Inspired by Kelli's Diwali story, I recalled one of our family's very own little cultural misfires.
I was interviewing for a job in Vermont, and it was looking like it had some pretty good potential. As such, Terrance and I made a second trip to the area with the intent of interviewing a number of child care centers for Emily.
Yes. A Whole day and Trip devoted to interviewing child care centers. I don't think I have to tell most of YOU that child care quality is one of our family's top priorities....and that I am deeply aware of the time and energy it can take to find the right place for family and child. In fact, I had made it clear to the potential employer that finding child care was a major contingency of my accepting the position.
We were on our 3rd or 4th interview of the day - with Emily in tow. As she raced through the space exploring and looking and touching ( and most likely licking things too), I asked my list of questions.
As a dual race family, living in the (statistically) whitest parts of New England, sensitivity to...well ANYTHING that wasn't the dominant white culture was important to us. It was one of the concerns which eventually helped move us to Montreal, this desire for our daughter to see other people who looked like Her.
My question was pretty straightforward: "Can you talk a bit about your programs policy regarding diversity and anti bias curriculum?"
(Okay I own that maybe this was a scary question...but at the same time, I was talking to Another ECE professional in what, I was told, was the BEST child care in the area.)
The director paused. She looked at Terrance and I.
"We don't celebrate Kwanzaa, but we would be happy to, if you wanted..."
Her words tumbled out so quickly that it took a moment for them to sink into our brains. Terrance looked at me. I looked back at him.
"We don't celebrate Kwanzaa. We celebrate Christmas", I said.
Long Awkward Silence.
Needless to say, I didn't take the job and she never attended that child care.
*There is nothing wrong in asking questions and being genuinely curious about cultures other than the one in which you grew up. It is one of the ways that my marriage with Terrance has been able to be successful. However, it is quite another to assume things about families or children based on external characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation of the parents, age or profession.
In hindsight, the "correct" answer may have been "You know, we haven't really thought about it but we are willing to work with you to learn more." It isn't about being ALL the way there, but about being willing to take the journey.