When I recognize an opportunity for a teaching moment, I take the stage. My kids often look at me quizzingly, not understanding how the podium and mic suddenly appeared. The words “I know mom” roll off their tongues before I can get ten words out. I know they often genuinely know, but I also know there are some lessons worth repeating and getting into two way conversations with more than once.
Judgement: a lesson from the athletic field.
My daughter overheard a conversation I had with another mom recently. This mom, who I like very much and have met on the sidelines of numerous games, expressed how grateful she was to have met other moms who are nice. Another mom turned her head and replied with a surprised voice, “What did you expect us to be?” The transparency of her unguarded answer then took me by surprise, “Other moms sometimes don’t talk to me because I am a little overweight.”
This interaction opened the door to what I call “car talk.”
Car talk: one-on-one conversation between parent and child within the safe, intimate, confidential confines of a car with no other distractions. I have written an entire article on how a one-on-one drive can take you to amazing places with your child, especially when they graduate to the front seat. These conversations are most definitely two-way; I certainly don’t want my kids to associate the car with a lecture like a dog might with the vet.
On the way home after the game, I asked my daughter what she thought about the conversation that she overheard. She said she was sad that other moms made a mom feel left out based on her appearance. I then interjected that it is a form of bullying and that’s when I got the “I know mom” in response because she saw the turns in the conversation ahead. I know she knows. But this conversation needs to be driven home more than once or twice. Girls can be unkind to one another, especially in middle school and continuing on into high school and even into adulthood. Then there’s the whole peer pressure aspect to circumvent when girls herd together and make pack decisions.
Brene Brown discusses the courage to stand alone in her new book Braving the Wilderness. During her recent talk in Charlotte, I listened as she illustrated with colorful words on how we dehumanize one another based on rash judgments and name calling. So when you decide not to engage with someone based on what they look like, you are dehumanizing that individual. And for people of faith, if you truly believe we are to look for God in everyone we meet, then you are indeed going against your faith.
“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories.” I love this quote, also by Brene Brown, because it emphasizes the importance of having conversations with our children. It shows how kids need our guidance to navigate them through stories. I could have easily left that conversation on the sports field and let my daughter process it on her own or worse yet, not process it at all. But I wanted her to to be introspective and as Brene Brown states, “I want her to have the courage to stand alone” while staying true to what she knows is right. I want her to reach out to someone needing a friend. And you know what, she did. The week following, she shared how she befriended a girl in math class who sat alone.
While helping with youth group this past weekend, we discussed the different types of love and how we show love. The youth group director then asked: when do we push love away? One seventh grader raised his hand and said, “When we judge others.” Ironically, I started to write this post and had identical notes about this topic scribed onto a pieces of scrap paper. It was serendipitous and confirming that I needed to finish my post.
It’s human nature to judge on another, whether it’s learned or inherent, but it’s always human nature to love one another, to include and be included. Teaching and emphasizing empathy and the courage to stand alone allows love to triumph judgement*.
*Of course there are times that I do encourage my kids to judge others: judge when it comes down to your own personal safety which includes peer pressure. Another topic for another post.