My son just turned nine. As I’ve walked through recent events with him, I’ve also learned a lot about myself.
On the way to pick up my kiddo from school last week, I turned on the radio to listen to the news. I knew it was going to be a big day in Washington DC as Congress confirmed the presidential vote. When I tuned in, I was shocked to hear reports of the Capitol being under siege. By who? And why? Everyone knows that things have been a heated on the political front for a long time. But could this actually be happening?!
It felt a lot like the morning of 9/11. It didn’t feel real.
I couldn’t tear myself away from it either as I pulled my car into the carpool line at school.
As parents, we have always been open with our son about most everything. We don’t say all the things we think or give him all the reasons behind what we do. Neither do we steer away from it when he asks. To us, there’s always a way to bring children into current events and hard topics in age appropriate ways. Especially with issues that captivate our attention and drive our decisions as citizens in this country.
I made a split decision as my car rolled to a stop at the cone he was standing by – I could change the radio station or I could keep it tuned in to the news. I chose to leave it on.
He jumped in and as he buckled up, we had our typical end-of-day exchange. How was school? What was the best part? Who did you play with at recess? And then it fell silent as he zeroed in on the reporter’s voice. “What’s happening, Mommy? Is that Biden talking?” Joe Biden’s voice came over the radio. I looked at my son in the rearview mirror and said, “something’s going on at the Capitol today. Let’s listen and then we can talk about it.”
Mr. Biden calmly admonished the events of the day and called on President Trump to use his powerful position to reassure our country and call off those attacking the Capitol.
I sat quietly, glancing at my son’s face while I drove. I could see the wheels spinning and knew the questions were about to come.
“So, people who like Trump are attacking the Capitol?”
I replied, “Well, not everyone who likes Trump is there. In fact, I bet there are people who voted for him who are surprised by what’s happening right now.” I continued, “You know there are a lot of people who don’t believe the results of the election. They’re angry. And I guess they thought this would be a way to make sure their voices were heard.”
When we got home, my kiddo jumped out of the car and rushed inside. He dropped his backpack on the floor and walked over to the TV where he asked if he could turn on the news. I’m sure, in that moment, I could have steered him away from it. But deep down, I knew this day would be marked in history. So we snuggled up on the couch and watched it together.
Seeing it though the the eyes of a nine-year-old changed the way I saw it.
We watched adults carrying wooden crosses and waving confederate flags. Adults yelling and screaming, pushing and shoving. Adults scaling the walls of the Capitol, breaking windows to enter and running through the halls, ransacking offices.
My son looked at me, searching for my reaction as a guide for his own.
We talked about what they say at his school, “Honor God. Honor others. Honor God’s property.” I asked him, “does it look like they’re doing that?”
He gave me a fast, “nope.”
The door opened to talk about other ways to express ourselves when we’re angry. The importance of being a good sport when we lose and the value of showing your opponent respect. But most importantly, not putting all our hope in leaders but rather in God.
Time has passed since that day and conversations have continued. I have found the thing I repeat most is that we can only control ourselves and what we say and do. We might not understand what motivates other’s decisions or the things they do. We might not ever agree politically…even with people who are very important to us, like family and friends. But showing love should be at the very foundation of all we do (1 Corinthians 13). Understanding that He loves us when we don’t deserve it and that His love is extended to everyone in the world (Romans 5:8). Those things should make us all pause in our own self-righteousness.
I do not say all of this because I think I’m better than. It is absolutely tempting to sit here, seething at the injustices of our time. And some days I certainly do. But ultimately, my experience of guiding my young son through this historic time for our country has forced me to practice what I preach and remember the challenge I often give him, “Is what I’m doing and saying making Jesus smile?”
Romans 5:8 (The Message) – But God put his love on the line for us by offering his son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
1 Corinthians 13 (NIV) – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.