and not heard, perhaps we should be doing more inviting, listening and learning from them.

I’m not advocating for a child-centered existence, but I am wondering if there is something to Jesus’ command that I’m missing when I expect my children to be anything more or less than what they are–children. Perhaps I need to hang a sign by my table as a reminder: “She is three years old. He is four years old.” Because I forget and expect them to act like adults.

My children are peeling away my masks, forcing me into true, messy relationship without the pretense of perfection. And Jesus says that if I don’t learn to receive the Kingdom of God like one of these kids we apologize for and try to hide, then we will never receive it.

So I’m doing hospitality anyway. In the noise, fuss, mess and chaos. Don’t wipe your feet at the door. Just come on in.

 

How are you doing hospitality anyway?

Somehow, the Kingdom of God belongs to those with the greatest impropriety. The ones we are embarrassed of are the very ones to whom the kingdom belongs. Instead of working for our children to be seen and not heard, perhaps we should be doing more inviting, listening and learning from them.

Why We’re Not Doing Preschool this Year (and Are Doing a ‘Gap Year’ Instead)

I sent my first son to preschool two days a week before he even turned three. In spite of a twinge of grief and guilt as I dropped him off that first day, I know we both did a little skip when I left—him running to plunge his hands into the sensory bin filled with items I wouldn’t let near my house and me rushing home to put my daughter down for her nap and a glorious hour and a half of silence.

As an educator myself, I don’t need to be convinced that preschool is a good idea. It is fabulous. Structure, another adult to listen to and obey, friends to be made and exposure to more of life outside of the sphere of our home. Preschool is a wonderful way for kids to learn, grow and be socialized.

But this year, we are opting out of preschool.

I recognize that even having the option of sending or not sending my child to preschool and being a stay-at-home parent is a result of my privilege. I erased my last fourth-grade homework chart off the dry-erase board of our school nearly five years ago–just weeks before my first son was born–and I haven’t received a paycheck since (*sob*). But I want to acknowledge that I am a privileged person simply because I have the choice to work or not work.

For the most part, preschool in Colorado is not free, so money is a large factor in why we aren’t doing it this year.

But I also suddenly realized that unless I homeschool (which I’m not planning to), we will be bound to a school schedule for the next 18 years.

But we have this one year before that happens.

Just one year before we will be racing around in the mornings to get a child out of the house. One year before the school supplies, fieldtrip permission slips, picture money, parent conferences and other parent-child-school responsibilities begin. A week into madly researching a viable preschool option for my three and almost-five-year-olds, wondering how I’d juggle drop-offs and pick-ups with a one-year-old, the thought occurred to me…

What if we did something crazy, and just took a free year—a gap year? A year to be a little tribe and explore, play, learn and grow together?

Before kids, I was an upper elementary and middle school teacher—early education was not my thing. But I’m hoping by surrendering to the mess, stress, slowness and simplicity, I’ll fall in love with these little years. And perhaps we’ll build a strong foundation together before they begin to totter out of the nest into public school.

Here are some ideas I have for the coming year.

Play

This one is hard for me. It is nearly impossible for me to sit on the floor with my children and not start organizing toys. But I’m going to attempt to let go, give in and learn to play with my children this year. This year, I resolve to:

  • Allow lots of free play. I finally surrendered the couch cushions to the minions. They have their own pile in the sunroom now.
  • Visit all the parks in our city.
  • Sing and dance. My son has a CD player and all the CD’s are scratched, but they can really break it down.
  • Get outside every day—spend time in the front and back yard, go to parks, go on walks around the neighborhood or visit nature areas around town.

Explore

We are in a new city, so there is much to explore. But you might be surprised what you’ll find when you become a tourist in your own town.

