I remember when I was barely old enough to read digging through a cabinet in my mom’s house and unearthing some newspaper articles about my dad. Turns out, he was fired from his job in the DC Juvenile Courts because he was kind of a hot head who, it turns out, was pretty fed up with sending young black kids to jail and not doing anything to help them or their families even with promised “rehabilitation”. He decided to share that opinion with anyone who would listen and the superiors didn’t like that very much. I actually think he was allowed to resign instead of getting fired, but it was clear he was being punished for trying to do the right thing. At least that’s how my mom explained it, when I was very young. This conversation spiraled into stories of him working downtown during the race riots in DC and my mom fearing for his life while she sat just a few miles away with a house full of kids. Did I mention these conversations happened when I was very young?
Last night, we sat with my kids around the dinner table talking about their religious education classes. Somehow, that moved into talking about Israel, which of course moved into talking about the conflict there and the powerful spin of media and the rather disgusting tradition of Anti-Semitism this world has and what we can do about it. We also talked about depression in light of the father of their favorite video game heroine dying. Then, this morning, our breakfast conversation included addiction and the Michael Brown madness in Missouri.
My children aren’t out of elementary school yet and in the course of 14 hours we tackled the world’s most heavy topics.
I didn’t sleep much last night and have been uneasy this morning, because of worry that I had made a terrible mistake sharing all this with my sweet, innocent babes.
Then I remembered my father’s story and how the knowledge that I came from that kind of man has fueled me in many different arenas in my life. It was never too early to learn that my dad believed every kid deserved equal treatment because we were all the same and he wanted only for them what he would want for his own kid if we ever got in trouble.
It was never too early for me to learn the power of standing up for the truth. It was never too early for my mom to share what she thought of the whole situation then, or about other world issues as they came up. She could have avoided tough topics, like addiction and Sexual Abuse Scandal(s) of our Church, but she never did. I valued her opinion on most everything and she always shared it, no matter my age.
Sure, I could shelter my kids from the horrors of the world. I often still do. But sometimes, it feels necessary to work it all out over the dinner table, and I can’t lose sleep over that. I refuse to feel guilty for sharing with them examples that may teach them how to live a better life. I refuse to feel bad about teaching them ideals to which I sure would love if they lived up. If they have questions, I will answer them, no matter how uncomfortable it may be or how young they are.
My kids are young, but they are already kind and open-hearted and have all the makings of tiny advocates. Why would I ever get in the way of raising people who someday might change the world?
I didn’t sleep very well last night, but my children did; perhaps dreaming about a better way to do things when they’re in charge.
I hope so.
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