Teaching Kids about Racial Diversity

Today I’m honored to share a post written by my friend, author and speaker, Nicole Doyley, about the importance of teaching our children that “different” doesn’t have to be scary. Share these pearls with your family.


Teaching Kids about Racial Diversity

This is a slight variation of a talk I gave at a moms’ group, composed primarily of white women.- Nicole Doyley – nicoledoyley.com

Our dog, Jazzy, barks at snowmen. She’s a ninety pound yellow Lab and each winter there’s a standoff between her and some snow person created by a cute little kid. Every day I take her on the same route, and if there’s a snowman on someone’s yard, she spots it before I do, tugs the leash and barks the most ferocious bark she can muster. One day when she was off-leash, she found the courage to attack the snowman, toppling all its parts, and then she proceeded to eat its carrot nose.

She also tries to intimidate garbage. She’s accustom to dumpsters on garbage day, but if someone throws out an old sofa or chair or anything else big, she sees it as a potential threat and wakes up the neighborhood with her tirade.

Our dog attacks anything different and our cat avoids anything different.

When we put a new area rug in our living room, Oreo the cat avoided the room for days. Then she finally realized she could skirt the rug and stealthily make it to the couch. After about four days, she finally deemed the rug safe and walked across it.

Animals instinctually notice when there’s something unusual. It helps them to survive. What’s different about the landscape? Am I in danger?

Humans are no different. If you walk into your house and see the kitchen window wide open, and you’re sure you closed it, you tense and wonder if you’re in danger. If you see someone in your neighborhood whom you haven’t seen before, you instantly try to size him up: is he friend or foe?

We are programmed to notice the different and to be leery of it, and we see this in its most primitive form in kids.

When my youngest son was three, we took him to a birthday party. Since we live in the suburbs, it is not uncommon for our sons to be the only black kids at gatherings and this was no exception. When it was time to play duck-duck-goose, all the kids but one sat in a circle and the kid who was “it” went around tapping heads: “Duck-duck- duck.” When she came to my son, she passed over his head, refusing to touch it, and then tapped the next kid’s head continuing around the circle.

This child was like my cat; she avoided different.

Last year on the school bus, a white child rushed up to this same son, got into his face, nose to nose, and said, “Your skin looks like POOP!”

This child was like my dog; he attacked different.

This is the tragedy of the suburbs. White children who grow up here may never have a black friend. And then they go to college and gravitate towards the familiar, and then they get a job and move back into the suburbs, where they may live the rest of their days never having known a black person on a deep level. Stereotypes and fears just get passed down from generation to generation. Black people remain other, different and negative assumptions persist.

Of course, this is not just a problem in the suburbs. You can live in a major city and never have a black person in your social circle. America is still largely socially segregated.

Let’s go back to Jazzy and Oreo.

One attacks. One avoids, but there is a third option which we can teach our children, and that is respect. We can teach them to respect other people, simply because they are human beings, and we can teach them to notice and appreciate difference, rather than being afraid of it.

So here are five steps towards teaching your children about racial diversity.

Step 1 Examine your own assumptions. Do you think black people are inherently dangerous or less intelligent? Do you think white culture is superior? Do you think black culture is all rap music, gangs and crime? How limited is your view of black people? Do you believe that “all men [and women] are created equal”? Certainly one individual may be smarter than another, but is there such a thing as racial superiority? Do you know that scientifically (and Biblically if you are a Christian), there is no such thing as race, except the human race, and genetically, we are more alike than different?

If we believe this then we know that the problems we see in any given community are caused by a complex array of issues converging to create a perfect storm. The crime rate in inner city black neighborhoods cannot be explained away by stigmatizing black people as dangerous any more than the opioid crisis in the white community can be explained away by stigmatizing white people as addicts. We can’t write off poor, white farmers as a bunch of drunks, even though these communities are rife with alcoholism. All of these problems stem from many complicated factors, including, but not limited to, poor choices.

We have to realize that our children will be shaped not only by what we say but also by the contents of our hearts. What we believe will come out and it will help form their worldview.

Step 2 We teach our children to respect all people whether they have the same skin color or not.

Step 3. We teach our children to acknowledge difference and to appreciate difference, rather than being afraid of it or attacking it.

