On the whole, I’m a good person.
Really, I am.
I recycle, I pay it forward, and I practice random acts of kindness. I smile at strangers, hold doors open for people, and even let you merge ahead of me on the highway. I teach my kids — my “Fruit Loops,” as I call them — to say please and thank you and refer to grown ups as “Mrs.” or “Mr.” I’ve put children in time out so fast their heads have spun.
I’m also a responsible citizen. I pay attention to local politics, I vote in the primaries (midterm AND presidential) — I even show up to local zoning board meetings. I believe in civic duty and though I mostly ran for PTA president because I wanted the gavel, I also did it because I believe that as a parent, it’s my job to have a voice on issues like budgets and education.
My point? I’m doing the best I can to be a good human and raise humans who aren’t monsters. And since I’ve got that under control, I don’t need you or anyone else, to help me decide what my kids learn about sex, religion, and politics. I’m doing a pretty good job on my own, thank you very much.
Recently, Fruit Loop #2 was subjected to inappropriate, egregious discussions related to the underbelly of our society.
During the course of several weeks in Fruit Loop #2’s religion class, her teacher felt it necessary and appropriate to discuss topics that, frankly, even I can’t fully wrap my brain around at the age of 41.
Sex. Condoms. ISIS. Beheadings. Donald Trump coming to “save us all.” Every week, Fruit Loop #2 would come out of class bewildered and scared, with questions that made me want to stop driving us home and hold her. Her hazel eyes asked me if I’d miss her after ISIS beheaded her for standing firm in her belief in God.
Let that sink in: My daughter was told she should be brave if she was going to be beheaded in the name of Christ. No child needs to be told they can become a martyr if ISIS comes knocking.
To say that I was livid is an understatement. I emailed. I complained. I worked with other parents to make sure our children had a safe, kind environment in which to learn and grow. I had a nasty, downright dirty, face-to-face argument with the teacher about spreading hate, fear, and untruths to impressionable children. I was called “low” and “ugly” for speaking up, and I was told that I was doing a disservice to my child by sheltering her from the horrors of the world.
Humans are universal in two ways: Everyone poops and everyone has an opinion.
I get it. We are bombarded with soundbites, email blasts, and memes that make our eyes roll every single day. On the world stage, people who are supposed to be grown-ups are acting like moody 5-year-olds on a playground. It’s insipid and it’s frustrating, to say the least, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deathly afraid for the future.
But I am making a concerted effort to wade through these sociopolitical minefields to truly understand the issues and decide when, how, and to what extent I want to explain them to my children.
What I am NOT doing is shoving my opinions down the throats of other people’s kids and giving them nightmares about men and machetes. And while my husband and I do have spirited debates at the kitchen table, we spend a lot of time helping the Fruit Loops understand the complicated processes that govern our world. We have open discussions and try to answer their questions as best as we can. We’re doing what we can to help our children learn from the mistakes our country is so obviously making right now.
And it’s because we’re making that effort that it becomes so frustrating when other adults assume it’s their right or responsibility to teach their opinions to our kids.
Parents, it’s possible to help your kids understand the world without making them afraid of it.
Talk to them. Educate them. Help them understand. Teach them empathy for marginalized people and explain how they can act to make the world a better place. Empower them. Take them with you when you vote and let them pull the lever. Do what you can to give them the tools to become civic-minded adults who focus on solutions rather than hate.
And if you decide to reject all that and scare the wits out of your children instead, that’s your business. But don’t push your agenda on my kids.
This story originally appeared on Keeper of the Fruit Loops and is reprinted here with permission.