Parenting with Pregnancy Restrictions

Being the mother of a toddler, I appreciate having a full toolbox of parenting resources available. Some of them I don’t use for philosophical or ethical reasons, such as spanking. But until my pregnancy, I always felt like what I did or didn’t do was my choice. That immediately changed when a case of placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix) caused some very scary heavy bleeding at the end of the first trimester into the second one. In my follow up appointment, my doctor informed me that among my many other restrictions, I couldn’t pick up Sprout until any risk of bleeding was past. Suddenly, a key piece of my toolkit disappeared, affecting everything from how I hugged my son to bedtime routines. Over the course of the two-and-a-half months of restrictions, I learned some strategies to adapt my parenting to these limitations.

Parenting with Pregnancy Restrictions

Find alternative ways of showing affection: One of my favorite ways of showing affection to Sprout is picking him up and giving him a big, tight hug. With that no longer an option, I switched to kneeling down and hugging him at his level. Along with being better for my back, it also showed him more respect by me coming down to his level. I would also invite him to hug me while I was sitting down on the couch or a chair. Despite all that, the first thing I did as soon as the doctor lifted my restrictions was swoop him up into my arms.

Practice your best negotiation techniques: Before the restrictions, I seriously overestimated how much I used my physical size against my son. While we use zero corporal punishment or ever have any threat of it, there’s the simple fact that I’m two feet taller than him. So I can pick him up if I need him to move. Losing that advantage was surprisingly hard to get used to. With the restrictions, if he was lying the floor and I needed him to wash his hands, I – gasp – had to talk him into it. Anyone who has ever reasoned with a toddler knows how brain-twisting that can be. Since he doesn’t care much about logic, I often threw in some additional motivation. Instead of bribing him with stickers, food, or toys, I offered more non-materialistic joys. He particularly likes “walking on mommy’s feet,” where he stands on my feet while I walk wherever we need to go. I also leveraged singing and squirting his bath toys on him. Other times I reminded him of future pleasures, like eating pasta for dinner or reading whatever book he’s currently obsessed with at bedtime.

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Always Be Yourself. Unless You Can Be Santa; Then Be Santa

How can anyone dislike Santa Claus? However, my relationship with him as an adult is a bit ambiguous. While I hate lying, I’m a storyteller at heart. I hate the modern-day commercialism around Santa Claus, but love the magic of the toymaker myth. So I thought I was going to have a lot of heartache about how to treat Santa Claus when Sprout got old enough to understand him. But I think I’ve come upon an approach that makes sense – emphasizing the idea of Santa Claus as a character rather than an actual person.

Always Be Yourself. Unless You Can Be Santa; Then Be Santa-2

It certainly helps that Sprout is the most familiar with Santa as a character rather than a real person. We already read about Santa in books, from ones as simple as Biscuit’s Pet and Play Christmas to as weird as Lemony Snicket’s The Lump of Coal. The un-reality of Santa is emphasized even more by the fact that Santa isn’t even human in all of the books – in Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, he’s a cat, and Merry Christmas, Ollie! features Father Christmas Goose.

Through these stories, we can talk about whatever parts of Santa we want to, instead of the dominant cultural version. We’ll emphasize the idea of Santa as a generous toy giver who brings gifts because he loves people, just as we give each other gifts because we love each other. (And to tie to the actual religious part of Christmas, because people loved Jesus and brought gifts to him.) We won’t touch the “good girls and boys” nonsense with a ten foot pole because I’m already ideologically opposed to using toys as rewards.

Now, distinguishing between a character and a real person sounds terribly naive when talking to a two-year-old. But while little kids have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality, it doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of it. Contrary to 1960s British “moral campaigner” Mary Whitehouse’s position, kids back then did not actually believe that Tom Baker (then playing the Doctor in Doctor Who) was actually drowning for the entire week between a cliffhanger and resolution. Even Sprout, who is only two, knows that characters in books are not “real.”

So when it comes time for him to find out that Santa isn’t a “real” person, I hope that this approach allows us to acknowledge the fundamental fiction of Santa while maintaining the magic and spirit. An excellent book for doing this, which is also had the most heart-breaking first chapter of anything I’ve ever read, is The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by Julie Lane. (There’s a couple of other books of that name, but this is the best, obviously.) The beautiful part of it is that it roots Santa Claus and the traditions associated with him in tragic, beautiful, real world (albeit still fictional) circumstances while maintaining a little of the mystery.

