I’ve been a parent for more than eight years. Well, actually more than nine years if you count the times I read to my son when he was in his mother’s womb, or played him music, or just told him I couldn’t wait for his arrival.
There are times, like this week, where it can be hard to be a parent. Where it’s easier to take the lesson in front of you and bury it, dismiss it, like my son was another boy from his soccer team, or something like that.
But, like it or not, teachable moments are more than just a flashy term used by psychologists, teachers and so-called “mom” bloggers. Teachable moments are real. And this, my friends, is one of them.
My son will hear about what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri, at school today. No doubt, he will hear it from fellow students, possibly from teachers and maybe even from paraprofessionals at the building he attends. He will bound home with questions about what is happening there, and why buildings are burning, and how can throwing something at a police officer be O.K.?
If there’s one thing I want to pass on to him is that it’s this: There are bunch of things happening in Missouri that are not O.K. It was not O.K. for those people to burn buildings and smash cars. It was not O.K. for the public to assume things were going to happen that just simply wouldn’t. And, no, it is not O.K. for police officers to act the way some of them act.
That last part – he’s going to struggle with. Many of us do. We trust officers to make the right decisions, to “protect and to serve” the people, because they’ve taken an oath. But we can’t deny what we’ve seen, and it’s not something I’m going to hide. After all, a society should be built on trust – that’s something STMA schools preaches – and that trust is fragile.
I’ll have to explain to him about race – some of which he understands, some of which he doesn’t – and how, after five decades of working on civil rights, to the point where we, the American public, have elected a black man as our president, we still have a way to go to get it down pat. And there are people who refuse to do it at all.
My son, God bless him, is one of those kids who is drawn to kids that are different from him. His life-long friend is Korean. His buddy on his soccer team is black. His best friend at school, white. None of it really matters.
But, make no mistake, he knows the difference. He understands they have different cultures, because they are from different parts of the world.
What he will learn is that people are treated differently, unfortunately, in our part of the world. And that’s something we’re all trying to understand.
I will tell him that police officers do their best, but sometimes they fail. That people are genuinely good, as the old book states, but sometimes they get angry, or filled with hate, and do the wrong things. And that, in the end, the best thing we can do is try to care about one another, and do our best to make things right.
Even when things look tragically bad, when lines are drawn and people are divided, we all want the best for our people. In the end, that’s what makes America, flawed as she might be, great.