My heart is hurting right now, friends. It is hurting for those families and communities that have lost loved ones. It is hurting for families that have to have difficult conversations and second guess the clothing choices that they make, just to keep their children safe. My heart is hurting for those families that choose not to talk about racism and perpetuate the belief that different lives are worth more or less, based on the color of skin, or where one is born.
I don't usually use this forum to talk about things that could be construed as controversial, but I am not going to be silent any longer. Our country is hurting too much. Too many people have sacrificed for the progress that has happened for us to go backwards. There is still so much work that we need to do together, as a community and as a nation. And here is the thing--- our children are watching us. Our children are listening to us. Our children see how we actually live and treat others-- the real us-- not the "post this on Facebook and it's all good" us, but the real us. The real us that has to look in the mirror and address our own biases and our own racism and our own privilege(s).
As an early childhood educator, as an instructor who works with teachers in training, as a small business owner, as a mom, as a human---- we need to start empowering our children to speak up when they see something not right. We need to empower our children to speak up for those that don't have a voice, or whose voice is silenced. We need to talk about how we do have differences and how those differences impact that person and that family, that neighborhood and community. As a white middle-class woman, I have the luxury of a certain safety and security, one that I often take for granted and don't even realize or think about. That is not right. My son will probably not have to worry about being profiled, or judged based on his clothing or his appearance, before he even utters a word. That is not the case for too many people in our community.
This is big work. This is hard work. This is work that people might want to ignore and wish it would go away. It won't. Is it uncomfortable talking about racism? Is is uncomfortable thinking about your privilege? Guess what- for the individuals and families who live with this reality every single day-- we must. We must work side by side, in solidarity, using our own two hands, using our voices, and using our hearts and minds to create a better world for ALL.
I like to think of our family as one that isn't addicted to t.v., as someone who shares information with families about the impact of screen time on children. Time to fess up. This summer our patterns changed big time. We used to have the t.v. down in the basement, but then we rearranged furniture and shifted spaces so that we could hold summer camp in that space. So the t.v. came upstairs. Slippery slope.
I was busy with coursework, or other deadlines and the t.v. would go on, while I was sitting next to my son working on my laptop. At the end of the night, once our son was asleep, we would turn on apple tv to "unwind", just watching reruns of shows we had seen before.
We hit a breaking point this past weekend and knew we needed to take bold action. We put the t.v. in the closet. It is still there, but we made the conscious decision to shift our priorities back to our family and our relationships with each other.
This big shift caused us to move other furniture around, which led to getting into a fresh space. We made piles of things to donate and we made a huge pile of things to consign with Rhea Lana's of North Cincinnati.
This shift gave us back time as a family. We went for a walk in our neighborhood, which we haven't done in awhile, I am embarrassed to admit. It is changing how we are interacting as a family and as individuals. I know that some people may feel this is harsh, but we can still watch one episode of a show on a tablet, or get the t.v. out for Friday night movie night. For our family, we had to make this change. We needed to reconnect with each other.
My new favorite spot- curled up on the couch reading books with my son. He has always enjoyed books, but now he is requesting at least 8 books a day! YES! We have baskets of books scattered around our home, mostly non-fiction, which ignites his mind and imagination. The place on the wall where the t.v. used to be now has a map of the world, so that when we are reading about Siberian tigers or cheetahs we can find their home on the map. The old t.v. stand is now his lego homebase.
Change can be hard, but I have to say, this change is welcome, and is having impacts that I hadn't even imagined. This picture was taken before we were totally set up- we moved some of the artwork around, and shifted a few things.
How can you re-think or re-imagine your space to better meet the needs of your family? Contact me if you would like my help.
Looking for an easy weekend project that will make such an impact for your child(ren)?
Create an outdoor shelf!
* Choose a shelf that you are okay with if it gets messy/muddy/sandy/dirty, and one that will hold up to the temperature/possible moisture-- the thrift store is a great place to pick one up.
* Keep a selection of art supplies available- colored pencils, crayons, colored chalk, paper (again- recycled is okay- it will get crinkly, and that is okay!)
* IKEA has inexpensive easels which are wonderful for outdoor art creations!
* Keep a basket/caddy with garden tools
* We have a small basket with color wheel paddles- our son is practicing naming the colors and he goes on color searches often in our garden and in the backyard. We have conversations about rainbows and all sorts of other topics with these simple little paddles.
* We love including books on our shelf, knowing they will get warped- that is okay-- character! Hit your local library book sale, yard sales, and Half-Price books.
* We keep a few tins with other objects that are open-ended-- a container with matchbox cars and a container with models of animals. These cars and animals can travel and be used in the sandbox, in the mud/digging pit, in the stone quarry or in the water table. Drawing creations on our driveway with chalk is also fun and the animals/cars move within those spaces.
* Involve your child in the process, and encourage them to be a part of the clean-up as well.
Have fun! When I am working with parents, I remind them that our job is not to entertain our children. We provide supplies and ideas and support, then give them the space and time to create, tinker and discover. Have a wonderful weekend!
Beth is a mom first and foremost. She is also a trained Montessori teacher who is passionate about making the lofty ideals of the Montessori philosophy more real and manageable for families.