We live near a metropolitan area that has been in the news over the past few weeks regarding a terrible incident between a person arrested, who died while in police custody, and the officers who processed the arrest and transportation of the man. The investigation is ongoing. Over the past few days, the city has experienced horrific violence, assaults, looting, vandalism, property destruction and police have been called out in riot gear. Racial tension is high, citizen/police tension is even higher and my children have heard things and want answers. As a parent, we want our children to know the world and understand their surroundings. So, one of my children came to me and asked, “Mom, I was watching a news clip about the violence last night. In the video, there was a young child holding up a sign saying “F the Police…Kill the Police”. Why would a child be holding a sign like that?”
*Major sigh* This is a parenting crossroads. If I say, “Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t concern you” and ‘blow it off’, then I deny my child an opportunity to learn about the reality of what is going on. If I answer the question, how do I without teaching the wrong lesson, explaining it with the limited information I have as a citizen, but wanting to give my child an answer?”
I was raised by kind, supportive parents in a semi-urban environment. They taught me to be kind to others, respectful of everyone and frankly, I was pretty sheltered. I learned to build a tough exterior and lashed out at my parents instead because I didn’t know who to blame or what to do when I encountered strife or situations I’d never experienced before. Now, as a parent, I want to see my children form lasting friendships, do well in school and hopefully exist in a world of kind, decent people. Then, you turn on the news. My children are Autistic and take a very literal view of what they see. If they see people attacking the police, then they want to know what the police did wrong. Treading carefully to ensure I don’t impart the wrong tidbit of wisdom is important.
The way I went about it was, reading an account of what we know so far and explained that the investigation is ongoing. I also referenced a few other incidents in the news he was familiar with and how other areas in the country reacted. Making sure to explain that I don’t know anything other than what has been reported in the news, I continued by showing a video of the violent response by certain people yesterday as well as another one showing a large group expressing their opinions peacefully. I tried very hard to present all sides. Additionally, I made sure to explain that I am very upset about seeing my hometown displayed nationally and internationally in such a bad light. I was worried for my friends at the baseball game in that area, as the video showed some of the rioting protesters hurling trash cans and beating on people who tried to defend themselves. A friend, married to one of the officers, had me worried every moment during the events that occurred. It is all sad and disappointing, no matter how you feel.
Back to my son’s original question about why the child was holding a sign expressing such hatred and profane statements? My job as a parent is to not ask my children to express my opinions for me or be an extension of my point of view. My job is to educate them in fact, the importance of an education and planning for a good life with a fulfilling, exciting future. As a parent, it broke my heart to see the picture of that child holding that sign. If it is found that the man in custody was mistreated, I expect those responsible to be held accountable regardless of who they are. I’d also like to think we will hear the whole truth, but that is out of my hands. What I can do is ensure that my children know they can come to me and ask questions and that I will do my best to give them answers about the difficult things going on in our world.
If I could show this picture to the fathers and/or mothers who allowed their children to hold up signs and witness all the horrible things that happened, I would then tell them I am the person I am today because I watched my parents teach me through example, something I hope I will leave as my legacy one day: