Last Wednesday, June 6th, as my son Jase was upstairs playing and I was watching the news, watching the United States Capitol building be overrun and Democracy become threatened, he came downstairs and asked what I was watching and what was happening. I almost turned it off, I almost did not tell him anything, I almost did not acknowledge the chaos and tyranny taking place, but I didn’t. Instead, I sat him down next to me and let him watch, let him see and know and because he deserves to not have the truth and hard things hidden from him.
I let him sit next to me and he watched for a few minutes and asked questions. He asked why was this happening? Who were those people? Why were the police dressed like that? Why are they acting crazy? So, I told him. I did not go into graphic detail, I did not use words he would not understand, but I told him the truth. Because even though it is scary to see and even though it involves things he cannot fully understand, he is a citizen of this country and because of that deserves to know when people threaten it and what it stands for, because that is what happened yesterday.
As he watched a clip of a rioter rip down the American flag, drop it to the ground, and replace it with his political flag, I told him that those men and women were violating the rules of how the United States is governed. I told him that after the election, Joe Biben was elected the new President of the country and many people disagreed with that and tried to stop it. And today the lawmakers of our country gathered to make Mr. Biden’s win official and instead of allowing things to be peaceful and happen as our laws state they should, those men and women did very bad things to try and stop it from happening.
I could have told him more, as someone who co-majored in political science in college I could have told him a lot more. But I did notpartly because he didn’t need all the details and partly because it hurt my heart so bad to acknowledge that fellow citizens of this country tried so hard to bring our democracy to its knees.
I ended my words to him by saying what you are seeing is not right, it’s not law, and it’s not what this country is. Our country began to give people the right to vote for who they want to govern, so many countries do not have the chance to vote or decide who leads them, so we need to honor and respect that and that is not what those people did. I told him that in politics and life people win and people lose every time, but what those people did is not how we react. Always remember buddy that we are called as Christians to be people of peace and justice. I asked him if he had any more questions, he looked at the tv screen for a few minutes and then said,“no mama I understand we should pray for our country, thank you for telling me.” He gave me a hug and then ran outside to find fossils in the backyard.
So why do I write this? Why share it? Because as parents we should be the ones to tell our kids what is happening in the world around them, we should be the ones who, even when it is hard and scary, do not shy away from the conversations, and we owe it to them to be honest. So, I encourage you if your child asks what happened, because y’all they will hear about it somehow, be the one to talk with them, not at them, but with them. As a pastor and a chaplain somehow, it is hard to find the right words for things that happen in our lives and in the world, I understand that, and I grapple with it all the time. But we are parents and one of our God given roles is to lead, guide, support, and with truth and love prepare our children. That means we cannot hide the hard things, the scary things, the things that make us question or want to turn away. Because there will come a time, they are adults and we need to prepare and equip them for that time, and these moments, as hard and unsettling as they are, allow us to do that.
So, talk to your children and your teens, explain in simple sentences what happened. Do not get sensational but let them see the impact of your words and your feelings. Let them ask questions and if you do not know the answer tell them that but tell them you will find out because it’s important to them and they are important to you. Ask them how they are feeling and acknowledge those feelings, even if they are not your feelings, even if they are not the ones, you wouldwant them to have. Be their safe place in a world that seems so chaotic.
And then together, pray and hope for a better tomorrow. Not a tomorrow where everyone just gets along and does not argue, but a tomorrow where even in our disagreements, even when we do notalways win, and even when beliefs and ideologies differ, we remember who we are and whose we are. Yes, we are citizens of the United States, but above that we are children of God who did notcreate us for moments such as this, but for something better, something brighter.