Culture & Entertainment

Quebec daycares and the niqab: Lessons from my son and a hijab

By: Jennifer Gruden
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Quebec daycares and the niqab: Lessons from my son and a hijab

By: Jennifer Gruden

In Quebec, apparently, there is concern over private daycare workers wearing the niqab (full face covering). According to the National Post piece linked above they have suffered condemnation, not just over social media but officially:
"The president of the Quebec association of private daycares — yes, this fracas is over a private, unsubsidized daycare — deplored the two women's garment choice. 'They must have their faces uncovered,' said Louise Chabot, president of the Centrale syndicale du Québec, the union representing Quebec's daycare workers."
It's funny how we make assumptions about the messages our kids will get or take from various cultural expressions. When my eldest son started at his Montessori school , one of his teachers wore the hijab. (None of his daycare workers wore the niqab.) I admit that it made me slightly uncomfortable. At daycare, what do the niqab and hijab represent? Maybe not what you think Although I fully support women in their choices about what to wear, I just had a lot of my own baggage about whether it's really a choice for women. I had a mild concern that somehow covering one's head might encourage the children to think of women as lesser than equals of men in some way. My son cried. Because he didn't want to be left at daycare at all. (In fact, he was going to cry at the door for the next three months but luckily I did not know that yet.) And I admit I white-knuckled that day too, worried that he was scared and upset and well, without me, in the care of -- as so many people are ready to tell you -- "strangers." And when I got to the daycare he was all snuggled up with his hijab-wearing daycare worker...nestled in the folds of the hijab, in fact. He was petting it like a security blanket -- which it was, for him, for quite a while, because he had found a gifted teacher and a patient, kind caregiver. And we had a new person in our lives who, like the rest of the staff, was soon not a stranger at all. That same teacher introduced my child to a lot of incredible things over the next few years. What if you judged our family by our clothing choices? It got me thinking. Every day I drop my child off, every now and then half-dressed because he had a tantrum and I had a meeting, occasionally covered in jam or with a hole in his sock. Sometimes I pick him up and can't run after him well because I haven't switched out of my heels. And I trust that the staff are meeting his needs based on him as a person, not how I dress him or whether I look like a caring mom. Also, I talked to my now-8-year-old a little bit over the weekend about this story. I asked him what he thought of his former teacher's headscarf and he explained to me that she wore it because it's her choice, like wearing a school uniform to show you are ready to learn. But then he remembered how she helped him make a cutout craft shaped like his body and all his organs, and how it helped when he had appendicitis. I suspect he is growing up with fewer prejudices than I have. So to Quebec daycares seeking to ban the niqab and members of society quick to judge: There is a conversation to be had about appropriate dress, maybe, but it is never a good thing to forget that there is a person under the clothes. Good thing our kids don't have enough prejudices yet to do that. (Photo: iStock)
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Quebec daycares and the niqab: Lessons from my son and a hijab

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