Seems like our nation’s struggle on the Kaepernick/Nike/NFL/Flag controversy doesn’t belong on a parenting blog site. However, it got me thinking as I’ve been reading and listening to the buzz the last few days and on the anniversary of 9-11, I have decided that it is a parenting maze that has a lot of room for family interaction.
Just for the record, I very clearly separate in my mind the difference between politics and my love of my country. I have ALWAYS stood for the flag, even at parades where I was sitting on the curb or in a lawn chair, no matter who the president was or if I liked him or not. I don’t see the flag as a representation of a particular person, or social conflict. I see it as the one thing that represents our country and the ideals that should give us hope, when we feel like there is none, that it represents our hope of doing better even when we’re struggling as a nation. I’m not sure when the flag turned into the president, or racism or sexism or anti anything. It was supposed to be for the unification of our people, which has and will continue to, change over time. We’re not all going to be on the same side of issues, but we can be on the side of one America, diverse in ideas and people and socialization and we will each give up something and possibly even be devastated at our loss, but there will be an intact base of process, to achieve change, social justice, representation and human rights. It may not look like we want it to look, it may not happen on our time line, but no matter what side of the political fence you are on, no one gets everything they want, but we usually get a compromise. Change takes time, because it needs to be thought out carefully and carried out carefully. Not everything needs to be changed. We often throw the baby out with the bathwater. So our process is slow. One side screams one thing, the other side screams back. It’s us not the flag. Both sides are represented by the flag. It is a reminder, that we are one nation. Currently we are at war with each other. As I scroll by the 9-11 reminders and watch the hurricane warnings intensify for Hurricane Florence, I mentally note that these are coming from both sides of the fence. I know, that when Hurricane Florence smashes into our coast, we will be united in thought that it’s devastating. All political parties will start donating, helping, sending food, water etc. And then we will argue and fight about The Red Cross, FEMA and our presidents words. Some of that is good, but let’s pull together and send messages of hope. Fly our flags and have some grace and save the finger pointing and hatred until our infrastructure has a chance to breathe. In the midst of a disaster is not the time to fuel a fire. Don’t like Red Cross? Find another source. Love the Red Cross? Donate. Mad because FEMA ran out of water? Figure out why and help out. Guess who is running and working for all the entities–local, state and federal? Human beings-flawed, broken, exhausted, scared human beings. I’m sitting from my little room, sheltered, warm, and safe not in the midst of life and death. I can’t finger point and wag at anyone. I will do what I can to help. But I won’t spew hate for fellow humans, I won’t blame a political party. I will support conferences, hearings, debates. I will vote for the change I want. Speak eloquently, specifically, and passionately, but leave the hate behind.
Now what does this all have to do with parenting? Your kids are watching you. They are listening to you. Your behavior is being scrutinized. They hear the tone of your voice. They feel the stress in your body. Fear not. Fear doesn’t help move us forward. The root of almost all anger is fear. When we are fearful, we respond in anger. Sometimes that’s good. Like when we think we’re going to die, we get angry enough to fight back. But sometimes, our anger brings us down back into our fear and it’s a pretty screwed up cycle. Fear. Anger. Fear Anger. Fear. Anger. We’re stuck and that is what our kids see. What they need to see and hear are calm conversations. Reactions that are not angry outbursts, but rational conversations as to why or why not you feel the way you do. Talk to them about why and what you are doing about it. Point them in the direction of change…voting…writing…calling…your family values. Teach kids, that family members may not all agree, but we can still love one another. “We may not choose to go to Aunt Sally’s party because it’s not a good environment for us, but we still love her and will have her over for a game night.” Don’t cut off family members unless they are truly toxic and will not respect your family. Then, bring out the machete! We need to learn to agree to disagree. “I know you feel differently than I do, and we won’t change each other’s mind, so can we not talk about this anymore and agree to disagree? Because I still really love your lasagna!!” There are things to love about each of us. It’s just really hard sometimes. Your kids need to see that you forgive, love, respect, show kindness and accept your “enemies”, even though you disagree, so that they can trust you with their differences. That will be an important dynamic as you both grow. And if you do have to cut someone close from your family, make sure, in kid friendly language and without a lot of extra details, explain to them why you are doing it.
I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. I want families to be aware of their reactions and actions. We can always argue and do the “Yes, but…” back and forth. But usually, neither of us wants that…I will always stand for the flag, especially if I don’t like our president, our government or our recent statements, because it represents hope to me. A hope that we can vote for a change. Colin can do what he wants. Nike can do what they want. We can respond the way we want. That is what the flag is for. That’s why I’ll stand. People die wearing this flag. Yes, flawed, broken people that make huge mistakes just like me. Love your people, don’t hate them.