Lesson from the playground: We’re all different – and very much the same

Last week, I took my sons to a local park we hadn’t been to in a few years. I took them there to play and have fun, as to be expected. But, our return to the park provided us with an unexpected opportunity to discuss the differences and similarities among us, too.

While my sons climbed the playground equipment, I stood back and admired the diversity among the people at the park. It was a virtual melting pot right in Chicago.

Kids Playing at Urban PlaygroundLiving in an urban city, we’re used to always being among, and interacting with, people who look different than us. But, here, at this one particular park in Chicago, people dressed differently, with many parents and children wearing traditional clothing tied to their cultures and religions.

As an adult, I took it for granted and actively appreciated the diversity among the collective families in the park. And, I admired how quickly the children invited other children to play with them. But, of course, kids are still kids.

My younger son happily played with a boy dressed in a traditional Indian kurta – very similar to one my husband had received as a gift from a colleague a few years ago. After laughing and climbing together, my son innocently asked the other boy why he was wearing his pajamas at the park.

He saw the difference in their dress and was curious to know more.

The other child responded with a smile and a laugh, and just proceeded to climb higher.photo-82

Having overheard the exchange, I quickly spoke to my son, reminding him that the boy is wearing the traditional dress of his culture, and it is something we can notice and admire. But, his clothes aren’t any different than the ones my son wore that day.

They’re just clothing worn by a child playing at the park. Even if they were indeed his pajamas, that would be okay, too. We’re all individuals who make our own decisions – including what to wear at the park.

We concluded our mini playground pow-wow with one clear message – we’re all different and that’s fantastic.

But, as my older son helped remind me later, we’re all the same, too.

Kids view their peers as just kids – and it’s a beautiful thing

Over dinner that evening, we revisited my private conversation with my younger son together as a family.

We talked about how people can be different from one another – including how we dress.

I asked my sons if any of their classmates at their school look different. After much deliberation, my older son said, “No, we’re pretty much all the same.”

He’s right.

My sons are fortunate to attend a school with a diverse group of students. But, I was so pleased that to him they’re all “pretty much the same.”

He acknowledged that some had different skin colors, some had disabilities that made them need to use the elevator, and some even wore glasses like he does. But, he shrugged it all off since they’re all children, all students, and all friends.

No matter how we look, we’re still “pretty much the same”

Kids running in an urban playgroundOur conversation and the lesson for the day had gone full circle.

We are all individuals and our differences should be embraced. And, yes, it’s okay to ask our friends about their differences, too. But, in the end, we’re all the same.

We all have thoughts, feelings and emotions. We all want to connect with others – even on the playground. And, we all can stand to learn something new every day.

You better believe that we’ll be back at that one Chicago playground again soon.

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