Kids like things and people like themselves. Caitlyn has a marked preference for me based mostly, I think, on the fact that we are both female. At 5 1/2, she seems to view boys her age as bizarre creatures with strange tastes while girls are vastly superior. Perhaps it’s that the boys all want to play Clone Wars and the girls will pretend they are flying horses with starry coats and silver manes. Perhaps it’s only human nature, given how most people I know, myself included, seem to prefer spending time with people who have similar tastes and opinions.
I like to think that Caitlyn understands that people who are different from her are OK people. We live in a very diverse community, and she attends a school with a similarly diverse student body, with the accompanying diversity in complexion and dress. We’ve discussed skin color (“Because God loves wondrous varieties.“) and cultural standards of dress early on because these differences are visible for us every day.
What’s less visible are the economic differences. Generally speaking, its difficult, even for adults, to look at a person and really know anything accurate about his or her financial security. Nicely dressed people could be hungry. Slovenly dressed people could have a messy job or a unique sense of fashion. You don’t know. Caitlyn’s first assumption is usually that other people have what she has, at least as a baseline. Some people have more (fancy clothes, dress-up costumes and sisters being her usual sources of jealousy) but why would anyone have less than she does?
We’ve talked about hungry people, she’s participated in food drives, and she’s helped me drop food off at the local food bank. So, at least she has some head knowledge. Someday, I hope that knowledge will travel from head to heart, though I don’t know how to teach compassion or empathy or gratitude or generosity. (Sure, there’s modeling the desired behavior, but sometimes I worry about the effectiveness of that method; I model tidiness on a regular basis and that hasn’t rubbed off yet.) For now, Caitlyn loves to gather up donations, as long as they don’t include the last box of Bunny Grahams or anything that lives in her room.