Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On Raising Children

I was watching Oprah interview these mothers who lost their 11 year old sons to suicide. And all I could think was Elijah is 6 years away from that age. What happened to these poor children that they found no other way to cope? What can I do, what should I be doing for my boys, with my boys, to help them become strong, confident individuals?

At 5 years old, Elijah has already talked about being teased and we try to encourage him to say “leave me alone. “ His first few years performing on a stage, he was so confident and cheery. More recently, he has been nervous about getting on stage, fearful that people will laugh at him. What happened, how is the world already destroying his confidence?

On another occasion, Elijah got out of our car when we got home from school and a neighborhood kid ran up to Elijah and shoved his toy gun in Elijah’s face, on Elijah’s cheek. I had to hold myself back from yelling (among other things) at this child. I watched my son to see his reaction, to see how it made him feel or if it affected him at all. Elijah ran from this child. The child followed and repeated his original gun-in-face action. Elijah told me what the child had done (I guess my silence made him think I hadn’t witnessed the action) and I asked Elijah “what should you say to him?” Elijah told him, “Stop it.” And the child stopped, just like that.

I don’t know if this has confirmed my anti-gun sentiment for my children. More importantly though, I think it confirmed that the one thing I can do is teach my children to stand up for themselves. I can’t control what they do or see on every play date, with their grandparents, in this world. As much as I want to protect and shield, I can only hopefully give him tools to take care of himself and understand right from wrong.

I’m teaching Fences to my students and Rose sings, “Jesus be a fence all around me every day.” We discussed the different types of fences that exist and those that people create. Rose wants a fence to protect her family. Troy wants to act as a fence around his son to protect him against the racial discrimination of the outside world and the disappointment that ensues. I think all parents want to be that fence; I want to put my children in bubbles to protect them from confidence-destroying, evil-maniacal, gun-toting, intolerant society. If it were only that simple. If there was only a magic formula. There are so many times when I think, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” God protect my children from me and my lack of parenting skills. I guess you just keep trying. Thanks to the show for confirming one instinct-- teach him to stand up for himself.

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