  • Visit all the Little Free Libraries in our city. We always have a stack of books to give away. We’re going to ride bikes or drive around to visit all of these we can.
  • Go on hikes and nature walks. My kids whine the first fifteen minutes of a “hike,” but usually find rocks, bugs and flowers to distract them pretty quickly. The baby rides in the ergo for this one.
  • Attend free festivals and concerts. Denver is just an hour away, but our city has plenty to keep us busy year-round.
  • Go to the children’s museum, zoo and other museums in and around our city. Instead of blowing all their grandparent Christmas and birthday money on gifts that just get lost and clutter up our house, I usually use 70 percent of it on museum or zoo passes.
  • Visit a fire station or create our own fieldtrips.
  • Find out about other languages and cultures. We’ll be attending the international women’s club on a weekly basis, so this helps with that. We’re also hoping to have an international student live with us this year.
  • Visit the grandparents in the mountains.

Read

  • Go to the library once a week and attend library story times.
  • Intentionally read some books each week with people of color as the main characters.
  • Read books together daily—big books and little books. We just finished James and the Giant Peach and are doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory next.
  • Listen to audio books. My son has enjoyed Magic Tree House so far.
  • Have them read quietly at certain times of the day (ha).

Create

I don’t do well with messes. This is one of the things I loved best about preschool—the teacher did all the messy things with my son so I never had to feel guilty about not doing those things. But this year I’m going for it. We bought an easel at Ikea, lots of washable paints and markers, rolls of paper and all kinds of random objects at Hobby Lobby to glue onto paper to make collages. We’re doing it. The goal is for all of us to have glitter, paint or marker on our bodies at all times just to prove we are artists (okay, maybe not glitter).

  • Draw
  • Paint (my kids hate finger painting, but we’ll probably try again)
  • Make necklaces
  • Glue things to paper—like pasta, tiny pieces of paper, feathers, nature items,
  • Bake
  • Do one pinterest craft a week (*slight cringe* #notapinterestmom)
  • Make puppets and masks
  • Play with sand (LOVE this crazy sand–as long as it’s on a sweepable surface), water, playdough, clay and other sensory items

Serve

  • Bake something for a neighbor or homeless person and deliver it once a week.
  • Visit a nursing home.
  • Attend the international women’s club each week at the nearby college.
  • Visit with elderly neighbors.
  • Have people over for dinner and have the kids help make it.
  • Practice random acts of kindness together.

Relax

  • Stay home at least one day a week.
  • Take our time going places.
  • Throw out schedules every once in a while—allow naps in the car, stay up late and have movie nights, wear PJ’s until 2 pm, take baths in the middle of the day.

 

Notice I don’t have a “learn” category. This year, I want to focus on my children learning experientially. Will we do letters, numbers and reading? Of course, because those things happen organically in life and we’ll talk about them when they do. But I am not planning on having a structured “school time” each day or week other than my kids attending Bible study and church each week.

Opting out of preschool is a slightly terrifying prospect to me, and yet I’m excited for margins in our days to lean into life.  Because we are not paying for preschool, we can afford a sitter one morning a week so I can write, but the other days (thanks to my husband who works full-time), our time is flexible. And as much as I would have loved a few hours with a few less kids a week, the thought of a year of freedom to live, explore, create, read, serve and relax sounds pretty amazing, too.

I’ll be writing about our experience periodically and sharing reviews about the books we check out at the library, so subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch!

Here we go. Let the adventures begin.

Leslie

*Includes Amazon affiliate links

Why we're not doing preschool this year--and all that we'll be doing instead.

 

Day 29: Transcript of ‘The Race Talk’ with my Kids {31 Days of #WOKE}

I had this conversation yesterday with my 4 1/2 year old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter. They had never read this book before and were excited to read it together. Here is the truncated transcript of the video of us reading the book together:

 

[Look at the cover of the book Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.]

Me: “This book cover has lots of different kinds of kids on it. How do they look different? What are they doing?”

Son: “Silly things!”

Me: “Like what?”

Son: I don’t know. She’s all dirty and laughing. And she is …. no one knows. He’s playing pirates.”

Me: Do any of these kids look like you guys?

Daughter: That’s E and that’s me!

Me: The pirate and the girl with the baseball cap? Do any of them look like you guys?

D: That one looks like me.

S: That one looks like me. Cause it has white skin. That means it’s me.

Me: But is your skin “white”? This is white, right? This cover [pointing at white duvet cover]. Is your skin the color of this?

