Making space for diverse family structures in activities at school and daycare
Updated: Mar 10, 2019
A couple of years ago, an incident occurred at my children's daycare that really reinforced for me how powerful an educator can be, either for good or bad, in affecting a child’s confidence and sense of self-worth.
Our daycare organized a Father’s Day breakfast, and I had arranged for my uncle to accompany my daughter because I am a single parent. Both he and my daughter were having lots of fun as they walked to the daycare for breakfast. Unfortunately, no one had told the administrator in charge that day that my uncle would attend with my daughter. When they arrived at the breakfast, the administrator told my uncle, in front of my child, that he would have to leave because the event was for fathers only.
I had invited my uncle to accompany my daughter so that she would not be stuck sitting alone while other children were eating with their fathers. My daughter was happy with this arrangement and made no complaint that her father wasn’t there. Unfortunately, the administrator was so set in her beliefs about who could be a father figure that she was ready to have my child sit by herself while everyone had breakfast with their fathers. My child was distraught. She felt shamed. Later, in a heartbreakingly sad voice, she talked about how my uncle wasn’t supposed to attend the Father's Day breakfast. When I spoke with the administrator, she said the solution was that next year it would be very clear that only fathers could attend the Father's Day breakfast. I was shocked!
A few days later, the daycare’s director apologized to my daughter and explained, at my request, that the administrator's actions were wrong. That 3-minute conversation with my daughter changed everything. My daughter never mentioned the incident again.
This experience left me realizing that it is so easy to encourage self-doubt and to make a child question who they are, their family or their identity. All the efforts I make to ensure my children have other close relationships with adults, and don’t feel their family is of less value because of our family structure can quickly be washed away. But I was also encouraged to see that they can also be quickly reborn when the right thing is done.
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