Children are born filled with love, curiosity, and the yearning to learn.
They are not born full of judgement and hatred.
It is our job as parents to not only teach them, but show them what it means to love and be kind to one another. This world is so full of hatred, we can start making that change; it all starts at home.
I started when my kids were very young. I remember an instance when I was with my oldest son at the mall. He was about three years old. As we entered the food court, he stopped in his tracks, staring at a family who was also getting in line at one of the establishments. The father was pushing what I assumed to be his daughter in a wheelchair.
I knelt down to my son’s level.
“What are you looking at?”
Instead of answering, he ducked his head into my shoulder. I stood up, debating on how I should handle the situation. As he peered around my shoulder, the teenager in the wheelchair smiled at him.
“Why don’t we go say hello?”
I took him by the hand and approached the family.
Before I could even say anything, my son reached out and touched the wheelchair.
“It’s so shiny. Is it fast?”
Looking over, I could see the mother’s posture relax.
We never made it to any of the stores. The family invited us to join them to eat lunch and then we walked to the park with them. We watched our children race, my son pumping his little short legs, their daughter pumping her arms as she propelled her wheelchair forward.
Their laughter filled my heart.
“You know, taking Courtney on outings is hard. She gets so down from people staring at her. I love that your son wasn’t afraid to talk to her just because she’s different.”
That mother’s words stuck with me.
I can’t imagine being physically disabled and having to deal with society’s judgement. But, I can help my children learn that just because someone may be different, that doesn’t change who they are as a person.
It really struck me when he hit about the fifth grade.
My son loved to play soccer. Where we lived, we were the minority, and almost every single one of his friends was Mexican. We were driving down the road and passed by a landscape truck that was partially blocking the street.
I was so shocked at what came out of his mouth I whipped the car to the side of the road and screeched to a stop.
“Excuse me? What did you just say?”
I’ll never forget the look on his face. Pure confusion. He had no clue as to why I was so angry; no clue as to what he said wrong.
“It’s a lawn truck. Only Mexicans drive lawn trucks.”
Oh man, it was right then and there that my hatred for racial profiling came to a peak.
“So, you think all Mexicans are stupid?”
I could see the wheels in his mind turning.
“Name your three best friends.”
He smiled. “Miguel, Jose, and Juan.”
“Are they stupid?”
“No. Juan helped me with my science project last week ‘cuz I couldn’t figure out how to get the battery connected to my wheel.”
“Are their parents stupid?”
“No. Juan’s mom is a doctor.”
“So, why would you say something like that? Every single one of your friends is Mexican. Most of them go to visit their family members in Mexico during Christmas break.”
His eyes filled with tears.
It hit me that I had brought up my child not noticing what made him and his friends different. I was proud of that, and angry that because of society’s inability to look past each other’s differences, the stereotypes that different nationalities were given had influenced my child.
I got a call when he was a sophomore in high school. He’d gotten into a fight and had been suspended.
When I got him in the car, I was fuming.
“How could you get in a fight? I did not raise you up to be violent.”
I looked over and saw the scowl on his face.
“Who did you get into a fight with?”
“I guess his name was Shawn.”
“You guess? You mean you didn’t even know the kid you shoved against the lockers and then hit?”
I pulled out of the parking lot, trying to breathe and calm down.
He folded his arms. “Why what?”
“Why did you get into a fight with someone you don’t even know?”
He refused to speak to me. When we got home, I couldn’t let it go, so I called the school and asked to speak with the dean who had been unavailable earlier.
“I need to know exactly what happened.”
“There’s a freshman boy, Lyle, who stutters. A group of older boys had surrounded him, and when he tried to push through, they pushed him up against the wall. Your son broke it up.”
“And he was suspended for it?”
“Ma’am, we are taking care of the issue regarding the other children, but we can not condone violence. Your son became violent against another child and we have to respond accordingly.”
“What would you have rather him do, walk away and pretend to not see?”
“There are teachers up and down the hallway he could have gone to tell.”
“If there were teachers up and down the hallway like you say, why weren’t they the ones breaking up this situation?”
It became clear right then and there, that society wants us to turn our backs on those who need help. Punish those who step in and defend others. When I got off the phone that day, I took my son out for ice cream. He then got to spend three days playing video games and having a pizza party with his friends.
I told him I was proud of him for sticking up for someone else.
A few years ago, our small town flooded. When I got home (after losing my car to the flood waters), my son was racing out the door.
“Where are you going? It’s still pouring rain out there.”
“The Baptist Church. They’re making it a shelter so I’m going to see what I can do to help.”
Tears poured down my face as he ran out the door. I couldn’t have been prouder of who I had raised.
We need to teach our children kindness. They are growing up to become our next leaders. They will be the ones voting, the ones running businesses. Our children will eventually have children of their own.
It can be simply a smile given to someone having a rough day, or someone sticking up for the underdog.
It is our duty and responsibility as parents to instill kindness into our children. To teach them that differences in each other are things to be cherished, not something to be feared. Teach them to be strong, not only for themselves, but for those who may need a hand.
Children are innocent. Don’t let society mold them the way it does before you mold them to be better and open-minded.