Just Shut Up!

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


On the surface, finding diversity in Utah is hard to do.  I grew up in suburban neighborhoods that offered little diversity.  Classrooms were also, by far, homogenous.  My daughters will most likely experience the same although we live in a different part of the state.  I would like to share some (not all) of my aha moments in regarding those who are different than I am.

>>Despite earlier when I wrote that my childhood neighborhoods offered little diversity, I remember liking my next-door neighbors who were black.*  They were older, so we didn’t have very much contact with them, as we spent the most time with neighbors who had young children or teenagers who baby sat us.  However that early acceptance didn’t translate over to 1st grade.  I remember being cautious and not even wanting to accidentally touch the only girl in all three first grade classes who was black.  Fast forward three years to 4th grade when I made friends with Jenny, a black girl (the only one in our class), who lived nearby my house and we hung out quite a bit until she moved.  The difference in my perspective stemmed in interacting with Jenny, becoming her friend, and seeing her as a person just like me.

>>In high school I became acquaintances with a girl from Mexico.  Living in the west, there is some prejudice against Mexicans and I was leery of them.  I talked with her, mostly in math class, and found out that she worked for the same company as my brother.  That she had a good outlook on life and had a good work ethic.  Personalizing her gave me an aha moment that it’s the individual, not the group, that we need to scrutinize.  After all there are plenty of people of my own race that I don’t trust either.

>>Positively, I loved the increased diversity that college provided.  Most of the diversity came from foreign students studying here.  I had great opportunities to get to know some as roommates and acquaintances on campus.  I loved (still do) talking with people from other cultures from mine.

Now, these illustrations all might seem trivial, even old-timey, but at the time these were eye opening experiences for me.  They built up a foundation of being open minded and tolerant.  They formed my attitude toward individualism.  They were the spring board to the epitome of my formal education: studying abroad.

This next anecdote is a personal one for me that has been a turning point in the way I think of myself. I have not forgotten the feelings that consumed me after this conversation. It will also highlight the advice I will give my children on how to respect and embrace diversity.

>>I was sitting on a park bench next to my new friend Abed, from Jordan, who was also studying abroad at University of Bayreuth (in Germany.)  He had sought me out to help him with his English.


Our first meeting, (1. May 2006), was a get-to-know-you outing with our dormitory. Left to right: Abed [Jordan], Riina & Sarita [Finland], Bryan [Ireland], and the two German RAs.

We had met a couple of times before this meeting and near the end of our visit, I asked about his culture and how they treat women. I asked about covering women and he told me that it is all about respect.  As he went on talking, I was very close to interrupting him.  My inner voice stopped me by saying something like this, “You always say how open minded you are.  Here is your chance to prove it– shut up!” I remained quiet.  I listened.  He talked about his sisters and their relationships with their husbands.  How the men need to save up money, a dowry you could say, that is just for their future wife to spend as she wishes.  They could spend it on their future house, or save it for a later time.  He added how one of his sisters is using the money now because they didn’t have any income.  I was intrigued.  I learned.  I never knew these things before.  What would have happened if I opened my mouth and argued with him?  I wouldn’t have learned the ideal way they treat women and why.

Abed gave me an opportunity to prove to myself how open minded I could be.  From then on, as much as I can, I try to listen when I disagree instead of opening my mouth.  Writing this is actually a good reminder for me to listen to other {political} views (although infuriating it may be.)  It’s hard to listen, especially when [you think] you know all about the subject.

I would also like to add that I’m still not blemish free of slight prejudices or discrimination.  I try hard to see the individual.  I prided myself on being picked as a juror five years ago. But I still have a lot to learn.

My children will have their own path to go down.  Their own experiences full of aha moments and turning points that will change their perspectives.  They will add to the diversity to the neighborhood as they are growing up with two languages, hopefully will be visiting Germany frequently, and possibly will not be attending church every Sunday (the majority religion plays a big role in Utah’s culture.)  I hope that they find their place amongst their friends, that they don’t give outward differences a second thought, that they relish in their individuality and embrace others’ individuality as well.

*If I should’ve written African American instead, please mentally change the word now.  Thank you.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Call Me Clarice, I Don’t Care – A True Message in Diversity — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out, but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will only know same-sex marriage as normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless response to her son’s apparent prejudice.

About fraurab

A Germanophile, who is figuring out how to build her strengths through improving her mind, body and soul.
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7 Responses to Just Shut Up!

  1. Yes! I think that asking respectful questions and shutting up to hear the answers is a very valuable lesson! And I totally agree that writing about it makes you focus on doing it more. That’s why I love these carnivals, it’s a re-grounding each time I write about a certain aspect of life!

  2. This is a lovely post and one which has reminded me of the importance of listening, it is an important skill and one which I should practice more.

  3. Lisa Nelson says:

    So important. I love when you say that you liked them once you got to know them.

    You know, people think I should like people just because they are black, and are shocked when I say – I don’t like him or her (race not being a factor). I just don’t like who they are as a person. They seem to imply that I’m not supporting – when that’s not necessarily the case. I just plain don’t like the person. Skin color aside, if that personality was in a white person – I wouldn’t like them either! :)

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Thank you for sharing your “aha” moments with us. We have all had them, but not everyone is so open about admitting to them. And what a great lesson to pass on to your kids! It is easy to talk the talk but not so easy to walk the walk! Good for you for listening to that inner voice and reminding us all to do the same.

  5. meegs1982 says:

    I think we all, no matter how open minded, still need the reminder to shut up and listen. There is so much to learn from each individual, if only we take the time.

  6. What an important lesson to learn — and practice! I have to admit, sometimes it’s the shutting up and listening openly that escapes me, but then I learn so much when I do.

  7. Dionna Ford says:

    Such a good point, we could all stand to shut up and simply listen to the experiences of others. My mom recently changed her stance on gay marriage, because she has made friends with a gay couple. The issue finally became personal for her. It’s so important to expand our thinking by expanding the people we are exposed to!
    ~Dionna @ CodeNameMama.com

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