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Letter: Explaining Evil To Our Children

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“THE CONVERSATION HAS BECOME ALMOST FORMULAIC …”

Dear Editor,

One of the toughest challenges of being a parent is explaining evil to your children.  Parents instinctively try to protect their kids from anything that can harm them, but when it comes to information, sometimes exposing them to the darker parts of the world is actually better for them in the long run because they will often be the ones who advocate for something better when their parents can’t – or won’t.

That’s the situation I found myself in Thursday morning when I first learned about the shootings in Charleston, S.C.  As I devoured the developing news online, my children – ages 6, 12, and 13 – slowly woke up around me.  “Mom, what’s wrong?” my daughter asked.  “Are you okay?” inquired my son.  Kids can sense when something’s amiss.

I found myself discussing the term “hate crime” with my oldest two – again.  The youngest was happily watching a cartoon on the computer through his headphones, and I made the decision to let him live in innocent bliss a little while longer … because he’s my baby, and I desperately and selfishly want to hold on to that innocence for as long as possible.  My recently-graduated 6th and 7th graders certainly know what racism is.  They have studied the American Civil Rights era in school.  They follow current events.  They remember Trayvon Martin. They know about Ferguson and Eric Garner and Walter Scott.

That’s why I say, “again.” I first had a conversation about “racially-motivated violence” and “fear of the other” with them when Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012.  And the hits just kept on coming.  Soon we added “police brutality” to our lexicon.  By now, at ages 12 and 13, my kids get it.  And for me as a mother, their knowledge of the world is heartbreaking.

When nine people were murdered this week in Charleston, my first instinct was to turn off the TV and snap my laptop shut.  But, once again, I didn’t.  I haven’t since Trayvon – at least not for the older kids.  I let them watch.  I let them read.  And then, we talked.  Unfortunately, that conversation has become almost formulaic at this point.  Yes, every case is different with its own unique set of circumstances.  But the common thread is undeniable – a dead black person … or nine.

That’s the part that no one tells you about when you hold that brand new little person in your arms for the first time.  That one day, when you least expect it, you will have to explain the evils of the world to that tiny bundle and hope that she can make sense of it in her mind because you sure can’t.  While you’re still working out your own sense of loss and grief and anger, you’ll have to help your children do the same.  While you’re trying to figure out what you can do to bring about change, you’ll look at your kids and hope you can do it in time – for them.  That’s been happening in my home too often these days, and it’s taking my breath away.

Amy Lazenby
Washington, D.C.

SIC SEZ

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Amy: Great to hear your perspective again.  Very heartfelt – why I miss your columns.  Thank you so much for sharing this with our readers.

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