Something happened this week. For now, I am not talking about the horrific events in Orlando. I am talking about something that happened in my very own home, a microcosm of the larger world in which my children will one day fully be a participant.
My kids were playing with some friends of mixed ages. For the most part, everyone was getting along well and having fun. Until one of the older children decided to create a rather large booby trap. For one of the smaller children.
Fortunately, I was able to intervene in the situation before anyone was hurt, but this incident, occurring within hours of the news of the shooting in Orlando, really brought home the large-scale national event to me. Out of the booby trap incident, and with the events in Orlando looming in the back of my mind, grew a conversation with my kids. A conversation like this:
Me: "Oldest Daughter, do you know that our home is meant to be a safe place for our family and our friends? We all have things about us that make us bigger or stronger than someone else in any given circumstance. When you see or hear another friend who is using their Bigger & Stronger to hurt someone else instead of help them, do you know that you have a choice?"
Oldest Daughter: "But my friend TOLD me to. Everyone was!"
Me: "Yes, but you and your friend were using your Bigger & Stronger to try to hurt Little Brother instead of protect and keep him safe. In our family, we all try to help each other. That's why mommy and daddy have rules for you. We are using our Bigger & Stronger to protect you and keep you safe. And you have a choice about that too. When you see someone starting to use their Bigger & Stronger to hurt someone else, you can choose to join them, or use your Bigger & Stronger to help protect. Do you know how you could have done that for Little Brother?"
Oldest Daughter: "Saying no?"
Me: "Yes, using your Big & Strong words and saying no is a great start. And if they don't listen, coming and finding someone else, like a mom or dad, so that together your Bigger & Stronger can work together to protect your little brother and keep him safe."
Oldest Daughter: "Oh yeah, because then it wouldn't just be saying no and two friends saying yes, but then mommy and daddy would say no too, and we would have THREE no's to help Little Brother!"
Me: Yes! You can use your Bigger & Stronger to help not just Little Brother, but also Little Sister, your Friends, and really anyone else. You can use your Bigger & Stronger to hurt, or you can use your Bigger & Stronger to help and protect. That's our job!"
Oldest Daughter starts flexing muscles.
Me: "And Little Brother, you too! You have Bigger & Stronger in YOU, that YOU can use to help Big Sister, Little Sister, your friends, and others too if you see them hurting or struggling."
Little Brother stands up and flexes his muscles, "YEAH! I have Bigger & Stronger too!!"
Me, a big smile of relief. They may forget tomorrow, but we have started a conversation that I know is much deeper than a childish lapse of judgement and a booby trap in my garage. It is a conversation that they will keep having for the rest of their life as they learn to interact with others, learn to have compassion, and learn how to use their privilege, their resources, their position, their size, their age, their talent, their race, their gender, their orientation, whatever is their "Bigger & Stronger," to help or to hurt. To make the world a better place, or to tear it down.
As their parents, I hope that we can help them to have the strength and wisdom to choose the former.
I have decided to stick with Love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. -Martin Luther King, Jr.