S: But what is my color? [lifting up his shirt] Yeah, what is this color? [pointing at stomach]

Me: This is “peach”…is what we call our skin color. But we sometimes call our color “white.” And then what do people call this color? [point at African American kid in book]

S: Black.

Me: But is she really black? Is her skin black?

S: BROWN!

Me: So actually even your skin is even a tiny little bit brown. Do you know why we have different color skin? Because God made us different. We all have something in our skin called melanin. Can you say melanin?

S: Melanin.

Me: And that’s what makes our skin different colors. So if you’re white you don’t have a lot of melanin. But if you’re what we call black, then you have a lot of melanin.

S: What IS melanin?

Me: It’s just like a special thing that’s in our skin that makes our skin different colors. So some people are what we call “white,” which is what we are.

S: Do I have that…that…word? Do I have…

Me: Melanin? Yep, we all do.

S: [High-pitched voice] I have melanin?

Me: Actually, when you go out in the sun, it brings out the melanin, so we can be even darker. In sun sometimes our skin turns even a little browner. So in the summer our skin is more brown.

Me: So do you have any friends that are black? Do you know any kids that are brown colored?

S: One.

Me: Who is it?

S: C–

Me: Yep. So C– has more melanin in his skin.

S: I have more melanin.

Me: You have less melanin.

S: What does “less” mean?

Me: Not as much.

S: I have SO MUCH!

[I laugh.]

Me: Let’s read a book.

[Begin reading the book together, asking questions and talking about the pictures.]

Me: So this girl looks a little different, too. What does she look like? [point to Asian girl in picture]

S: She looks like what?

Me: Well, you know how mommy has some Chinese friends? And we speak Chinese together?

S: Yeah.

Me: So this girl looks Chinese, which means she’s “Asian.” So their skin is a little bit white, but it’s also a little bit brown.

D: Read it!

[Continue reading and talking about the pictures and words in the book. I ask what the kids were doing in the pictures and make connections to our lives.]

Me: They all have different kinds of hair, don’t they? So everyone has different kinds of hair, too. It’s all beautiful.

[Continue reading]

Me: [Point at another picture of a black child in the book.] Sometimes, also, when people have brown skin, we call them “African American.”

S: I found an African American! And another African American!

Me: Uh huh. “African American” is what we sometimes call people.

D: And MORE African American. [pointing]

S: Noo. She’s not African American.

[Continue reading, talking and answering many many questions.]

Me: [Reading end of book] “Because they make the world…”

S: Different Colors!

Me: Different Colors. And different colors is better than one color, isn’t it?

[They ask MORE questions about the pictures–unrelated to race.]

Me: [Finish reading.] “Beautiful!” Don’t you think they make the world beautiful? Just like you guys.

Reflection:

I felt like this conversation went really well. My son already knew the terminology “white” and “black,” though I’m not sure where he got it from (possibly from the hours of podcasts I listen to on this topic …). But it was refreshing to talk about how to describe people in a non-threatening, matter-of-fact way. From now on, I’ll try to be more intentional about talking about race as we read books together.

Have you had a conversation like this with your kids? Do you have any other recommendations for me? I’m sure it’s the first of many talks, so there is always room for improvement!

*Contains Amazon affiliate links

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

 

Day 27: A Lesson Plan for Talking to my Preschooler about Race for the First Time {31 Days of #WOKE}

“Kids do see color – and when parents ignore it, the lesson children learn is that diversity is something too scary to talk about.” –Kristen Howerton on Rage Against the Minivan Blog

Why is it important for white parents to talk to their kids about race?

People of color have these kinds of conversations with their children early and frequently, while white people often avoid discussing race with their children altogether. Many of us were taught not to talk about race in favor of being “colorblind.” But it turns out that colorblindness does more harm than good. Instead of raising tolerant children willing to build relationships across color lines, our silence forces our children to draw their own conclusions.

Several articles mentioned that just as you would not just wait for your teenager to learn about sex from the internet or friends, you should not wait for your children learn about race from an untrusted source. As parents, we are the first line of defense in fighting prejudice and racial bias in the next generation–through our children.