Besides “Santa as story,” I think it’s also important when the time comes to provide some explanation as to why we’ve been pretending to be Santa this whole time. Fortunately, even that’s rooted in an idea that Sprout understands – cosplay! Because of our foray into costuming for Baltimore Comic Con, he already understands that sometimes adults wear costumes and pretend to be characters because it’s fun. Clearly, people dress as Santa because everyone wants to be him. People dressed as Batman or Groot aren’t actually Batman or Groot, but it’s fun to pretend we are. And who wouldn’t want to be Santa? He gets to give out presents, eat cookies, ride on a sled pulled by flying reindeer, and only works for a month a year (I assume production at the North Pole starts in late November).

No matter how we get there, I want to teach Sprout that we are all Santa for each other. While there’s no single jolly old man in red dropping off presents, we can act in that spirit by giving each other gifts and reaching out to those in need. Instead of Christmas becoming an orgy of consumer receiving, we want to frame it as a gentle season of generosity. And if I can teach him that, the magic of Santa will always be in his life.

Do It Myself!

“Do it myself!” I could probably live happily without ever hearing those words again. Unfortunately, they – or some variation – are a crucial phrase in every toddler’s vocabulary, including Sprout’s. While I appreciate his need to be independent and all of that bullshit, they’re really annoying in practice.

The phrase arises most often when Sprout is supposed to be doing something that he can do, but isn’t actually doing at the moment. For some reason, it’s the most common in the bathroom. When he’s supposed to be washing his hands, he often just sticks his right hand under the water rather than rubbing them together. Other popular options include splashing in the pool of water or sticking his palm against the faucet so it sprays everywhere. For toothbrushing, he prefers to gnaw on it with his back teeth instead of actually brushing them.

In both of these cases, he knows perfectly well how to do the activity – as I’ve seen him do it correctly – but is utterly uninterested in doing so. He’d much rather mess around playing in the sink or delaying bedtime. However, when I try to help him, he flails his hands and yells, “Do it myself!” While he can, it doesn’t make his futzing any less annoying when dinner is getting cold or his official bedtime is long behind us.

Unfortunately, my options for hurrying him up are limited for both philosophical and practical reasons.

In theory, I could get him to obey by physically forcing him to do it the way I want him to. However, I try to limit my physical enforcement of rules as much as possible to only the most dangerous of situations (like running in the road).

Physical enforcement often goes hand-in-hand with “might-makes-right” and authoritarian parenting, messages that I try to avoid at nearly all costs. The more I can convince Sprout that he should follow the rules because he wants to – or at least feels he should – the more he’ll form a moral compass in the future.

On a sheerly practical level, physical enforcement seems more effort than it’s worth for the stress. In a power struggle between a toddler and an adult, the toddler will always win in some way or another.

For example, the dentist recommended if he wouldn’t let us brush his teeth that one of us hold him between our knees and the other force his mouth open. Because that’s a great way to calm a toddler down before bed! No thank you on the additional half-hour needed to bring him down from a massive tantrum.

In fact, forcing him to do these things can actually be pretty dangerous. When he brushes his teeth or washes his hands, he uses a small stool to reach the sink. If he freaks out, waving his hands and stomping his feet, he could easily fall off it. He’s fallen off “dancing” around, much less throwing an actual tantrum. Slightly cleaner hands done a couple minutes earlier isn’t worth head trauma.

Instead, I try to find alternative ways to motivate him. When he says, “Do it myself!” I tell him, “I know you can – so show me!” Sometimes that works. When he’s spraying water all over the place, I prevent him from getting what he wants by cupping my hands around it so the spray is limited. I’ll only sing the tooth brushing song if he’s actually brushing them correctly. When he does actually do things correctly, I congratulate and praise him heartily.

And sometimes I just breathe deep, put my head in my hands, and wait. Eventually, he’ll do it right if I just give him time. After all, it’s just a phase.

When does your kid (or one you know) say, “Do it myself!!”

The Outdoors Guide’s Guide to Parenting

I’ve railed against parenting philosophies before, especially those with hard and fast rules that are more about shaming than actually helping people. But that doesn’t mean I don’t hold my own deeply held thoughts about parenting. Because helicopter parenting is far too restrictive and totally free-range is a little too hands-off, I’m somewhere in-between.

