Parenting is hard. Whether it’s a fussing baby who just won’t sleep, a stubborn toddler who says “no” more than any other word, a teen-ager learning to drive and be independent or that young adult spreading his/her wings too far from home. It is just plain hard. It has always been and will always be. Why? Because as parent’s we love our kids and want the best for them. This is true regardless of the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, or your age.
I think every generation has it’s own unique challenges in raising kids. Personally, I’m glad my kids were in Junior High before technology became such an all consuming part of our lives. They had a few years to learn to talk with people face to face before e-mail, texting, Facebook and Instagram took over. I was just talking about this with our kids last weekend. We have two grand-daughters and a grandson due to arrive this fall. Parenting is a pertinent topic in our house.
Lately it seems like the public display of hate and violence has risen to a new level bringing with it much fear. I get it. Our precious little grand-daughters live in a large city. I think about what school will be like for them. I wonder if they will be safe. Then I remember that our kids went to a smaller school and we didn’t always feel safe there. In fact, we felt the need to pull our daughter out of that school for eighth grade. Cruel words, vandalism of her locker and property and physical threats were breaking her spirit. It needed to stop but we couldn’t make that happen. We could not control the behavior of the other students. We could control how we handled that behavior. We went through the proper channels at school for discipline of the others and protections of our daughter. When that did not make much difference we decided to home-school for one year. We called it High School prep. The goal? To help our daughter know who she was and teach her to be that person regardless of what others would say and do. It was hard for all of us. I’d never been a school teacher, a mom, and a part-time worker at the same time. Her Dad had to be the principal on days we didn’t get along very well. Her brother had to withstand the derogatory comments from others when his sister didn’t show up at school like everybody else. It was hard but it was good. We all learned a lot and I’d like to believe she is as strong as she is in part because of that year. Recently I heard a story about Martin Luther King Jr. that I’ve been thinking a lot about. It goes like this:
“On January 30, 1956, the Martin Luther King Jr.’s home was bombed. King had been speaking at a mass meeting at the First Baptist Church. When he heard the news, he told the crowd what happened, and left the church.
Nearing his house, King saw blacks brandishing guns and knives, and a barricade of white policemen. King went inside and pushed through the crowd in his house to the back room to make sure Coretta and his ten-week-old baby were okay. Back in the front room of the house, some white reporters were trying to leave to file their stories, but could not get out of the house, which was surrounded by armed, angry blacks.
Taylor Branch, in Parting the Waters, tells what happened next:
“King walked out onto the front porch. Holding up his hand for silence, he tried to still the anger by speaking with an exaggerated peacefulness in his voice. Everything was all right, he said. ‘Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky. Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.’”
When the crowd of several hundred was silent, he continued:
“I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped, this movement will not stop. If I am stopped, our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.” – from Rhapsody in Books Weblog
I can’t even imagine how scared or angry he must have been at that moment. He could have started a war right then, right there, in front of his own home. To some degree there is a part of me that says it would have been justified. He did not start a war. He did not encourage violence in any way. He did challenge the black people who there because they had been gathered at their church making plans to continue their fight for equality to be the people they claimed to be, good people, smart people. People that deserved to be treated equally. This was a turning point in their fight for equality. Historians agree on that point.
I believe that is what we as individuals and a nation need to do. All of us irregardless of the color of our skin, the name of our faith, our economic status or our sexual preferences need to be the smart, respectful caring people that we want everyone to be. We need to quit expecting everyone to be just like us but still treat them with respect when they are different.
Don’t misunderstand me, I do not believe you have to agree with everyone. I do not believe you have to support or endorse other people’s behavior if it conflicts with yours but I do believe you can disagree and still respect the person. I believe you can and should have civil conversations with people who are not like you. How else will we ever learn to get along?
I started this post talking about parenting, to those of you with kids at home, I encourage you to teach your children to live out your family’s beliefs. Teach them to respect people, all people. Teach them there are consequences for decisions, all decisions, good and bad. Teach them to work and be honest, but kind. How? Include them in your daily life. It takes time. Time enforcing the rules you choose. Time playing with them. Time doing household chores together. Time helping others together. Time learning together.
To those of us that don’t have kids at home anymore, look around. There are young families and kids in your neighborhood, at work and your church that could use your encouragement. Parenting is hard (and scary). We know, we’ve been there. Be a listener to the young mom or dad at work over lunch. You don’t have to have words of wisdom just let them know you made it through and so will they. Babysit the neighbor kids so their parents can have a break. Hire the neighbor kids to do odd jobs for you.
Unfortunately we live in a broken world and our kids are going to get hurt. I wish I could remove the fear from parenting. I can’t but I wonder what would happen if we all treated each other with respect? What would happen if we would not participate in name calling, mud slinging and violent behavior in our day to day lives at home, at our jobs and in our neighborhoods? I believe the only way this world is going to change is one life, one family at a time. All lives matter.