My brain has been totally occupied with the idea of social justice lately. Just taught a class with my brilliant friend Lynne Marie about self-protection skills for kids and adults. It is an intense, amazing experience to take simple concepts and put them to work in order to make yourself a more effective person in general.
It’s something that, for those of us who don’t have it, seems so brilliant and enviable when we see someone who does. The ability to just tell someone “These are my boundaries, this is how it is, don’t mess with me,” with utter conviction, confidence, and no regret.
I want it!!
Today one of my kids who likes to be the boss plowed right into another one and knocked him down. She’s been having a hard time lately with big emotions so I’ll admit I’ve been taking it easy on her. But when I see a take-down for no reason than “You’re in my way,” I naturally spring into action. There’s no way I’m going to tolerate anyone doing something like that, I don’t care how bad you’re PMSing.
I immediately looked her in the eye and said “Hey! We do NOT do that to people!” She got a little upset and ran away but I expected that. What I didn’t expect was my Younger Son cheering,
“Yeay for Mommy!!”
OK, yea, I was just REALLY happy that one of my kids approved of something I did. I’ll own that.
But it hit me, while my brain has been occupied with social justice, that what kids want is for adults to take care of business. They see everything that’s going on. They hear adults talking the talk – about being fair and respectful to everybody, and expecting kids to behave in the same way. But how often do they see us walk it?
And how often do the big-talking adults respond when they see an injustice happening?
This is where half of all teenage angst comes from, I’m sure of it.
Kids see the unfairness that sometimes happens in life and they want us to see it too (and ideally, DO SOMETHING about it). One of life’s hardest lessons is finding out that sometimes we can’t do anything about those injustices. But how do they feel when there’s an easy one and they see an adult choose to ignore it rather than do the right thing?
I know there are times in my child care when somebody gets away with something. I may be doing something else and not see it happen, or too busy or tired or just not interested in doling out consequences that very moment. A lot of the time the littles don’t know or care, or they’ve already moved on and I don’t have to worry about it.
(Don’t freak, I would never leave a hurt child crying but sometimes they really don’t care, and why should I undermine their brilliant self-confidence and incredible ability to move on by stepping in and informing them that they should be really offended and hurt?)
It was Martin Luther King day a few weeks ago and I read in the newspaper about a man who, when he saw another man being beaten during a protest, laid his body down on top of that man to protect him.
Would I be willing to do the same? Sadly, I probably wouldn’t because, as we’ve already covered, I’m a big chicken. But I would at least call for help. And I hope that as I move through the world, especially when my kids are with me and watching, that I will have the strength to stand for what is right.