Step 4 We read books and articles about different people, and then we read age appropriate ones to our children. We watch racially themed movies and then watch age appropriate ones with our children. We go to African American museums and Native American museums and any other museum we can get to. We go to cultural musical performances and other events, all the while teaching our kids to appreciate the beauty of the different.

Step 5. We intentionally seek out friendships with different people. We invite that family from India over for dinner. We include the black family down the block in our backyard barbecue. We join the YMCA in the area which is less homogeneous and we even drive a little farther and join the church which has a more diverse membership.

As we build these friendships, we discipline ourselves to listen more than we speak: to hear to their stories and viewpoints and opinions. We reserve judgement and we allow our assumptions to crumble. We observe different ways of raising children and dealing with age. We notice different values and we perceive different beliefs — and we allow these differences to expand our hearts and increase our understanding. We change in small and great ways as we learn from others. We become better people and we raise better children.

Here are three lists of children’s books about black people to get you started:

Books on slavery.

Books on the Civil Rights Movement.

Books about black culture and famous black people.

For more of Nicole’s wisdom and Conversations On Race, visit nicoledoyley.com

So you want to write a book?

I often meet people who tell me that they’ve always wanted to write a book, or they’ve written one that they’ve always wanted to publish.

I used to be one of them.

I was one of the people that said “If only I had some spare time,” or “Maybe when the kids are grown,” or “If only I knew where to begin.”

I used to languish about, wishing the right time would come or something extraordinary would happen to push me along. Until one day…something did.

While lying in bed watching television with my kids, my daughter said to me, “Mommy. You should write a book about kids like us and call it The Cul de Sac Kids,” to which I replied, “People would be bored reading about spoiled kids like you. If I ever wrote a book, it would be about kids whose lives are really hard.” And that little thought stayed in my head.

Then one day, after watching re-runs of The Golden Girls and Everybody Loves Raymond for the 5,000th time, it occurred to me that I had just spent hours watching television, that I could’ve spent writing that book.

And the next day, after my fourth time scrolling through Facebook, I realized that I could’ve better spent that time researching how to write a book.

Each day that followed contained a moment when I wondered “Why did I waste my time doing that when I could’ve been writing a book?” And with no good answers, at the end of a week, I finally sat down to write. And l kept writing.

And writing was hard.

It was hard to miss out on things that everyone else was talking about.

I’ve never seen the episode of This is Us where the dad died, never watched Housewives of anywhere and I only know Cookie and Lucius from commercials. I don’t even know what game they played on Game of Thrones.

When I decided it was time to be a writer, I had to make sacrifices. And I had to sit down and be still.

I had to put down the remote and pick up the laptop, cease to procrastinate and start to create. I had stories to tell and I had to be intentional about it. And if you want to write a book, you must too.

Start weening yourself from your favorite shows and minimize your scrolling time. Recognize distractions for just what they are…things designed to keep you from reaching your goals.  Be disciplined, be determined and be still.

If that sounds hard, it’s because IT IS HARD!  But if I can do it, you can too.

Stop telling yourself “It was a long day. I deserve to just sit here on the couch all night.” Take time for self-care, but make those lazy days the exception and not the rule.  Your book is not going to write itself.

Why spend time watching shows made from other people’s writing, when they could be watching shows made from yours?

Yes, there will be things that go undone some days…sometimes for many days in a row. But if everyone in your family is full, healthy and content, then those things can wait for a while.

Yes, life is busy for all of us. Today is February 25th. My third book, Forgiveness is Free, was released on January 30th, and I just took down my Christmas tree last weekend because the dog was beginning to think it was real, and peed on it.  But my book is out!!!

You have a story to bring to life. Give birth to it. Stop streaming and start dreaming.

I can’t wait to read it!

2020- The Year of Forgiveness

Happy New Year!!!

2020 is here!  A time of new hope, new habits, new goals and, best of all, a time for new healing.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready! It’s time to do more than pump it up at the gym. It’s time to start a real movement. Something groundbreaking and earth shaking.  It’s time to release something long overdue.  It’s time for a forgiveness revolution!

Let unforgiveness out of your heart. Give yourself freedom from the weight of that hate.

So many things are broken in this world, isn’t it time we start fixing them? Make the Forgiveness Revolution your New Year’s Resolution and forgive someone today, before another decade slips away.

April’s new book Forgiveness Is Free, Why Are You Saving It, is available January 30th.


