What's it like for a dad to bring up children in world filled with prejudice? Ryan Costello, a daddy blogger from Oxfordshire, shares his thoughts on the matter.
–This is article #6 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Discrimination infuriates me! Stereotypes, narrow minded people and preachers of all that is bad in this world infuriate me. Just because we have taken steps forward in the eyes of the media; racism is alive and well... as is homophobia, prejudice, harassment and ridiculing people based on something 'they' don't believe to be normal. What is normal? It's the fact that we're all different that makes our diverse planet such an enjoyable place (for the most part) to travel, see and be a part of.
I'm a Dad now to 2 young and beautiful children and as I've said many times before, becoming a parent changes your outlook on life. I see them discovering things for the very first time every day and it's a beautiful thing. But I also see the bad side of life on Earth and I can't help but want to wrap my children up and protect them from it. Every day I see, read or experience some form of discrimination. Before becoming a Dad, I wouldn't have taken as much notice as I do today but it infuriates me.
My son has a large 'port wine stain' whch he was born with on his leg and face. It's a birth mark and hampers him in no way at all... it makes him who he is and I barely even acknowledge it when I look at him. That being said, I worry every day that other, more hateful, less educated people will feel the need to point it out and make out that it is something negative in the future. Because there are more people in the world without birth marks on their face than there are that do have them, does that make it abnormal? Does that make him different in a way worse than anyone else is different from the next person? The fact that he could be victim to hate over something he had no choice over and that is completely innocent upsets me greatly.
Discrimination in Disneyworld
My daughter suffered an injury during childbirth. She had her scalp badly damaged and the doctors couldn't tell us whether or not she would ever have hair grow on a large proportion of her head. In actual fact, the injury was merely cosmetic and now her hair is growing fine. But the point is that when we learned that, we instantly feared for her future. We thought that a girl who couldn't grow hair would be hampered in life, and be subject to prejudice. The fact that we even thought that at all is wrong!
I visited Disneyworld as a child for the first time, almost 20 years ago now and an incident from my time there has stuck with me ever since. Disneyworld bills itself as being the happiest place on earth and for the most part, I'd agree. I'm a huge fan. But even the happiest place on earth isn't without its share of hateful people.
It was pushing 100 degrees that day and there was no escaping the humid, intense heat. Two complete strangers were walking alongside us right in front of Cinderella's castle talking about being desperate for a frozen treat to cool off with. They sounded genuinely relieved to spy an ice cream stand up ahead. Then the male half of the couple realised that the employee working that ice cream stand was black. They decided that they would rather stay hot and be without ice cream than have "a n***** handle their food".
It's tough being gay
That incident has stuck with me all this time. My son's Godmother and one of our very best friends is Nigerian and black. It angers me that there are people in the world so uneducated that they believe an ice cream sold to them by a black hands as opposed to a white one will be any different. It angers me that someone I care about may have, does or will experience that kind of hatred first hand.
My brother is gay. He is openly, happily gay and why wouldn't he be? It makes him no different from the next person. In fact, if anything it makes him better. The fact that he is different, embraces it and lives bravely amongst a prejudice population makes him a stronger individual than most. But he didn't come out and be openly gay for quite some time, and I know that he's not the only one that felt fearful of being different than the so called norm when it comes to sexual orientation.
How many people still live a lie or in fear? The thought of a child of mine living in that kind of fear gives me anxiety. I can't sit still thinking about it, it bothers me that much. I declare now that I will make sure that both of my children know every single day that I will always love them no matter what. Unconditionally.
I want my kids to be different
One of the hardest parts about being a parent is already being old enough to know that the world isn't fair. I hope to be able to teach my children that in the most sensitive way possible. There is no place for hate. I'm afraid that I don't think a day will ever come when people won't be judged on their appearance, sexual orientation, race or gender. But what I can do as a parent is ensure that my children are educated well enough to not add themselves to the list of people that prey on people for being different.
I actually WANT my children to be different in their own way and never fear the opinion of someone else. The children of this world deserve to grow up knowing that they deserve to be loved, no matter what and it shouldn't be dependent on anything but them being themselves. Whether your skin is black, white, yellow or has a birthmark plastered across is... your skin is as beautiful as anybody else's.
Children are the most innocent beings. No one is born racist or with the ability to make an assumption based on someone's appearance. Becoming a parent is the greatest privilege known to mankind and we must be grateful for the opportunity to raise the next generation. We as parents have a responsibility to raise our children, leading by example. Only we can shape the future and help put a stop to the hate that we are surrounded by.
---Picture credit: Flickr/DryHundredFear
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men's Day 2014 by clicking on this link---#100Voices4Men---and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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