I am the gatekeeper of information in my home. For my daughters, from today, I will do better

Alex is a mother of two under four, originally from Kildare but living in Barcelona. Following the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations around the world, she examines the environment she has created for her girls, and decides she needs to do better


Yesterday I wanted to write something humorous. I wanted to write about something frippery and frothy, to laugh, and to moan a bit about my small problems. Humour is my go-to escape for when I feel overwhelmed or sad or frustrated.  But I’ve tried to write, and I’ve tried to joke, and I’ve tried to think of funny things that have happened this week or things that my children have said or done, but it doesn’t fit. Nothing fits right now. It is all asunder. I can’t and won’t write about my small problems because that is simply what they are: small problems. And I will not write about them today. Today they are immaterial.

Yesterday I sat and watched the unfolding black squares on Instagram and I watched videos of apparently peaceful protests and apparently violent demonstrators and I watched as a little girl was pepper-sprayed in the eyes while protesting with her family and as I watched I cried.

I thought about my little girls and I thought about the bravery of bringing your children to protest and the necessity of doing so and I thought a lot about cowardice. And complacency. And I thought about how I was sitting and thinking while others were doing and others are even dying. And I felt sick.

Good, bad, bully, hero

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The day before yesterday I took my children outside to a new park. My oldest, as per usual,  gravitated like a comet in freefall to the two boys playing the loudest and toughest games.
Two little boys of about 6 were playing an aggressive game of “tag” amongst the decorative boulders of the plaza,  that the children have recently turned into their own personal bouldering course. I watched as my daughter sat on one of the boulders and watched the boys play. I watched as she watched them hit and push and laugh and thump each other.
I watched as her forehead wrinkled and she turned towards me, perplexed. “Mommy, are those boys bullies?”. I paused, trying to understand the root of her question.  “What do you mean, love?” I asked. “Are they bullies? “ she responded impatiently. “They look like bullies. They look like the mean bullies in the Karate kid movie”. What she means is that they look physically similar to the "mean" children in the remake of the  Karate kid movie. "No, love, they are not bullies. They are just playing a noisy, rough game". "Ok!" chirped my child, happily, and raced over to join in the game.
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I sat and considered why my daughter thought that these children must be bullies and unfortunately, the answer is as simple as her reasoning;  because they racially resemble bullies she has seen in a movie. She is stereotyping. I think about all the movies we have watched where physical appearance and racial characteristics become synonymous with a “type” of person. Good, bad, bully, hero. If my daughter is stereotyping based on ethnicity, then I am doing something wrong.

I am the gatekeeper

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We have maps of the European centered world and we have Lego men and baby dolls and sticker books but we do not have diversity.

I have looked through our playroom and our movies and our books and our dolls. We have superheroes and princesses and books about Jane Goodall and Maria Montessori and books about our Irish history and books about fairytales of Sant Jordi and the Dragon. We have maps of the European centered world and we have Lego men and baby dolls and sticker books but we do not have diversity.  I am the gatekeeper to information that resides within my home. It is my responsibility to correct this limiting environment.

So here is what I commit to doing, starting from today. Today I will begin to diversify our reading list. We will read about diverse characters and stories from a fuller spectrum of authors. We will be mindful and intentional in the movie choices we make and what histories are being rewritten or ignored.

I will talk with our wider family about gifts and books and dolls and puzzles that encourage discovery and diversity and empathy outside of our bubble. I will have hard and honest conversations with myself firstly and later with my girls about how and why we are comfortable and others, just as deserving, are not.

It will not happen all at once, we will not change overnight, but we will start. I will commit to understanding that being grateful for my “luck” and “privilege” is nowhere near enough and I will do better. I will start with myself and the inside of my home. I hope you will do the same.

Featured image: Unsplash


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