Instead, I see myself in the basic position of an outdoor guide, like one you have for hiking or rock-climbing. Although I’ve never been a fully licensed guide, I have taught outdoor education, where I led hikes, belayed climbers on rock-climbing walls, and taught field ecology to elementary and junior high students. You have to be quick-witted, skilled at the Art of Being Prepared for Anything, and well-versed in both first-aid and outdoors skills. Most importantly, you want to bring people on and back from an adventure safely, where they both learn skills and a lot about themselves. So, it’s very similar to parenting!

1) It’s essential to be strong, smart and flexible at the same time.

Who knew I was preparing for managing a toddler?

Who knew I was preparing for managing a toddler?

Some people – usually men who like weightlifting – think rock-climbing is about doing a series of pull-ups. Invariably, they are exhausted by the second climb. In contrast, the strategic climber who uses their legs well is just getting warmed up at that point. While strength is necessary in both climbing and parenting, it’s not enough by itself. It needs to be tempered with a thoughtful investigation of the unique situation, as well as the ability to switch gears as needed. The ability to judge which routes or fights are worth pursuing and which are best just to leave well-enough alone for now is key to reducing stress. Toddlers and climbing walls will always be the ones to win pure power struggles.

2) It’s important to learn how to evaluate risk and teach those skills to others.
On an outdoors trip, you have to trust the people you’re guiding not to do anything absurdly stupid. But part of building that trust is teaching them the difference between what will get them in big trouble and what’s a reasonable risk, especially when it’s not obvious to a newbie. The level of risk also depends on the circumstance – in some places, you’ll be fine hanging your food from a low tree branch but in others you better put in it a bear canister if you don’t want a furry friend in the middle of the night. Teaching children to judge and minimize risk without eliminating it is even more important. Whether making friends with a new person, climbing up a slide, or going to sleep-away camp, childhood has an immense number of social and physical risks. But avoiding them altogether limits opportunities, the ability to meet new people and find adventure. It’s tempting to make those decisions for your kid, but teaching them to make those decisions independently is even more important.

3) Learning how to judge when to spot, when to belay and when they can go on their own is essential.
While I’m not a helicopter parent, there are definitely times I hover, especially when Sprout is climbing a piece of playground equipment he’s not steady on yet. But I don’t see this as a bad thing; it’s the exact same thing I would do if Chris was tackling a tough bouldering problem. Spotting – putting yourself between the climber and the ground for support – is a perfectly valid strategy when someone needs that extra level of protection. Similarly, belaying – when you’re hooked in to a rope to prevent falling – is appropriate when you’re high up enough that you could get seriously hurt from a fall. Figuring out when to provide full, partial or no protection for your child when they take a risk is the next step after teaching how to judge one. After all, taking a huge risk with no safety net is terrifying, while taking a little one is fine. On the other hand, always being on a rope can encourage recklessness. Figuring out how to offer that support is another balancing act.

4) Helping them set their own goals, while also giving input when needed.

The Inca Trail!

The Inca Trail!

A good outdoors guiding company will focus on the participants’ goals, whether that’s climbing a huge mountain or backpacking for the first time. At the same time, they’ll also let you know if you simply aren’t ready to take that step yet. Someone who has never put on crampons shouldn’t try to summit Mt. Everest. As a parent, I want to encourage Sprout in his goals while also making him aware of the hard work that has to happen to get to them. In a few circumstances, I may even recommend he has a back-up plan in case things don’t work out. Even the most prepared, experienced climber shouldn’t summit Everest if there’s a storm coming.

5) Recognizing and respecting how your children’s skills are different from your own.
One of the worst things on a hike is when you’re the last person in the group, trying to keep up desperately. Then, as soon as you get to the place where everyone else is resting, they get up and start again. Conversely, one of the hardest things as a guide is keeping track of where people are and ensuring you’re going their preferred pace, not yours. (This is the hardest part of leading my Kidical Mass bike rides with small children.) Understanding and respecting how your children’s skills are different from yours and how that may affect their goals, interests, decisions and activities will help you give them the freedom they need. Learning to really listen to them is absolutely key. I feel like I have a bit of a head-start on this particular skill because while I’ve had a pretty straight-forward career (undergrad, grad school, federal job), my husband had a much more circuitous academic and career path. (And contrary to our society’s perspective, loves being a stay-at-home dad.) I’m already attuned to the fact that not everyone is suited for a traditional school experience or office job.