The more we talk about race with our kids, the easier it will get. Kids are not naturally awkward; we parents are the ones who need to overcome our fear and anxiety. Here’s my first attempt. I wrote a lesson plan. Because I’m a nerd. (And also a former teacher.)

A Lesson Plan for Talking to my Preschooler about Race for the First Time

(Age 3-5)

Objective: To equip my 4 ½ year old son and 2 ½ year old daughter with the vocabulary to talk about skin color in a positive way.

Materials:

Dolls of various skin tones

Books: Any book including characters of various races will do (don’t choose a book specifically about race—the purpose of this lesson is to normalize race, not talk about racism—that will be for a future lesson). Dr. Vittrup recommends using All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Got Our Skin Color, by Katie Kissinger.

Optional: Skin-colored crayons

Activity 1: Books

Before reading, ask my kids questions about the appearances of the people in the pictures on the front of the book.

“What is the same about you and them? What is different? Do you know any people that look like this?”

Teach the word “melanin”: (“any of various black, dark brown, reddish-brown, or yellow pigments of animal or plant structures (as skin or hair”)

“Every person’s skin has different amounts of melanin in it, which makes their skin a different color.”

“God made every person on earth and called them ‘good,’ so every color of skin is beautiful.”

“What color is your skin?”

“Our skin is peach or very very light brown, but sometimes people call it ‘white.’ That just means you have less melanin in your skin.”

“Sometimes people call those with more melanin in their skin ‘black.” Everyone is really just different shades of brown.”

Read the book together, asking them to describe the characters throughout, using the descriptive words we talked about.

Activity 2: Dolls

Pull out the dolls and look at them together.

“What color is your doll’s skin? Do they have a lot of melanin or a little?

 

Application: Use the skin-tone-colored crayons to draw pictures of themselves and their friends or color in a coloring book. Talk about race throughout the week as we encounter different characters in books.

***

My kids are away for the weekend with my parents, but I’m hoping to have this conversation with them in the next couple days. I’ll let you know how it goes …

Additional resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race:

This post from the site Raising Race Conscious Children has tons of examples of scripts to explain difficult topics to kids of a variety of ages.

And this post from the same site has a great list of strategies to use in talking to our kids about race.

How Children Learn Who’s In and Who’s Out by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson for Redbud Post

Day 11: Resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race from Scraping Raisins

How to Not (Accidentally) Raise a Racist on The Longest Shortest Time Podcast interview with Dr. Brigitte Vittrup. The show notes for this podcast have a ton of great ideas for books and videos to watch to help educate yourself and your children on race.

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Day 18: What I Want for My Children {31 Days of #WOKE}

 

I want my children to be the stranger sometimes, too.

I want their ears flooded with the music of other tongues.

I want them to be speechless as they smash into unfamiliar sights, smells, tastes and sounds.

I want them to experience being the minority.

I want their friendships saturated with color.

I want them to sit in a foreign living room drinking milk tea and wonder if they’re doing it right.

I want them to always err on the side of generosity.

I want them to know their country is not the center or the best, but one equal square in the world’s quilt.

I want them to make room at the table.

I want them to speak up for the voiceless, the invisible and the excluded.

I want them to absorb the pain of others.

I want them to splash in the thrill of creating like the Creator.

I want them to feel funny, smart, beautiful, creative and respected without needing to be.

I want them to be brave, bold, confident and strong.

I want them to surrender to the discipline of discomfort, allowing it to uproot pride and demolish their assumptions.

I want them to die to themselves.

I want them to love the sacred song of stillness.

I want them to understand how history impacts them and their neighbor.

I want them to speak light into another person’s darkness.

I want them to be undone by the suffering of others, but empowered by their own suffering.

I want them to serve quietly, but persistently.

I want them to know the Jesus who died for the ungodly, served the undeserving and shattered fear, hopelessness, anxiety through defeating death.

I want them to be free—unhindered, unshackled and unfettered.

I want them to be understood, known and satisfied.

I want them to love extravagantly, for they are extravagantly loved.

 

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

I want my children to be the stranger sometimes, too. I want their ears flooded with the music of other tongues. I want them to be speechless as they smash into unfamiliar sights, smells, tastes and sounds. I want them to experience being the minority.

