In the vein of T. Coates and “Eight Years in Power,” I will open up with comments on past writings.
Below is a letter I wrote to my sister-in-law, a little over a year ago. It was spawned by a discussion she had with my wife, after my son spent a week with my sister-in-law, and her family of 4. She is consistently mentioning how happy my son is when he is with them. Which is true! He loves playing with his cousins. They are thick as thieves. We are so happy that he is happy. They (Kristy and her husband) seem to attribute this fact to their parenting style. (They are shielded from any controversial topics; a purposeful sheltering. They will figure it out on their own when they are teenagers. At that time, they will discuss things, if their daughters want to do so. Side note – they live in rural Maryland.)
We attribute his happiness to the fact that his sister is not there, tormenting him, which is her favorite past time. We also think it is because, kids always act better at someone else’s house. Heck, I watch their kids for a week every summer, they are angels, and so much fun.
Anyhow, let me back up…. My son is difficult. He is currently 9. He is an anxious introvert, who asks probing questions. We talk about everything in our house. Racial and gender injustice are two of the things we touch on often. Injustice of any kind, makes my son sad and perplexed. We answer
Soooooo, Kristy suggests to my wife, that we are harming our son. I took offense. I penned this letter. I sent it to my wife. She said, “Do NOT send this letter!! It will cause major family issues.” I was not happy. I love my wife. I wanted to stay married. I did not send it.
So this year, my son gets back from his “happy” week at the cousins. And guess what, there are a whole new set of comments about how happy my son is with them, and subtle jabs at our parenting. I had enough! I told my wife I was writing Kristy. She has had enough too. She said, “Go for it.” I did…. It didn’t go that well, not terrible, but not great. But, that is a story for another column. Here is the letter I was dying to send, that I never did. Only my wife and I have seen this. Enjoy.
My wife was telling me about your conversation about Zach. Specifically about how we burden him with adult content, that he struggles with… I guess first, thank you for having a relationship with your sister, that you can comfortably have these conversation. It is refreshing and important.
I have found that everyone has a parenting bias…they are pretty sure they are doing things right and others could make some changes. Everyone rationalizes their parenting, and thinks they are doing right by their child. I am sure, Heather and I are no exception. In the end, we all screw up our children some way or another, right?
So, I am going to rationalize our parenting at this point. (Of course) So, next, I would like to say that you are right, we are burdening him (and her). I understand this. I don’t like this, but the world is what it is, and we are playing a long game with our children. We have a vision for how we want our children interacting with the world in their 20’s and beyond. It does not involve shielding them from the ills of the world. If we thought it was doing him/her long term damage, we would stop immediately. I think it is causing short term angst, which will end up with long term rewards for the communities that my children choose to live in.
I also think race is one of the most polemic of the issues we discuss, and we discuss it often. As an avowed anti-racist, how can I not. It is imperative to me, that my kids understand one of the most pressing issues of our time. It is a luxury and privilege that you have, to not have to discuss race, and deal with the psychological ramifications it brings. People of color have no choice but to discuss race at very young ages. The struggles my children go through because we broach serious topics with them, is tough on them, but it does not even come close to comparing to the psychological damage done to children of color, who have to be told by their parents that they are devalued by society and lesser than.
I also think, on one level, we have issues with race because white people don’t EVER want to talk about it. And very few will even discuss it with their kids in more than a cursory way. If you wait too long, society will form their views for them. This may not go well. I am not sure, but I don’t think your kids are exposed to many people of color. In my opinion, if you don’t broach the subject of race with them, they will form the opinions of the people around them – specifically classmates… this could be good or bad…
On the other issue that Heather mentioned – fantasy and magic. (Santa, tooth fairy, etc…) That is your game and your desires, and I don’t begrudge you that. But it is NOT us. I love what Mike does with the tooth fairy. Your kids will never forget that, but that is not our style. We are serious humans. We just can’t change that about ourselves. I think nature and science are magic. They get a lot of that. Reading is fantasy and magic. They do tons of that. And frankly, when Zach gets with Aneesh or Roman, he falls into some of the most elaborate fantasy role playing I have ever seen….for hours and hours. We do not stifle his creativity and imagination, we try to stoke it at every turn.
Anyhow, thanks for listening. I needed to get these thoughts on paper.