One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “Little pitchers have big ears.” It meant that my sister and I heard more than she thought we might have, so she encouraged my father to be circumspect about what he said within our earshot. I just discovered, “One of the first written records we have of it is found in the fifth chapter of part two of John Heywood's Proverbes(1546 C.E.): "Auoyd your children: smal pitchers haue wyde eares." We also see it used in Shakespeare's Richard III about half a century later.”
These days, kids are much more sophisticated and savvy than those of us who were raised in the 60’s and 70’s and as a result, adults need to be even more keenly aware of what comes out of their mouths. Parenting is far more challenging in a time when we never know what news we will be waking up to and how we will we called on to explain it to the children who count on us for aquiring their values.
A recent example is the word the man in the Oval Office was quoted as using to describe what he could consider Third World countries. Likely, unless children are really sheltered, they have heard it before. I have no issue with cursing and have been known to toss around expletives when exasperated or angry. I just don’t use them to describe other people’s homes and by extension, those who inhabit those lands. It made my skin crawl to hear that and can only imagine how it landed with people to whom he was referring; especially the little ones.
We might be tempted to shelter them, but we do them a disservice by doing so. They hear the news, they observe adults in discussion and perhaps their peers raise the topic. So many teachable moments.
There are many things in the news that children ought not be exposed to: war, gun violence, drug abuse....but it is our current reality. When I was young, I saw news about the Viet Nam War and the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. My parents needed to explain those events to us.
We owe the next generation answers.
When he uses vile and hateful words to describe any human beings, children need an explanation.
When they want to know why someone who is supposed to be a respected leader gets away with being a bully, children need an explanation.
When he spoke of building a wall to keep people out who he deemed less than, children need an explanation.
When he talked of evicting people who came to this country for safety and freedom, tearing families apart, children need an explanation.
When he spoke about assaulting women, and it was dismissed as ‘locker room talk,’ children need an explanation.
When he impulsively shoots off tweets expressing whatever crosses his mind at the moment, as we teach youngsters to think before they speak, children need an explanation.
When he made excuses for the 'fine people' who wore white hoods and carried tiki torches, children need an explanation.
When he lies, even in the face of direct proof, as we want them to be honest and in integrity, children need an explanation.
When he made fun of someone with a disability and we want to model inclusivity and dignity, children need an explanation.
When he glorifies himself at every turn, as we encourage at least a bit of humility, children need an explanation.
When he is in a pissing contest with another unstable world leader, children need an explanation.
I still ponder how ANY parent who wants a healthy future and sustainable planet for their children and grandchildren could still support him.
The children are watching and listening, waiting for us to make sense of this for them. First we need to make sense of it for ourselves.