6) Encouraging failure as a form of learning.
You can never get better at rock climbing without falling a few (if not several) times. You don’t learn to put up a tent without getting tangled in poles once or twice. Anything worth doing involves screwing up and learning from it before getting it right. Our current test-based society is a little obsessed with getting things right the first time, but that just leads to depressingly stunted thinking.

7) Travel light.
Even if you’re car camping, packing too much is a big pain. When you’re backpacking, it becomes sheer misery. The same goes for raising kids. Having too much junk makes parents and kids less, not more, happy. One of my favorite parenting books is Simplicity Parenting, which among other things, advocates having fewer, more versatile, and more simple toys. (They also just posted a guest post by me!) For our sanity, pocketbooks and environmental / social sustainability, we try to limit the sheer number of toys (and other stuff) in our house, particularly the number that require batteries. We also try to buy ones that Sprout can use in different ways as he gets older, so he’s less likely to get bored of them. Most importantly, we try to emphasize time spent together over anything else.

8) Spend as much time outside as you can.
Red Rocks Canyon w/Chris
Being outdoors benefit everyone, but is especially important to children’s development. Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods talks about “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which happens simply when kids are inside too much.

9) Teaching appreciation of diversity, both of people and the natural world.
The best outdoor guides know all about the natural and human history of the places they lead people. I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation of so many places I’ve visited by listening to a guide explain the details I’d miss or context I didn’t know about. Their inherent enthusiasm for the subject inspired excitement in me. Likewise, I’d like to pass on that knowledge, love of learning and appreciation of diversity to my son. You miss out on so much beauty if you just stick to things you already know. I want him to explore while also appreciating the simple pleasures around him.

10) Respect your fellow travelers and the environment.
Leave No Trace is a popular camping and hiking philosophy. While it’s impossible to leave zero trace, the idea of leaving a place better than when you started is a good one. Two of the biggest values I want to teach my son are kindness and respect. Those are as helpful in everyday life as they are on the trail.

11) Fight for the things you love.
The first people to advocate for environmental protections were people who loved both the outdoors and bringing others into it, like John Muir. While there were some definite problems with the original conservationist movement (namely, racism and classism), we can still take inspiration from the idea of our passion motivating us to make a difference. Whether it’s working to ensure everyone has access to fresh, affordable, good food or protecting clean water, advocacy starts with a love of people and nature.

12) Remember that it’s about having fun.
In the middle of a downpour or a temper tantrum, it’s hard to remember that this experience is supposed to be fun. But that’s a major reason I became a parent. And despite all of the challenging times so far, I truly enjoy so much of the time I spend with Sprout. If we can’t stop and just enjoy ourselves with our kids – finding the magic in the mess, as Beth Woosley puts it – we’ve missed much of the point.

Guest Post on Simplicity Parenting: The Evening Walk

I have a guest post up on the Simplicity Parenting website, the blog of the parenting book of the same name. While I don’t agree with everything in the book, it has a good framework for simplifying your entire family’s life to focus on what you really deem important. My post is about one of our family’s major rituals – walking to the pedestrian bridge near us to watch the trains going by – and how that’s affected my perspective on the world.

Here’s the first paragraph:

“It always begins the same way: a small voice insisting “This way!” often accompanied by a firm pull of the hand. Even if I wanted to, it would be hard to say no to my regular evening walks with my two-year-old son. Because this is no ordinary walk – it’s to a bridge that runs over a railroad track, allowing us to ‘watch trains.’ But I’ve found a simple pleasure in our walks there and back, even if they sometimes make us late for dinner.”

Read the rest on the Simplicity Parenting blog!

(Funnily enough, these walks no longer start with him saying “this way,” as his language skills have improved markedly since I first wrote the post. Now he usually says, “Watch trains!” The rest of the post is still true though.)

An Open Letter to Parenting Experts

I believe in being positive, especially as a parent, but sometimes I get frustrated. I get angry when people are being oppressed, when someone is reinforcing prejudicial societal patterns, or when people are putting others in unnecessary pain. These Open Letters are either to the people making me mad or those suffering.

Dear writers of parenting books and articles,

I have a bit of unsolicited advice. You’ve given us so much over the years that it seems time to give a little back.

