While half of the world is seemingly losing its mind over Syrian refugees, Canadians are scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is. A year ago, we elected a Prime Minister who promised not to control the influx of refugees, but to bring even more into the country. We rejoiced when he actually kept this promise.
For many people, refugees are a bit of an abstract concept. They’ve never met them, so they assume that they are somehow “different”. For residents of the neighbourhood I live in, there is nothing abstract about refugees. There is nothing scary about them either. They are not would-be terrorists who are trying to impose Shariah Law while they freeload off the government. They are real human beings who are trying to rebuild their lives after fleeing from war zones.
The corner of Toronto that I call home has a large transient population. Refugees come here to live while they are trying to find their feet in Canada. They are housed at one of the motels in the neighbourhood, and their children attend school with my son. When they have found a place to live and a job, they move out of my neighbourhood and into their new lives.
I have come to know a number of refugee families through my involvement with my son’s school. I don’t know all of their stories, but they have a look in their eyes that speaks volumes. It is a look unique to people who are trying to wrap their minds around the fact that for the first time ever, they don’t have to live their lives in fear. They can move beyond “survival mode” and actually start to find enjoyment in life. They can board a city bus without wondering if it will blow up. They have access to parks where they can go for walks and have picnics. Instead of running away from danger, they can just run.
Some of the refugee kids at my son’s school have discovered the joy of running through Kilometre Club, which happens every school morning during the spring, summer and fall. Kilometre Club is very simple in how it works: kids show up before school and run laps around the school yard. For every lap they complete, they receive a Popsicle stick. Five minutes before the morning bell is due to ring, we send out a kid for the last lap holding a fake scarecrow on a stick. When the scarecrow completes the lap, Kilometre Club is over for the day. The Popsicle sticks are collected and tallied, and the class that has the most Popsicle sticks at the end of the season wins a pizza lunch.
Kilometre Club has become a well-loved institution at the school because it is so inclusive. There is no sign-up and no expectation to go at a particular pace. Kids who want to run can run. Kids who want to walk can walk. For the refugee kids, it is a discovery that you can run without having to run away from something. You can run without being triggered by the “fight or flight” response. For these kids, it is a new world in which you can run just to feel free and alive.
I’m the one who hands out the Popsicle sticks and decides who will be the scarecrow for the day. In this role, I have gotten to know most of the kids at the school. I get to see the Canadian kids weaving the refugee kids into the fabric of their lives, welcoming and including them as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. I get to see the refugee kids slowly, slowly dropping their cloaks of fear as their lives mesh with the lives of those around them.
It is a beautiful thing, and one of the reasons I love being a Canadian.
Does your community welcome refugees? How do you encourage your kids to embrace diversity and acceptance?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Canada. Photo credit: Ani Bashar. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
I write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.
Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.
As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.
“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”
The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.
“What are the responses there?” he asked.
“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”
I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.
It was another hate seed being planted.
But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.
I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.
On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.
Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.
My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –
How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.
I felt it rushing over me like waves of ice cold water.
Heldback tears stung in my eyes.
With my knees pressed tight against my abdomen, I gripped my head with my hands.
Silent sobs began to surface from deep within.
Trying to swallow them down made the lump in my throat grow thicker.
The silent room was in great contrast with the loud screaming of thoughts in my head.
Distant sounds of a lonesome car on the road from the open window; the silent murmur and sighs of sleeping children; the breathing of my husband sleeping next to me, blissfully unaware of my distress.
Inside my head rapid thoughts were tripping over one another, hastily pushing each other aside.
“Starting this new job was a bad idea.”
“I can’t do this.”
“This is too much.”
“I am going to fail.”
I could almost feel it like a tangible presence in the room.
It was in the clenching of my jaw, the tightening of my muscles and in the trembling of my body.
The powerful sense of emotions that I felt was almost frightening.
I felt anger, sadness and an urge to run away from it all.
And then it dawned on me.
This is what fear of failure feels like.
Now I know what that kid in my class feels.
This is the reason he fights me, why he gets so angry, what makes him respond in such a primal way.
