It’s pretty easy for me to wake up and be motivated when it is both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Inaugeration of the 44th American President. My challenge today is to pass on my excitement to my children and try to convey the importance of one of my personal heroes – Martin Luther King Jr.
We watched the live broadcast this morning of Barack Obama and Joe Biden being inaugerated as the 44th President and Vice-President respectively. I haven’t explicitly explained what the president does, but my 4-year-old seems to get that it is a position of power and influence over this country – maybe similar to the role I play in the household. Wink.
The thing that I want to converse with my kids about is the concept of leadership and when it is appropriate to question it. Sometimes we are lead in life by people we don’t believe in, or we don’t agree with decisions that trusted leaders make. My kids are young, but I think I could ask them “Who are the leaders in your life? Do you trust them? If not, how do you tell them?” I imagine we will revisit this for years to come.
My daughter just started a dance class. It is the first time that she will be around the same collected group of children for a fixed time. She loves it, but already I see how she is socially splitting the group into people she likes more than others. What is the criteria? Who in the class is wearing a leotard? Laugh if you must, but this is interesting how she is dichotomizing a group of strangers. I see it as an instinctual tribalism; we’ve been reading a book about ballerinas and the girls wear leotards to class. I would wager that she views the girls with leotards as being the better dancers.
My husband reminded her that the class had no set dress code. Students could wear whatever they were comfortable in, and next week the people who wore leotards might choose something different to wear. Children are emotionally immature, and it makes sense that she would say things like this before she has developed stronger ideas of equality, justice, and fairness. I appreciate seeing how the concept of difference evolves in the child’s mind in an attempt to understand the world.
In my adult life Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a day to celebrate being in the service of others. As a parent, it is also an opportunity to evaluate how we treat others. My kids are constantly making decisions based on their understanding of the world with the river of feelings that shift like tides. If I can’t get down on their level and understand why they are making their decisions then I am missing out on an opportunity to introduce new ideas to them – MLK Jr. (the man, the life, the symbol, and the leader) gives me a framework in which to introduce some weighty but basic ideas on how to treat others with love and respect.