As a new parent you tend to have a list of things you want to teach your child, be it how to draw, how to play an instrument or how to play a sport. You can buy art supplies, a musical instrument and athletic gear of all kinds. Yet the most important lessons are those you don’t want to have to teach your child. How do you explain to your baby what racism is? What ignorance is? What inequity feels like?
What tools are out there to teach your child, to equip your child with how to learn, how to deal, how to overcome such realities?
Although my son is soon to be eight months old and hopefully too young to experience racism, these are things I have on my mind. Given the events in the news of young men of color being gunned down by those who are supposed to be protecting them, I have been racking my brain as how to equip my child with the skills, the life skills necessary to not be a victim or a perpetrator of racism, of ignorance, of hatred.
Easier said than done, right?
After some serious thought I think the best way I find to prepare my son for life is to teach him a two part process; reflect and change. I will attempt to teach my son that when he encounters something within himself or out in the world that he doesn’t like or feel comfortable with that he should first reflect on why he feels that way. I want him to stop what he is doing or once he gets the time to, and to think. Think and reflect on why it makes him feel this way. What are the variables? What is the cause to the effect? What is causing this within him or in the outside world. Once he isolates the cause I want him to attempt to change it. For this he will need to figure out what change means. I want him to understand that changing yourself, your feelings, your attitude is easier than changing those around you. Although this two step process starts an internal dialogue and internal change, I think it can lend itself to more mundane things. Changing his immediate environment or the food he eats, and not just the people he picks as friends or how he treats others.
I know that in order to be able to teach him how to do this I will have to model the behavior in myself. I am learning to reflect and to change. As an adult I think its harder to accomplish than as a child. Adults have more baggage. We have been socialized to believe certain things are normal and to continue the cycle. We are taught to not give up on people, even if they do us harm. I am learning to let go. To reflect. To change. I hope that by doing so I can be a better friend, a better parent, a better wife, a better sister and a better daughter.
As adults we are role models (parents) to so many more people than we are aware. What lessons do you wish to teach your biological or non-biological child?