1) Don’t over-promise unrealistic results. Look, we know there’s lot of competition on the parenting advice shelf. In the age of Twitter, you have to catch their eye right away. Nonetheless, it’s nothing but sheer cruelty to guarantee “Teach your baby to sleep (in just seven days)” or “How to eliminate tantrums and raise a patient, respectful and cooperative one to four year old.” While those claims are clearly absurd to people with two brain cells available to rub together, parents that have been waking up multiple times a night for more than a year or are trying to tolerate whiny kids don’t even have that minimum available. (I say this as a victim of the former situation.) Giving false hope is just mean.

2) Don’t shame parents when your tactics don’t work. When you claim your advice will work for all kids, you imply that if it doesn’t work, it’s the parent’s fault. For example, a number of books and articles emphasize how very important it is that your infant both sleep exclusively on their backs by themselves as well sleep through the night for a specific period of time. But there’s a percentage of kids who will never do that! Good luck explaining “but the books says you have to sleep!” to them.

3) Acknowledge yours may not be the only solution. Everyone knows different tactics work for different kids, even in the same family. So of course, a family may need to draw on a whole toolbox of ideas, not just the ones in a single book. But too often, you allude – or even occasionally state outright – that using other methods makes the reader a Bad Mother.

4) Don’t assume everyone has a Leave It to Beaver middle-class nuclear family. Increasing numbers of families have diverse structures, with single parents raising kids on their own, grandparents helping out, same-sex couples raising kids, and many more combinations. Parents may have high or very low incomes. The primary caregiver may be a mother or father or not even a biological parent at all. Yet you often give advice that’s only helpful, applicable or realistic for a small portion of the population. You recommend absurd amounts of unnecessary baby gear, assume a broad variety of available childcare options (FYI, nannies and au pairs are not affordable for most families), assume the mom will be doing most of the work, and give advice only helpful to parents with 9 to 5 schedules. This structure makes the rest of us feel like we don’t matter or even exist.

5) Don’t recommend – nay, require – contradictory actions in the same book. My “favorite” example is from the tome of pregnant lady-shaming, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The authors recommend to eat locally as much as possible. Then just a few pages later, the same book recommends pregnant women eat 4 servings of fruit a day, especially mangos. Unless you actually live in South America, that’s ridiculous. Some good copy editing will save a lot of parents some head-banging, and not of the heavy-metal kind.

6) Don’t use the word “should” to refer to a child’s behavior unless you’re actually referring to a developmental milestone. Modern-day parents get just a tiny bit obsessive about their kids hitting their milestones. These days the only things we can turn to to know if our kid is “normal” is other parents, our pediatrician, or parenting books. While there are certain ones that it’s important to meet, it really muddies the waters when parenting books just make up new ones. For example, there’s no set standard for when your kid must sleep through the night. There are some adults who don’t sleep through the night!

7) Never use the term “mother’s intuition.” Most moms arrive home and think, “What the hell do I do now?” The sole extent of my “inborn knowledge” was “Oh crap, my baby is crying!” I knew I should do something to calm him, but what I should do eluded me. Suggesting that I should have some magical ability to know what to do made me even more insecure. If parenting intuition exists, it’s from the slow, beautiful process of learning to know a child’s personality and unique traits. It’s much more helpful to reassure new parents that it will get easier over time as they get to know their child.

Now all of this might make me sound rather, well, motherly. But I’m pretty sure you can handle it. After all, you’ve given plenty of “shoulds” and “should-nots” to us.

Dance Like Everyone is Watching

Content note: Transphobia

She shook her body to the Latin music played by the band on stage, wearing a tight floral dress cut up to the middle of her thighs. At the end of each song, she’d cross her legs and do a little curtsy or hand wave to the audience. She rejected the idea of dancing as if no one was watching – she knew everyone was watching and wanted it, invited it, reveled in it. But she was no typical beauty. Her arms and legs were highly muscled, her face lean and sharp, her chest flat, her hips not curvy at all. It seemed like either she was a trans woman or just had very masculine features. But while her body didn’t meet society’s standards of feminine, she didn’t seem to care – she was incredibly proud of it anyway.

