After the most recent violence and hate in Charlottesville, VA, I expect the next thing I will read are people wringing their hands, asking how do we talk to our kids about this hate and violence? The inter webs are full of theories about false flags, government-for-hire violence as a distraction, and the more obvious evil aspects of humanity that proliferate from a combination of ignorance and patriarchy.
Would you really be shocked to learn that my nearly 10-year-old is not surprised or afraid? He knows who runs the corporate-owned country. He understands fully all the ins and outs and nuances of racism and bigotry, along with the myriad of historical, cultural, and popular references from media, family discussions, and in general his life learning without school. He engages adult-level dialogue on the topics.
I haven’t sheltered him by avoiding answering the hard questions, which began as early as 2 and 3 years of age with images of the Arab Spring, and around the same time, nationalist humans celebrating death like a super bowl after-party when we allegedly “got” OBL). He saw images from earthquakes and tsunamis, and wasn’t protected from shocking news or images out of fear that he might not be able to handle them.
At nearly 10, his immediate response to Charlottesville wasn’t shock. Instead he felt disgust for the haters and empathy for the oppressed.
At nearly 10, he is decided in his perspective and world view about statist lies and arbitrary, false idols. I couldn’t tell him what to think if I wanted to. His mind is his own, and it is evident when our perspectives don’t align on various things.
This isn’t something I’ve taught him. It’s what he has arrived at all on his own as combination of a) the values I model as an authentic human, and b) the sensibility he has been allowed to develop from content usually hidden by adults from the eyes and ears of children. Because I trusted him.
When kids are shielded, they know more is up than adults are telling them. When they start to question internally, they may lack the communication skills to convey what they feel. When adults tell them how to feel or what to think or how to react, children lose the ability to connect the dots with their own intuition and lose trust in themselves. This is unfortunate (and systemically dysfunctional in our society). Developing discernment in childhood is the very tool kids need to keep them out of harm’s way when they really need it, when adults are not around to guide them.
When kids are raised in freedom, when we don’t limit their knowledge by projecting our fears about their capacity to process what they see, they develop adult level discernment at very young ages. They feel in control as opposed to being controlled. They feel confidence in what they think as opposed to having fear about sharing what they think.
As parents, it takes a lot of trust in the child, and a lot of squashing of our own fears to allow such trust. But, it gives them the freedom to develop critical thinking skills – something many kids are not allowed to experience soon enough to carry them through peer pressure and into healthy adult decision-making.
Instead of feeling fear at the news, my son feels indignation and is driven towards a desire for action. Instead of reacting in fear, he knows exactly what he would do if his voice was as big and as loud as Trump’s.
Ultimately, he knows that this is news that will pass, that while it isn’t right next to our lives, in many ways, it directs the course of humanity. He is conscious of its impact on the world, and on his own psyche, along with how much it hurts people we know and love. He has strong feelings, but they don’t overtake him.
He sees it as a lesson in sovereignty vs. selfishness. He gets that ego drives hate and releasing ego gives flow to empathy and compassion. He feels angry, yet safe. He feels disgusted with the stupidity inherent in human blindness, especially when it descends from generations of hate… but he also understands that this does not define the world he is free to choose to see. It informs his morality.
When children are denied this freedom, they waste a lot of years throughout childhood and into adulthood deaf to the very inner guide that calls to them from within. Some never even wake up. And if their lottery of birth leaves them brainwashed, they may even plow with hate into a crowd of peaceful humans taking a stand for sovereignty, spilling their blood and ending a life.