Lately it has come to my attention that not long from now Austin and I will have the tremendous responsibility of influencing and essentially controlling what a person believes. It’s been a long standing joke between my friends and I how easy (and awful) it would be to tell our children that blue is red and purple is orange because in the beginning, you as a parent are the sole information supply.
Certainly I don’t plan on telling my kid that the sky is green, but it is interesting to think about how much power we have over how young minds see the world. The big question is how much of what I personally believe should I teach as truth? Concepts like “share your toys” and “don’t bite the cat” are easy; it’s the grey areas that become problematic.
This is how I picture a grey area conversation going:
Child: Mommy, why does Billy have two mommies?
Me: Umm….when two people love each other…
Child: Sally said Billy’s mommies are an abomination.
Me: Ask your dad.
Traditionally we might have turned to places like the Bible for instruction, but the Bible also says things like you may have slaves (Leviticus 25:44-45), you may not eat lobster (Leviticus 11:10), you may not wear cotton-polyester blends (Leviticus 19:19), and you may not associate with menstruating women (Leviticus 15: 19-20) right next to the passages about homosexuality (Leviticus 20:10). * And really, I think it’s fine to have two mommies, but am I ready to say why to a 5 year old? Maybe they should make up their own mind.
I asked Austin about this, wondering what we were going to say about homosexuality, abortion, evolution, democrats, republicans, Santa Clause, terrorism…etc, etc. He didn’t seem too concerned, accepting that our children will most likely believe the same things we do. Ultimately that’s just how it is. The best we can do is to teach them to have an open mind, think critically, and practice tolerance (I’m sure that’s much easier said than done).
The recent tragedies of child bullying and suicide have sparked these questions on child rearing on a national and international landscape. You may remember Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. He was just 11 years old when he hung himself in an upstairs bedroom with an electrical cord after being tormented by bullies at school. Carl was a good student, active in church, and a boy scout. But after some of his classmates decided he was gay, they tortured him until he broke. Hardly old enough to know his own sexuality, Carl was kicked, punched, and called names like “fag” until he was distressed enough to take his own life.
These stories break my heart, and I’m terrified to think that I could ever have a child who is different enough to be bullied into hopelessness. Or worse, a child who believes something is so wrong that they have to hurt someone else because of it. Carl is just one of many children who are physically and emotionally tormented every day because they are identified as different. It is not an issue to take lightly. My hope is that I can be the kind of example that promotes compassion, or at the very least—respect.
*There are, of course, lots of great things to be gleaned from the big book. Like, for example, be nice to each other and pay your taxes.