About a week ago, I playfully put a pink toy hardhat on my 7 year old Frank. He swiped it away and said something about being embarrassed to wear pink. I spent the next two hours having on and off again conversations with him about colors. I asked him which he thought were "boy" and which were "girl" colors. I looked up a list of ways to describe colors and colorful things online. I introduced him to words like vibrant, dusty, and chintzy. I poked holes in his beliefs about certain colors belonging to a specific gender and showed online images of men wearing pink. Finally, he rolled his eyes and begged for the conversation to be over, but I knew that some of it had sunk in. Gender-stereotyping discussions with first-grader are not something to shy away from.
When five year old Duke trips, falls and starts crying over a minor scrape, I do not hesitate to tell him to stand up, shake it off and tough it out. Make no mistake, I say the exact same thing to my four year old daughter. I am a mother bird tending to her chicks in the nest and pushing them out when it's time learn to fly.
I do my best to teach my children to be kind and help take care of others, especially those who cannot help themselves. I teach them to take responsibility for their words and actions, sometimes even by my own example. When they catch me yelling too much, they chastise me for not stopping to calm down and think first. I say, "I'm Sorry," "You're right," and "Thank you," but not without taking the time to examine the situation with them and explain why I was yelling in the first place. I want them to consider the reasons underlying certain reactions; to understand their own impact on their surroundings. "You do not live in a bubble." Then I make sure to remind them nobody is perfect all the time, mistakes are a part of life, and you should always keep trying to do better.
I say I love them no matter what, even when I'm angry because of something they did. I teach them about arguments and differences of opinion. I show that talking and listening are important in getting through conflicts. Feeling uncomfortable, shamed, sad, or frustrated happens, but avoidance and ignorance are unacceptable.
Orlando. Stanford Rapist. Sandy Hook. ISIS. Extremism. Racism. Sexism. Hate. Sickness. Guns. Violence. Sadness. Fear.
At times I am admittedly numb to the endless tragedies and inane chatter populating news and social media. I feel heartless and helpless.
Confidence. Diligence. Self-Worth. Open-Minded. Unique. Humble. Awareness. Imagination. Cooperation. Friends. Family. Love
Then I remember that I can, at the very least, do my best to raise my children to be the kind of people who will embrace tolerance, stand up against the bad in this world, and spread good others.
Picture book recommendations to spark conversations with kids: "Red: A Crayon's Story" by Michael Hall, "A Bad Case of Stripes" by David Shannon, "Giraffes Can't Dance" by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees, and "The Little Blue Truck" by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry.