School, in some cases, can be my biggest enemy in parenthood. I try very hard to educate my daughter on the things that I feel are important for her to know. But I often don’t feel the need to tell her everything.
It’s hard to break down controversial matters in this world, such as the presidency, so that my daughter can understand. I don’t want her walking away from our conversations with a negative feeling or even a feeling of fear.
So how does one articulate these topics in an eloquent, yet understandable way? I don’t think there is a right answer. You simply hit the ball and hopefully you get a home run. But whether or not we choose to talk about it doesn’t matter. Kids talk about this kind of stuff at school all the time.
My daughter came home this week and was having an issue with a classmate that she observed was being mean to another student. Nothing new, very typical in elementary!
[Background on my daughter: She wants to be a lawyer. She believes in justice and fairness. She is absolutely an old soul.]
So after observing this little girl, she came home and told me “Mom, I don’t think I want to be friends with Jane.”
I immediately sighed on the inside. When I asked her why she said “Well she isn’t nice to her friends and she wasn’t nice to me today.” So what do you think I said?
“Well you should forgive Jane because everyone makes mistakes.” She looked up at me and said, “Well, I am not ready to forgive her.”
Oh dear!!!! Her answer literally stunned me.
My daughter is a strong believer in her values system (yes, even at 11 years old).
She doesn’t want to jeopardize her values by being friends with someone whose actions doesn’t line up with it. But how often do we tell our kids “It’s OK, just forgive them.” How can I truly encourage her to stand up for what she believes in if I always encourage her to forgive and be friends with the people whose behaviors blatantly contradicts her values??
Of course I want her to be a forgiving person, but when it comes to being someone’s friend, there’s a fine line that’s drawn after someone has negatively crossed her values system. I also want her to understand what kindness is, even when we aren’t shown kindness.
I inquired, “What did Jane do to you specifically that has you feeling this way?”
“Well, she said that she wasn’t really my friend and was only trying to be nice to me. Mom I think its because I am brown” she said.
I asked her if Jane had ever said anything regarding race to her before and she said no, but she just feels that way. I immediately shut that thought down by reassuring her that this isn’t the case.
I don’t know if I was right and I also don’t know why she would feel that way. My daughter is very observant though, and by far a very smart girl. I’m not just talking book smart; she is also very street smart. She studies behaviors and listens to how a person talks. She is also VERY aware of the demographics at her school. So there is a possibility that her assessment was indeed true.
“Maybe its because of all this fighting going on in the world with Mr. Trump being in charge. Maybe everyone thinks that’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Immediately I thought “How is she even aware of what’s going on with the presidency? She doesn’t even watch TV during the week or even the news channel.”
But months ago, during the election, she mentioned to me that the topic came up at school and she overheard other people talking about it. Sadly, I didn’t inquire like I should’ve back then and now she knows things that I would’ve otherwise not wanted her to know. Again, this is hard to explain to kids.
Although I don’t think this is a race issue, I do believe it’s a fight against her values system. And this was the perfect time to explain to her what this new presidency means and how we can stay hopeful through it.
Here’s what I said: “There are things you see via the media, that places a person in a particular light. We, on the opposite side of the TV, don’t know whether or not it is true. We simply rely on what the news reports and try to find our own balance with that information. So we don’t know! We don’t know who Mr. Trump really is. We know who he portrays himself to be in the media, but you and mommy don’t know who he really is. And when we don’t know who someone is, we owe it to ourselves to give him or her a chance and get to know who they really are. Now, we obviously can’t invite him over for dinner, but we can do our best to educate ourselves to learn about what he is doing about the things that are important not only to our family but also to this country. Let’s not categorize him just yet. Everybody deserves a first and even a second chance.”
It took a lot out of me to say this and in the process I learned something. You see, I am a news junkie and I watch it all day while at work. And over the past couple months, I have seen a tumultuous exchange of division in our country. But I couldn’t spew out my views to my daughter because I honestly don’t know what the “truth” is.
I felt that since she immediately mentioned the presidency when she was talking about her issue at school, I needed her to understand through my response that we need to give people a second chance.
Do I agree with what little Jane said? Of course not!!! Is there a possibility that little Jane really meant what she said? Sure!
But here’s the kicker, no matter how a person may act towards you, you still have the power to choose how you react. Do I agree on every topic with Mr. Trump? No! Do I like the comments I’ve seen him make on Twitter? Not really!
But let love be the winner not hate!!!!
By the end of the night, I managed to convince her that perhaps little Jane deserves a second chance. She agreed and we hugged it out.
Parenting is an everyday teaching tool. And the truth is, you’re not always ready for the tests that comes your way. But dig deep, and stay true to who you are and impart into your kids the change you want to see in this world.
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