I understand how he feels now, and I can use this to help him.
As that realisation began to sink in, I forgot about my own distress and fear and started working out a plan.
Peaceful thoughts started flooding my mind, causing the other thoughts to quiet down and stand in line.
“I can do this.”
“I just have to hang in there.”
“It will get easier.”
I placed my head on the pillow facing my sleeping husband.
A careful smile formed round the corners of my mouth.
And in the minutes that followed, the sounds of my calm breathing joined the sounds of my sleeping family.
Have you ever felt like giving up on something? How do you motivate yourself when you feel like quitting?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam from Apples And Roses, of The Netherlands. Photo credit: Camila Manriquez. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
This week, a story in the news made me cry. It was not the kind of story that makes it big in the mainstream media. It was not about mass devastation or loss of life, war or missing jetliners. It was, however, a story that has a big impact in my little corner of the world: the autism community.
What happened was that a pair of teens persuaded a 15-year-old boy with autism to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. They sold him on how generous it would be, how cool it would be, how fun it would be. As he stood there trustingly, expecting to be drenched in freezing cold water, the teens poured a bucket filled with human feces and urine all over him. (more…)
Recently, while checking out at the grocery store my 6-year old daughter wandered a few aisles down to chat with someone while she waited. In child-friendly Indonesia, this is pretty common.
Though my son is generally more wary of people, my daughter is naturally outgoing and enjoys “making friends” wherever we go – usually chatting away in English about school, her friends, her cat, etc.
My son soon went over to join her while I finished paying. As I started to wheel the shopping cart in their direction, I looked up to see that my daughter was giving this man a giant hug around the waist.
My stomach lurched.
Somehow we’d missed out a key lesson from Stranger Danger 101.
We quickly left the store, parked the cart on the sidewalk outside and discussed the fact that it’s not appropriate to hug or touch people that are not our friends or family. I left it at that for the moment, yet days later I found myself still reflecting on the experience and how cultural variables have shaped my thinking.
Growing up in the US, child safety rules were ingrained from a young age, including the widely used “stranger danger” warning that is intended to keep children safe from adults they don’t know.
In Indonesia, it is not so black and white. Typical rules such as “Don’t talk to strangers” can be tricky, if not impossible. Jakarta dwellers are extremely friendly and it is common to talk with and be approached by strangers wherever you go. For me, these kindly interactions are one of the joys of living here and it’s often the presence of my children that sparks the most interesting exchanges.
Another rule, “Don’t accept gifts from strangers,” can also be difficult to avoid. My children have been offered sweets by security guards and local treats by waiting area strangers. We may not always partake of these offerings, but there are times when it would be impolite to refuse them.
Children in particular attract a great deal of attention in Indonesia and strangers frequently pinch cheeks, touch hair and even take photos. My kids don’t usually appreciate this, but it can be a good opportunity to explore personal boundaries and what is comfortable or not.
Not long ago, an adoring Grandma-type reached out to stroke my daughter’s hair while she was washing her hands in the airport restroom. My daughter recoiled and then shouted “NO! I don’t like it!” at the top of her lungs. Although she probably shocked the small tour group of elderly ladies, her boundaries were clear.
In terms of larger safety concerns, it is interesting to consider how perceptions of danger in different contexts – and perceptions of safety – influence my parenting.
The recent article by Hanna Rosin,”The Overprotected Kid,” raises some important points about these perceptions:
“When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question for sharing is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?”
Like any parent, I want my children to be safe. However, I don’t want them to grow up in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. To me, rather than emphasizing stranger danger, it seems far more useful to instill confidence and teach them to recognize and avoid certain situations, rather than people in general.
I hope that I can equip my children with the skills, knowledge and strategies they will need to protect themselves and be safe but not scared. Obviously, it’s an ongoing process but one that is particularly important for our family as we move between countries and as our children grow up and encounter new situations.
How do you navigate cultural norms and perceptions related to child safety?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour, mother of twins and now living in Indonesia.
Photo Credit: Wilson X . This image holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.