It’s been about a month since most of the United States quickly ground to a halt. As many have said, as a country entered a self-induced coma. Each day is unlike any that has ever been experienced. All the while, like all other parents of young children we have been forced to take on challenges that exceed our expertise, resources, and patience.
Over the weeks I’ve been processing how families, friends and other people in my life have been internalizing their experiences and listening to various “experts” on how to address the issues we face this instant and the issues we should begin to anticipate by the time COVID-19 has passed as a societal concern. And then there are the children. There are so many questions about the children and what this means. What are the academic repercussions? What are the implications for peer relationships? How will the stress and insecurity their families are experiences imprint themselves into their value systems?
According to cognitive linguist Steven Pinker, in his book The Stuff of Thought, cussing—or at least loud vocal outbursts when feeling escalated emotions—is innate. The actual sounds blended together by a person to express their emotions is learned and culturally specific.
I acquired this knowledge after years of telling my wife to be mindful of our children’s ears when choosing to use the sounds of F-CK, SH-T, and B-TCH combined, and shortly after my daughter came home telling us her friend gets to say F-CK at home.
Since she was able to have a conversation, my oldest daughter has been a very creative story teller. When she was 2 1/2 we were introduced to Peter, her pet cat. He later transformed into her little brother Peter. She’d go to the park or the pool; 30 children around her age, but she didn’t want to interact with them. She wanted to play with Peter. We often struggled to get out of the house because she wanted Peter to come with her, but he caused more trouble than good. Overall, he sounded like a wonderful younger brother. Then one day, he was hit by a car and died. It occurred right around the time her sister was born.
In preschool her teacher had to talk to her daily about real stories and “once upon a time stories.” She go to school and tell the other children all about her brothers and sisters. She told children her family was from places we’ve never visited, and we had lots of pets. None of this was true. Her teacher would ask her, “Is that a real story or a once upon a time?”
Prejudice and discrimination have been a topic of conversation for my older daughter and me for about two years. It started with the advent of wall building, carrying on through all types of topics that almost always include the words prejudice and discrimination. I’m happy to say that there is clear evidence that she has learned to incorporate these abstract concepts into her everyday routine. However, of late she has taken it a little too far for her mother to tolerate. Continue reading →
Recently, I’ve been discovering that my techniques and strategies to talk with my soon to be eight-year-old are insufficient. For the past couple of years when I have been asked a question about this confusing complex world we live in I pulled ideas form books, television shows, and movies she was familiar with. She was engaged and the conversations never had a conclusion. It was open for ongoing follow-up questions from either of us. While I continue to use the past books, television shows and movies her questions are requiring me to go beyond the immediate content and extend it to abstract concepts that go beyond the storylines. In short, Daniel Tiger, Zootopia and Have you Filled a Bucket Today are a bit too simple for my daughter…but that doesn’t mean they don’t continue to be the foundation of our conversations. It is the idea of creating a foundation early on that is central to discussing (in)justice and (in)equity with young children.
The most recent challenge occurred when she asked me, “Why don’t we adopt a child who is in foster care. They need families.” As usual, I had to pause and consider a formulated response that made sense to my experiences. Continue reading →