Posted by: mindyourknitting | June 7, 2009

Lessons

A custody case involving a mother who drew a swastika on her eight-year old child and sent her to school has been making headlines across Canada in recent weeks.  According to the media, this happened at least twice and when authorities investigated they found evidence that the mother and step-father held “white pride” beliefs, were instilling them in the little girl and her younger brother, and that the children were not being adequately cared for in their home.  These children were removed from their home and the matter is now before the courts, and the mother, step-father, and biological father are all jockeying for custody.  To my mind all question of ideology and free speech should be secondary to the possibility that these kids lived in a neglectful or abusive home.  I don’t want to debate whether children’s aid services should have become involved, or whether the parents’ beliefs constituted enough of a reason to remove the children, but I do want to talk about what it means to raise a child in a world where hate is an everyday occurrence.  Symbols can be incredibly powerful, and some symbols are used with the intent to do harm.  I believe it is my, and her father’s, responsibility to tell our daughter that things like racism, sexism, and prejudice and hate of all kinds exist, and to help her understand what to do about it.

As much as I want to insulate my baby from the awful things in this world,we have to teach her about these things, and to guide her in how to handle them.   She will absorb not only our own beliefs, traditions, and opinions, but will be exposed to others that we do not agree with, and in fact find repugnant.  So we cannot leave it up to others (school, television, books) to help her figure out what to do when she witnesses someone being treated unfairly, or an injustice being committed.

We’re not particularly religious people, but I do want my daughter to be a good, moral citizen.  And ideology, religious or otherwise, brings comfort and a framework of understanding that makes this world manageable for some.  If Abigail wants to follow a religion or philosophy when she is old enough to educate herself about such things, she will be absolutely free to do so.  But I can’t be equivocal about ideas and actions that I believe are fundamentally wrong, and I want to somehow make sure that my daughter, and any other children we may have, not only recognizes injustice when presented with it, but also won’t tolerate it.  I want her to be strong, and smart, and fair.  And I want her to be self-confident enough to speak out without fear of consequences.  So although we have to teach her what hate is, we also get to teach her what love and tolerance are, and hope that this is the greater lesson.

For those of you who have faced situations like this, how have you handled them, and how have you taught your children the difference between right and wrong?

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Responses

  1. I imagine everyone who reads the blog assumes that I’m a fan, but I figured I should make it official. I am definitely a fan.
    Trista’s observations and writing are honest, insightful and sometimes humourous and I am very happy to see her continuing to work on the blog.

    I strongly encourage those of you reading to leave comments on the posts. Compliments are nice, of course, but I’m sure Trista would love to read your own thoughts on the issues or ideas she raises or to hear about your own stories or experiences.

  2. As I read this, my first thought was thank goodness Owen and Carson are too young for any of these issues yet. And i was hoping when the turned ~4, parenting would be so much easier but as i really think about, the hardest part will probably be when they start to venture out alone and experience things we cannot control. Now i want them to be babies forever. All I can hope is that armed with our morals, values and love, our children make the right choices but how do we control that big bad world out there? Ultimately we don’t, but for now, I’m keeping my babies close and sheltered.

    Trista, I’m also a fan and enjoy you sharing with all of us. May not always have time to reply but you do get me thinking and sometime laughing out loud (cat). Though now yet another thing to worry about. And I remember thinking, once they’re born, i can stop worrying, WRONG!


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