Monday, June 13, 2016

Tough Days, Tolerant Kids

Liam's hand in my hand {and yes he is a giant}
It is with a heavy heart that I sit here, tears blurring my vision, to write. 
My boys are running through the backyard wearing capes—but even they cannot save the day this time.

It is truly an art form to parent under the weight of these last couple weeks. It takes a delicate hand to strike the balance of smiling through tears because they are too young to understand and to act normal when your heart is breaking because that last thing you want to do is make them afraid and angry—that’s part of the reason we find ourselves here, someone was afraid and angry. 

I have always felt that we owe it to our children to start the difficult conversations when they are very little. When Liam was only 3 we started to use the words “no means no.” We talked about it in terms of playtime to help him develop an understanding that his version of a fun game might not be his friend’s, emphasizing that to be a good buddy you need to end what you’re doing when the other person has stopped having fun. I remember people thinking it odd that we used that particular language but I couldn’t and still can’t understand why that would ever be wrong—to utilize common messages of safety at a young age. And not only to be sensitive to someone else saying no, but to have the courage and conviction to say no themselves—to understand that their body is their own and no one has the right to touch them without their consent. I know, I know it’s sounds heavy… but our thought is if we start the conversation now, the dialog just continues as they get older, hopefully encouraging openness and eliminating any awkwardness later.

And last night I started to ask them what they think about people who look differently or act differently than they do. I’ll admit Liam’s first response was to be nervous {but that is his personality} but we talked it through and realized that everyone is same on the inside and how important it is to recognize that. It seemed to make sense to them and reminded Liam of the Bernstein Bears’ book about strangers—in the book they talk about how in the barrel of apples there may be only one or two bad ones, but you can’t always tell which ones are bad just by looking at them. Mama Bear has a bumpy, gnarly apple but when she cuts into it, it’s beautiful on the inside. She also has a perfectly round, shiny one, but when she opens it, you see it’s full of worms. {A big thank you to Stan and Jan Bernstein for being able to perfectly visualize a really tough topic that truly stands the test of time!}

I was happy that he made that jump on his own, even happier that my kids didn’t see anything wrong with other people who may be different from them. 

I stand alongside those calling for a change, but I also think that tolerance {and tough conversations} begin at home. If we can model for our children through our words, and more importantly our actions, that every person is worthy, then we might actually have a shot at some real change.

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