Seeing her at my town’s weekly music night last Friday, I had conflicted feelings. Much to my surprise and disappointment, I felt disgust first. Not over her body, but over the fact that she was showing it off so flagrantly. People who purposely draw attention to themselves in public places, especially by dancing, rankle me. Their overwhelming confidence and feeling of entitlement to everyone’s attention is everything I don’t have, but wish I did. (Penny B, a character from the comic series Phonogram is the epitome of this phenomena.)

Watching this woman, what felt particularly, illogically, galling was that she acted that way even though society has decided people like her aren’t worthy of adoration. I kept thinking, “Doesn’t she know no one came here to see her?” Until I realized: “Of course she does. But she’s going to make them watch anyway.” She had decided to be a self-styled rock star regardless of what anyone thought.

And that insight made me see that she wasn’t delusional or desperate for attention – she was staggeringly brave. Brave for not only being herself in a highly public place, but being it loudly and as prominently as absolutely possible. Brave in a way I can’t imagine, as someone far more privileged than her. Her performance was a huge middle finger in the face of anyone who was prejudiced against her.

Including me, in a way. It’s so easy to be an ally on social media, where everyone is at a remove. To reblog or retweet something about LGTB rights or body image acceptance that sounds awesome, but you haven’t really emotionally processed. Stuff about acceptance that maybe you don’t even believe about yourself. It’s another thing entirely when an actual person is there in the flesh, throwing ideas of what you should and shouldn’t do, what is appropriate and not, back in your face. And I flinched, at least internally. I didn’t know how to process a person who challenged so many deeply engrained assumptions, so I fell back on rejection. I knew it was the wrong reaction and yet it was hard to overcome.

While it was tough for me to personally face, this is especially why I was glad this woman was out there, dancing in as public a way as possible. Not to teach my privileged ass a lesson, but to be a real life role model for the people surrounding her in a way I can’t be. In particular, most of the other people dancing were children. As I mentioned in my post about white privilege, it’s great if Sprout is exposed to media that has diverse casts, but it’s far more powerful to know diverse people in real life. Maybe her dancing gave hope to a trans kid who is trying to figure things out, encouraged a kid struggling with body image issues, or normalized people outside of traditional gender appearances for other kids just a little bit more. Seeing the crowd’s reaction was also beautiful in how it exemplified how much has changed in a short period of time, even though there’s still a long way to go. Unlike in the recent past or even other locations, no one took their children away or appeared to see her as a threat to them. No one shamed her for what she was doing, although there were some awkward glances. I hope that minimum of tolerance from the parents blooms in their children to full acceptance.

The joy of her performance was eventually infectious. While I didn’t boogie down – Sprout was content to stand on the side and watch – I was glad to be part of her audience in the end.

Guest Post on Urban Planning and Parenting

I have a guest post up at local urban planning and smart growth blog Greater Greater Washington (welcome folks from over there!): If you want a place to welcome kids, make it urban.

Drawing on my experience growing up in a suburban environment and raising a kid in a semi-urban environment, I consider some of the best parts of urbanism that can make places better for kids and parents.

Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:

A child’s surroundings can make all the difference in what and how they learn, and urban places can offer what kids need for healthy development. Here are some ways we can make places kid-friendly.

While zoning meetings aren’t exactly a hot topic on parenting blogs, perhaps they should be. Our neighborhoods’ physical structure strongly influences how residents can raise children. Within the cultural conversation around the Meitiv’s, the Montgomery County couple who Child Protective Services investigated for allowing their children walk home from a park, little of it has been on how communities could make themselves better places for children.

Read the rest at Greater Greater Washington!

Five Ways I’m Raising Peacemakers

"Five Ways I'm Raising a Peacemaker." When the world is so violent, how do we teach our kids to build peace? (Graphic: Dove made up of different colored words saying "peace.")

Trigger warning: racism, racial violence, murder

Day after day, year after year, the names of murdered black men and women keep getting longer and longer. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Philando Castile, Tywanza Sanders. These are all rooted in a long history of violence against black people in the U.S.; a history few white people choose to face the results of today. On the Sunday after the Charleston shooting, my my pastor directed us to build peace: “If you are a father, teach your children; if you are a mother, teach your children. If you have any influence at all, use it.”  It is our responsibility as parents of all races to teach our children to find alternatives to violence, to be peacemakers. For white parents of white children like me, it’s an absolute obligation.

Here’s how I plan to help my sons become peacemakers – people who doesn’t passively accept the culture but actively works to make it more just.

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