When Mothers Unite

As my daughter and I were leaving the mall last weekend, we came upon a woman who was shaking, crying, and yelling out someone’s name.  Not far away was a man, yelling the same name, with a look of sheer panic on his face.

As a mother I knew that look, I recognized those cries. I knew that in a mall full of Black Friday shoppers, their child was missing.

We approached the man and discovered that he did not speak English.  I asked him if he was looking for a girl or a boy. He scrolled through his cell phone and showed me a picture of a beautiful brown-haired girl with two pigtails, about 4 or 5 years-old. Her name was Nala.

Without saying a word to one another, my daughter and I began walking in different directions, calling out the girl’s name.  We entered each store, questioned the staff and asked them to look out for her. And the further we went from the mother of that child, the louder her weeping became.  My heart was beating out of my chest, quickening with each of her cries.

After several minutes, I walked back to the mother, but the girl had not been found. The mom was hyperventilating now and other shoppers were holding her hand. So I walked off again, stopping other shoppers, asking them to help in the search.

Each mother I stopped sprang into action. Their eyes recognized that fear. Their hearts knew that horror. And our common bond said “It’s no longer time to look for a bargain, it’s time to look for that girl!”

After what seemed like an eternity, with a swarm of people looking for little Nala, she was located by a shopper who led her to her mom.

Dozens of searchers gathered around and cried tears of joy as Nala’s mother embraced her . I didn’t understand a word the Mom said, but my heart felt each and every one.  I wiped my eyes and whispered out loud “There’s just nothing like a mother’s heart.”

Minutes later, when we found each other, my daughter was annoyed with me. She’d been dialing my cell for a while, but I hadn’t noticed, as my mind was focused on the search.

I apologized and tried to explain the unexplainable.  To tell her that mothers share a bond that only we understand.  A bond that transcends language and race, religion and time. And a missing child unites us in a way few others will.

She forgave me, smiled and we headed for the exit. And as we walked together, I thought, “She’ll be a great mom one day.” Because without one word from me, her future-Mama heart had sent her searching for Nala too.

To all of the mothers out there, God bless your Mama hearts. The world is a better place when we look out for each other’s children.  And caring for others should never grow old, because everyone was once somebody’s baby.

Follow April at lovingmiddleagedlife for your chance to win a pre-release copy of her new book Forgiveness is Free…Why are You Saving It

This Holiday, Give Forgiveness

The season of giving has begun!

It’s the time of year that brings out the best in us and prompts us to become the bearers of great hugs, great food and great presents.

And as you continue your giving, I challenge you to add a unique gift to your list….one that will bless both you and the receiver, far past the holiday season.  I challenge you to add the gift of “forgiveness.”

It wasn’t for sale on Black Friday because forgiveness is free. It can never be discounted or oversold.  It is one of life’s few treasures that are both free and priceless, at the same time.

And it’s one of the best kept gift secrets ever. You won’t find it on your loved ones’ shopping list because it’s a quiet longing, seldom expressed out loud. But the gift of forgiveness speaks volumes to the heart of the receiver.

And no shopping or shipping is required!

Forgiveness sits on the shelves of our hearts, always in stock, ready and waiting to be given to those we’ve withheld it from. It needs no gift wrap, no card and no special occasion. It just needs its holder to choose freedom from bitterness, open their heart and release it. And when they do, they’ll find that they benefited, as much as their beneficiary, because their heart will be lighter and their life will be brighter.

So, why not add forgiveness to your holiday list?

Spread some around to your family, your co-workers and the neighbor who put up their Christmas lights in August.

Give it to someone, drop the mic and walk away like you just started world peace. Because, in a great way, you just did.

April’s new book Forgiveness is Free. Why Are You Saving It? will be released in January 2020. Follow her blog for upcoming giveaways!

Bulletproof Backpacks

So, it’s back to school time.

Time for laptops and lunch money, haircuts and hairdos, binders and books, bedtimes and buses…but is it time for a bulletproof backpack?

Nearly every day, there are news stories of people arrested with arsenals of weapons, many of whom are youth with plans to harm students at their school or university.  It’s terrifying, it’s sad, but it’s a fact.

So as the parent of students in both high school and college, what’s a mom to do?

I see bulletproof backpacks on sale and I wonder if I should buy two. I wonder if they actually work. I wonder what the odds are that if, God forbid, a mass murderer were in their midst, they would actually be shot in the back at the precise time they were wearing their backpack. And I know that during a typical high school day, that’s hardly ever.

