I met this gorgeous little girl when I was on an outreach in the Solomon Islands several years ago. It was my first time in the nation and I had a lot to learn about the people and the culture.
Although the expression I captured makes her look like a sad little girl, she wasn’t. She was simply lovely and it didn’t take much for my heart to melt as she charmed me.
I was so captured by her beauty – those deep brown eyes and her perfect little features.
But I couldn’t believe she had blonde hair. I thought to myself, “What kind of a parent living in an incredibly poor village spends money on bleaching the hair of such a young child?” It made me angry to think that these little ones had such limited access to health care and education and basic necessities and yet someone deemed it appropriate to spend money on bleaching her beautiful little fro.
Besides, didn’t they know she was already perfect? Perfect “as-is”?
What I didn’t know then is that her hair was naturally blonde and that many children and adults from her people group are born with dark skin and blonde hair. It really is stunning and I had never seen anything like it before.
When I found out the truth I was so convicted of being judgmental. Here I was, a guest in this nation, jumping to conclusions about someone else’s parenting based solely on the appearance of their child.
Shame on me.
Admittedly it’s hard not to do this when I come from a culture that has “toddlers in tiaras” and other questionable practices like that. I look at preschool-aged girls with full make-up and clothing that is sexy-beyond-their-years and I automatically form opinions about what their mothers are like. (Not saying that it’s right of me to do so… just that it’s extremely hard not to in these types of scenarios.)
In the case of this sort of childhood pageantry, my view of the parents is almost automatically formed by looking at the child.
But it just doesn’t translate cross-culturally. This beautiful little blonde girl taught me a lesson: don’t assume, don’t judge, don’t jump to conclusions.
It’s the age old antic – don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
I’m thankful for this little teacher and the lesson she taught me by accident. I try to remember her when I see children from other cultures (even in my own home town) that dress or act in ways I don’t understand.
Children need our respect, our love, our kindness, and our acceptance no matter how similar or different they are to our own. And yes, even toddlers in tiaras. They are children too – precious and infinitely valuable, regardless of the decisions their parents make for them. They deserve nothing less.
And as much as I love children, I’m determined to be less judgmental toward their parents too. I want to discover their stories, what motivates them, why they make the decisions they do. Parents – all parents – need the support of other parents.
Children, parents, all people… Every man, woman, and child deserves our best effort at suspending judgement and valuing them for who they are.
Dear friends, have you caught yourself making judgements about other parents by something that you see in their child but haven’t yet taken the time to try and understand? (Or can you think of a situation where you deliberately made a choice to NOT judge a book by it’s cover?) What have the children in your life taught you lately?
p.s. This post is part of a new series – All the Children of the World: Little Teachers – where I feature a photo of a precious little one that I’ve met during my volunteer work in developing nations, as well as what I learned about life and parenting through meeting them.