 

 

Day 11: Resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race {31 Days of #WOKE}

Resources for Talking to Kids about Race, plus 10 Picture Books Featuring People of Color

My four-year-old son recently noticed that people are different colors. We visited an African American church and I decided not to mention anything about skin color beforehand. I didn’t think he noticed. But just a few days later he brought up the fact that he has “white skin” and another boy has “black skin.”

“Who told you that?” I asked. “Did you learn that in preschool?” When I was little, the term “black” confused me. I didn’t know anyone with black skin, just different shades of brown.

“He probably got that from your podcasts,” my mom suggested as I shared how his innocence had somehow been shattered.

I’m a bit obsessed with podcasts (if you haven’t noticed). I listen while I’m doing laundry, getting ready in the mornings and even in the shower (if the host has a loud enough voice–thank you, Megan Tietz of Sorta Awesome). And most of the ones I listen to these days are about race.

But in all my own self-education, I clearly haven’t done a good enough job of educating my four-year-old on this issue.

In addition to this and this list on race resources to educate yourself on race issues, The Global Mom Show Podcast recently broadcasted a few episodes on educating our children on this topic. I would highly recommend listening to these for ideas on talking to your kids about race:

Talking to Your Kids about Race, with Lucretia Berry

Talking to Your Mixed-Race Kids about Race, with Sonia Smith-Kang

 

Here are some other resources I’ve found, as well as ten picture books featuring people of color that are sitting in my Amazon shopping cart as I type this:

Websites:

Barefoot Books believes that “children need diverse, inclusive and inspiring books. This is what we’re all about. From the very beginning, our books have opened windows to other cultures and perspectives, while also providing children of all backgrounds and abilities with a much-needed mirror of their own experiences.”

Colours of Us is a website with tons of lists of multicultural book ideas as well as multicultural toys, games, puzzles and crafts.

Here Wee Read Blog 55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016, by Mrs. G at Here Wee Read Blog (and another great list from the same site). Follow her on Instagram for more great book ideas.

Like Me, Like You Kids  is a place to buy toys and decorative items for kids that reflect diversity. From the site: “Our hope is to curate beautiful products that allow children of color to see themselves in the art, books and toys they interact with daily. We also hope that children of all shades would grow up appreciating the gift of diversity – like me, like you.”

Raising Race Conscious Children is “a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. The goals of these conversations are to dismantle the color-blind framework and prepare young people to work toward racial justice. If we commit to collectively trying to talk about race with young children, we can lean on one another for support as we, together, envision a world where we actively challenge racism each and every day. Many of the blog’s posts are geared toward White people but a community of guest bloggers represent diverse backgrounds and the strategies discussed may be helpful for all.” This post was especially helpful to me.

Articles:

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism  by Kristen Howerton at her blog

What White Children Need to Know about Race, by Ali Michael and Eleonora Bartoli for the Independent School Magazine

5 Ways Parents Pass Down Prejudice and Racism, by Danielle Slaughter for Huffington Post

Raising Race Conscious Children by Joanna Goddard on A Cup of Jo Blog

Podcast:

How to Not (Accidentally) Raise a Racist

Book Lists:

12 Books Featuring Black Fathers (for all ages)

28 Black Picture books that Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball


50+ Picture Books about Mixed Race Families 

 Children’s Books to Help Talk about Race with Kids  from an Alabama Public Library

18 Children’s Books with Characters of Color, by Joanna Goddard for her blog, A Cup of Jo 

10 Picture Books with Characters of Color (currently sitting in my Amazon shopping cart):

A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon

The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown

Beautiful, by Stacy McAnulty

The Bot that Scott Built, by Kim Norman

The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson

The Lord’s Prayer, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

Happy in Our Skin, by Fran Manushkin

Psalm Twenty-Three, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

When God Made You, by Matthew Paul Turner

 

Now that my kids can talk (often more than I’d like them to), it’s time to start discussing race. My brothers and sisters of color have already had numerous conversations about this, so it’s time for me to begin planting seeds of love and tolerance before the weeds of prejudice can take root.

Join me?

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

**Contains Amazon Affiliate links