In the wake of the church shooting in South Carolina, I find myself struggling. I've been reading conversations on the Internet about the history of race relations, injustice, prejudice and hatred that has brewed in this country for far too long. The mommy blogs are on fire with beautiful ways this incident has been used to teach love and reconciliation to the younger generation. I sit on the sidelines wondering where my place is in this sea of ugly. But most of all I struggle with how to raise my children in such a way that they become part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
With children aged six and four, there are some conversations that I'm just not ready or willing to have yet. We don't watch the news with the kids in the room because I hesitate to expose them to the true colors of the world in which they live. I want them to feel safe and secure, and I don't know how to do that while including them in conversations about current events.
My husband is a combat Veteran. While my kids know their dad was in the Army, they really have no clue what that actually means, other than the fact that they make him a card on Veterans day. They have no understanding of war or what soldiers do.
Our kids are blissfully unaware that 9 people were murdered while attending a church prayer meeting last week. I haven't found the courage or the words to share the horror of this event in a way that will not give them nightmares or make them afraid to go to church.
So when I read about parents starting conversations with their kids about civil rights or war I begin to wonder. Am I doing the right thing? Is sheltering them from the nightmarish reality of our modern world doing them any favors? Or am I providing them a false sense of security? Am I inadvertently raising them to be ignorant, despondent citizens?
I don't know.
I also don't know if those kids having frank, open discussions about racial injustice or the reality of war are growing into informed, pro-active citizens or frightened skeptics.
I do know that the conversation is important. I am painfully aware that avoiding the conversation is not an option for those families that lost a loved one or the kids that saw their neighborhood church transformed into a horrific crime scene. I know these conversations need to be had. For better or worse.
Our kids will soon be of an age where they will (in spite of my ludicrous censoring efforts) hear about things on the news, at school or on their Facebook page, and begin to ask questions. They will wonder what the correct answers are, wonder how come we haven't been able to get it right for so many years, and probably be fearful about the evil that lurks in many corners of our world.
When the time comes, and my kids grow curious, I hope I will not pretend that I have all the right answers. I will have thoughts. Questions. Prayers. I will be open for the discussion, even when it breaks my heart to help them understand the massive hurts that our fellow humans have inflicted and endured. I will explain our history to the best of my ability. (Actually, their dad will probably have to field the history questions. And math. Ain't my bag.) I will help them think of ways they can be a good neighbor, and ambassador of peace, and a champion for equality.
It's a noble goal...growing your kids into kind, thoughtful citizens. But it's not something for which I feel suitably prepared. Heck, are there any aspects of parenting for which we are really prepared?! If there really were some magic formula to raising kind, compassionate citizens, I suppose there wouldn't be any need to shelter my kids from the evening news.
But alas. Our world is broken.
So, in the absence of all the right answers or the magic formula, I will do what I generally do when life gets me to a point where I am clueless, helpless or otherwise completely ineffective and at a loss.
When faced with the hard questions, the most important conversation starts with God.
I pray that our leaders find the stamina to work long, hard hours toward peaceful solutions.
I pray for the strength to trust God during the dark times that surpass my human understanding.
I pray that I can teach my children to be beacons of light, hope and love in their corner of the world.
I pray that I will know the right time, and have the courage to speak truth, for the hard questions ahead.