My youngest daughter recently turned 6, and I got to go to spend the afternoon with her in her class. I arrived to her room before the class got back from music and was preparing their strawberry shortcakes when the students began arriving. Comments soon began to fly: "She looks like a boy." "Your mommy is bald headed." "Where did her hair go?" I could tell my daughter was beginning to get defensive. "My mommy's cute. I think she's beautiful."
The teacher wasn't back, so I asked the student teacher if I could talk to the class. I had all the kids with blue eyes raise their hands, then those with brown eyes, etc. I had those with short hair raise their hands, and then those with long hair. I explained that we all look different, but could still be friends. Then I said, "If we said something like, 'your mommy looks like a boy' you would feel really sad wouldn't you? Do you think (my daughter) feels sad when you say things like that about her mommy?" It turned out to be a teachable moment, and we all became good friends as I fed them shortcakes and pushed them on the swings. I was grateful for the opportunity that I could help broaden their horizons about what is and isn't acceptable. We don't have to be ashamed by rudeness or ignorance. We just need be ready to teach.