You can accuse me of sheltering my children too much, and that would be fair, but last week I finally opened up to my children the discussion had on a national scale. It wasn’t easy, and it started haltingly.
Our country is deeply troubled. Our people are hurting and they are responding to hate with hate. We do not know how to control our anger. We demand respect without giving it. Justice is not being applied equally. We demand retribution, making others hurt in a fruitless attempt to heal our own pain. We are losing. And last night your friends’ dad was called in from watching a ball game with his kids to don his SWAT gear and enter what he described as a war zone. He survived but some of his fellow officers did not.
There’s so much to say on the subject and it’s messy. Obviously I don’t want to scare my children, nor do I want to allow them to foster the same stereotypes and prejudices that are dividing our country. I absolutely did not want them to see the situation as cut and dry because we’re talking about people and people are not two-dimensional. People are complicated.
In the end we had a good talk. As usual I had underestimated my children for their maturity and capacity for compassion. (Forgive me, but the way brothers interact on a day to day basis can obscure just how kind they really are.)
A few things were quickly apparent to me, the most important was that I can’t allow the kids to immediately disparage and blame groups or ideologies. People are complicated. We want to connect dots and we like easy answers, but humanity is not a straight line between two dots. Lumping people together is the fast track to what we are trying to avoid.
The news lately makes me feel lost. I’m floating in a space disconnected from everything and everyone else. I can see the pain, I can feel the pain, I can mourn the losses and rail at the injustices, but I am also lost. We are all lost. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. We need to spread love, we need to spread kindness. We need to make connections with people so that we can better understand each other. We need to proactively spread good in the world.
I don’t have all the answers, none of us does. I think it’s helpful to share that with our kids as well, the vulnerability we share with them bonds us together, and the openendedness of a question without answers includes them in the problem solving. It’s complicated, and the kids enjoy an opportunity to be the hero.