A few weeks ago we were in a town that was not our own and had some time to fill in. So, as is our wont these days, we decided to find a nice park to let the boys run off some steam. We prefer the fenced variety because now they really do run and they think it is a great game to run, look to make sure we are following, smile and then run even further in the direction of oncoming traffic. We were lucky to find a very well fenced park with a lovely big patch of green grass (something not to be taken for granted coming from the wild west) and a ripper little playground that was quite manageable for two one year olds. And – take a moment to appreciate this – not only had I remembered hats but also sunscreen. It may be the first and last time it happens, but I’d like the record to show that I did.
It was a ridiculously lovely day for early September and several other groups of people and their offspring had the same idea. As I was supervising but trying not to helicopter the boys, I noticed a newcomer to the park. I noticed because there was an uncomfortable scene playing out to my left. The newcomer to the park was not white and she was there with a male who I presume was her father. She was only about 3 or 4 and eagerly and happily approached two girls at the park to try and play with them. They said words to the effect of ‘ewww’ and ‘we’re not playing with you because you’re dirty’ and they ran away in that horribly mean way that little girls do. I absolutely shit you not. My heart sank and I got a knot in my stomach. Was this really happening in 2015? Really? I can’t even write about it now without it making me feel so incredibly sad. I felt like I should say something but I didn’t know what. It wasn’t my battle. But isn’t there some saying about evil flourishes when good people stand by and do nothing? Was I complicit in my silence? The adult women who were with these girls – who may or may not have been their mothers – saw what was happening and did nothing. I feel like at this stage my head may actually have been spinning. Now, it is entirely possible that these girls were just being nasty little girls and would have treated anyone this way. It is also entirely possible that they had learnt their behavior and attitudes and that’s what bothers me. This incident has forced me to think about what kind of world I want the boys to live in and what kind of people I want them to be.
I was lucky enough to win the lottery of birth and be born both white and in Australia. As such, I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against or experience racism. The closest thing I’ve felt to being a minority was waiting on a train platform in Mongolia in winter when the temperature can be as low as -40 degrees celsius. We were the only westerners silly enough to be travelling at the time and caused quite a stir. It was uncomfortable and was a tiny little insight into what it means to be the ‘other’ but I cannot even begin to imagine what some people experience every day of their lives.
And so I’m bringing about that old chestnut that we should all ‘treat others as we would like to be treated’. Every day I attempt to teach the boys to be kind and gentle to each other. I get plenty of opportunities to reinforce this because hair pulling, pinching and pushing each other over are their current favourite past times. I think I’m having some success because they are now able to show me what ‘gentle’ looks like (a hug, kiss or gentle arm rub). I still don’t know what I should have done, if anything, at the park that day but I’m trying to change the world one act of kindess at a time and I hope that my boys will be kind and gentle to everyone they meet. L.R Knost is a bit of a hero of mine – she’s a ‘gentle parenting’ guru (yes, I am completely aware of how wanky that sounds) and she comes up with lots of pearls of wisdom and I’ll leave you with my favourite: “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless”.