Today I walked my five-year-old daughter to her kinder class, with her little brother on my hip. My son who is two and a half has bright red hair and beautiful sky-blue eyes (not that you can miss those, as he is all over my Instagram feed).
I usually don’t take Archer into school with us as he is dropped off at daycare right before I walk Ruby to school because let’s be honest, two-year-old boys are quite a handful and I never enjoy feeling frazzled trying to chase him in between all the ‘big kids’. But today I had no choice as he has been having fevers of over 39 degrees so he was more than unwell enough to be kept home.
When I am on semester break obviously he doesn’t attend daycare so I sometimes get the chance to take him with us to school drop-offs and pick-ups, but it is pretty rare. When I do there is always one child, who is actually a very nice little boy, in Ruby’s class who yells “Your brother is a REDHEAD!” at the top of his lungs whenever he sees Archer. This type of thing does not bother me too much as I’ve dealt with it before. Strangers come up to me in the shop and have done ever since Archer was just a week old. They awe at him and say something along the lines of ‘Doesn’t he have such beautiful hair!’. Again, this stuff does not bother me because yes he is a redhead and yes his hair is beautiful (but maybe I am a little biased being his mother).
But today was a little different. As I was helping Ruby put her bag in her little locker, the little familiar boy comes running “Ruby, your brother is a redhead!”. I just smile at him because its nothing different. However, then comes another little boy with beautiful blonde hair and says, “I hate redheads”. I felt my cheeks blush and without even thinking I respond with “That is not very nice” and walk off. I thought to myself, this kid is five and a half, at the most! How does he even know what he hates and what he likes (heck I don’t know what I like half the time).
But in all seriousness, I thought where has this come from? What adult or other influence has put this thought in this little boy’s mind?! Where has he heard this from? Because I doubt he made this assumption for himself. Kids aren’t born with hate, yes, they may notice differences in skin colour or hair colour but born hating another person because they are different? I doubt it. Actually, I know it. The little psychology I did at university last year and throughout college I read research papers on biases and how peoples brains work and no, kids are not born naturally hateful.
So, who is to blame? Probably adults! But it would be unlikely for me to be able to pinpoint the exact one. So, what do I do when its Archer’s turn to attend school? Do I raise him with a ‘tough skin’? Do I prepare him for bullying because he has red hair? No, I should not have to do that. Parents, teachers, siblings and any person in a young child’s life should be teaching them to LOVE not to hate people just because they are different. We should all raise our children to be accepting. We live in Australia! A country that is supposed to stand for diversity, for acceptance and for ‘mate-ship’. Not one where we tear people down or teach our kids hate or bullying.
But I will warn my son about bullies, about people who might “hate” his red hair.
BUT I will tell him this, his hair is so beautiful to me, his Dad, his sister and all of his family. He is one of the most loving little humans that I have ever met and I will do my best as his mum to protect him from people who want to exclude or hurt him.
And before you start thinking ‘Is she shaming a five-year-old kid, who knows no better?’. The answer is no I am not. I am shaming the adult or older person who taught him that.
To anyone who knows me personally knows that this is not the first time my son has been bullied for his hair. Last time it was supposedly a ‘family friend’ (an adult) who sent him into an Instagram page for ‘redheads with no souls’. He was not even a year old!
I just want other parents to be aware of how we raise our children, how we speak in front of them and how they are influenced by everything around them. So, today teach your children to be loving and accepting to everyone around them, no matter what colour hair they might have.