But I love my babies!

And I wonder if having a chance to stop a bullet is better than no chance at all.  And I think maybe, if they needed it, they could just whip it off their back and put it in front of whatever body part they needed to protect.

And I think of how my heart aches for every parent who has lost a child. How I can’t imagine the grief that comes from suffering the greatest pain a human will ever endure. And as I pray for their comfort and strength, the backpack idea seems like a good one.

So I search online for these bulletproof backpacks and I see there’s a huge price range.  But what’s too much to protect your kids? $49.99 or $180? Really, no cost is too great.  So my budget will just have to absorb it.

Ironically, the first ad to come up under backpacks is from Under Armour, a trusted name brand that many youth like. A further look shows that the backpack is not being advertised as bulletproof; it’s just an ad for a nice backpack on sale.

But the name Under Armour starts swirling in my head, over and over again. It disrupts my train of thought and I rise from my laptop, literally shaking my head, because I just can’t get the words to disappear. “Under Armour” is flashing across my field of vision like NASDAQ updates. And it just keeps going and going.

And suddenly it hits me that, bulletproof backpack or not, my children are always Under Armour.   Because not a day passes that my husband and I don’t pray for the safety of our children.  Not a single day.

Each morning we pray that they are equipped with the whole armour of God and that no weapon formed against them shall prosper. And we pray for their friends.  And we believe that our prayers have power.

We trust that God, who is with them always, will watch over them in ways we cannot. And we believe that no bullet, knife of bomb can pierce God’s shield, unless it is His will.

We can’t control the actions of others and we don’t know which youth or adults are mentally unstable, bullied, angry or just plain hateful. And the world is comprised of them all.

So, instead of a backpack, we’re choosing to trust in the One who does, to keep our children always under armour. And we pray that, one day, there won’t be a need for any child to wear Kevlar to school.

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

Are you Using your Gifts?

I went to a jazz festival this week and watched in awe, the faces of the musicians as they played. They absolutely loved what they were doing. In fact, one of the group’s leaders said “It’s really unfair for us to call this work. We have so much fun doing it and love it so much, that it’s not right that we get paid to do it.”

Wouldn’t you love to feel that way?  The good news is, you can!

You are tremendously gifted.  Did you know that?

Were you aware that there is something that only you know how to do? And there’s something that you do better than anyone else.

Yes. I’m talking to you.

Your mind is a womb of unborn ideas that could change one life or many. You have solutions that no one has thought of or dared to invent.  There are things that this world needs that only you can provide.

So what are you waiting for?

Do you think your gift is useless, because it’s not tied to a monetary value?

Do you have thoughts like: “I know I’m a good singer, but there are lots of wonderful singers in the world,” or, “I know that I’m a great hairdresser, but beauty salons are a dime a dozen,” or, “I know my baked goods are delicious, but who’d want to pay money for them?”

To those doubts I say:  How will you know if you never try it?

How will the world know how great your voice is if you never sing? How will we know how well you can do hair, if we never see your work? How will we find out your molasses cookies are the best thing ever baked if we never get to taste one?

You don’t have to start out by owning a business. You can start out by giving away freebies. People love free stuff!  It gets your name out there and establishes you as a service to others.  And every great venture requires some investment.

Your great singing voice would be a hit at nursing homes, your hairdressing skills could be showcased during a back to school hair competition, and cookies melt hearts everywhere.

And often life’s greatest pleasures come not in profiting from your gift, but in using your gift to profit others.

You possess abilities that are uniquely yours and talents no one else has.  You may not even know your gift is a gift. But guess what?

Your attention to detail is needed on a Hollywood set. Your color coordination skills are needed on a runway in Paris and your chicken is better than a national favorite that’s closed on Sundays. (Who I will continue to visit until your chicken is available).

If you find yourself thinking “I could’ve designed a prettier dress than that,” or “I could’ve created a better invention than that,” or “I could’ve finished that obstacle course before he did,” then go out and take your place on that podium!

You don’t have to make it your full-time vocation, but get in what you can fit in.  Use your gift for good and you will feel great about it. And, if it makes you money, all the better.

Starving artists may have empty pockets, but they are full of passion. Find yours, breathe life into it and watch your spirit soar.