This is a post about how we teach our children about difficult things.
I know someone who was very upset to learn that her first grader’s class was participating in the DARE program (Drug Abuse Resistance Program.) Her other children had participated in DARE as older students, but now it was being taught to six year olds. But just as she was ready to slam the school system for introducing the subject of marijuana to her first grader, she learned that he had a classmate who volunteered in class that, “In my family, we call it weed.” Clearly, at least one family was already dealing with drug use.
[Note: The DARE program is not without its problems. Some studies have shown that it is not only ineffective; some students who have participated in that program had a higher incidence of drug abuse as young adults.]
One of the classic decisions parents must make is: when do we share difficult things with our children? Do we fling open the doors and encourage questions early? Or do we shield our children from life’s heaviness so that they can “be children” for as long as possible?
When do we talk with our children about adoption (especially if the children are adopted)?
When do we talk with our children about sex and birth control?
When do we talk with our children about our nation’s history of slavery and creating different laws for people depending on the color of their skin?
I was struck by the tweet posted above regarding a 10 year old’s comment that “we learned some very sad things in school today.” Does learning about how the pilgrims treated Native Americans make white children hate themselves? Does it make students less patriotic? I don’t think so.
Every generation carries the baggage of the generations before us whose actions – in the words of the apostle Paul – have fallen short of the glory of God. At any given time, there has been a dominant culture who treated others unfairly. Depending on the generation, those treated unfairly have been Native American or female or African or elderly or disabled or queer or Mexican or Haitian or Muslim or rural or children. There are stories of mistreatment and abuse and cruelty and injustice.
When do we teach our children those stories? The truth is that many grown adults don’t even know those stories. How many of us are just learning – in adulthood – about the Tulsa Massacre or the Trail of Tears or the World War II Interment Camps? How many of us know about smallpox blankets and the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis?
Let’s not complain about Critical Race Theory being taught to our schoolchildren – which it isn’t – when we haven’t even discussed when schoolchildren should learn about basic United States history like the Underground Railroad or Juneteenth or Emmett Till.
A church member once said to me that we (the Church) needed to get back to Genesis Family Values and I asked him if he’d ever read the book of Genesis.
I like the idea of teaching difficult stories to children – in loving, thoughtful ways – as sharing sad stories with them. Sometimes life is sad and human beings make mistakes that hurt people. And this is when we also tell children that God loves us so much and God wants us to love each other in the same way.
As we remember the first Thanksgiving in this country and all the Thanksgivings since, let’s be brave enough to tell the truth and faithful enough to repent.