Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday So What: sMothering

So This week, I did something I never thought I would -- I censored a book.

Usually I'm pretty much an artistic integrity kind of gal, but now that I'm reading to my kindergartner ... not so much.

My daughter's teacher does take home reading for the kids, and this week one of the books was Martin's Big Words, the life of Martin Luther King.

I was a little worried to start, but only because I thought the book would be boring for her. Instead she was rapt with questions, questions I wasn't entirely prepared to answer.

Lily: Why does Whites Only mean?
Me: Before mommy was born, there was a time when black people and white people couldn't use the same things.
Lily: What are black people?
Me: You know, people with black skin, like Grace in your class.
Lily: She's doesn't have black skin, she's brown. And I'm not white, I'm pinkish. Did people used to not know their colors?

These are complicated issues for an almost 6 year old to understand. Its wonderful and amazing to me that while she has little friends that are different ethnicity, the only difference she sees is whether it's a boy or a girl.
I'm okay with talking about the civil rights movement with her. It's history. It's important. Dr. King and Rosa Parks are amazing and inspiring role models. I loved the lesson from the book where "Martin" says, You can't fight hate with hate. You can only fight hate with love. That is such and important thing to teach a child at any age.

After that, the book veered off course for me. It started talking about Dr. King's persecution  Saying that people came after him. That he was beaten, attacked and bloodied. That he was threatened and his church was burned. While these things are all true, and important to know, are they important for a kindergartner to know?

I admit, I skipped reading those parts aloud. We don't use violent language in my household. I improvised and said that some people didn't like his message and were really mean to him and his family. And that hurt him and made him sad.
I kept going through the book, changing words here and there, my voice cracking with emotion. At the end, I could not bring myself to say that Dr. King was murdered. Shot down for his beliefs.

Lily: Why are you crying mommy?
Me: Because he was a great man and he died and that makes me sad.
Lily: Did he die because he was old?
Me: No baby, he was shot.
Lily: With what?

I never had the chance to answer because I got left behind in the excitement of Daddy coming home. My daughter didn't understand, because I'm pretty sure she thinks that guns all shoot Nerf darts. She has no idea the Conn. shooting happened, and it's never come up in any other aspect of our lives.
I've mentioned before that my daughter is a little behind the curve in emotional and social aspects. She's my little bundle of anxiety, with chronic tummy aches, just sure that the world is going to crash down on her. I couldn't bring myself to bring any more worries into her little world. The idea of arson would give her night terrors for weeks.

Friday, I approached her teacher and told her I was concerned that the book was a little above grade for Lily. The teacher didn't call me a racist or anything, but that was the feeling I left with. Just to be clear, I wouldn't read my daughter a narrative of Joseph Smith's persecution in Carthage jail either. There will be time enough to learn that the world is not really full of rainbows and unicorns. It doesn't need to happen in kindergarten.

I guess what I'm struggling with is the question of "Did I do the right thing?" Am I protecting my daughter too much and I should have just read it as is; let her turn over the idea that people are willing to kill someone if they don't agree. Willing to burn down their homes over hate?

As a parent, I want to protect my girls from everything. I want to dress them in bubble wrap and marshmallows and tell them their birthday wishes really do come true. That they will always be safe and nothing bad will ever come from the closet.

I was much like her as a kid. I thought that everything bad would come for me. Used to hide in my closet, sure that a robber was coming to kill me and my family.
Am I trying so hard to spare her from my own traumas, that I've surpassed helicopter parent and moved on to sMothering?


  1. I think you did absolutely the right thing. There are a lot of beautiful and poignant picture books like this out there, but "picture book" does not mean "one-size-fits-all children's book." I wouldn't introduce that book until the children are actually learning about the civil rights movement. I'm not sure how early that is these days--for me it was 7th grade-- but it sure isn't kindergarten.

  2. As a teacher, but not a mother (though I am a high school teacher) I would say you did the right thing. I'm not entirely sure why a kindergarten teacher is having her students read a book about Martin Luther King Jr. in the first place, but it is certainly in your rights as a parent to say "My child is not ready for this." It saddens me that her teacher did not listen to your concerns as a parent and instead made you feel so low.
    I think the most important thing here is that you were uncomfortable reading this book to your child and you didn't ignore that feeling. That was the right thing to do. As the parent, you certainly acted in the best interest of your child. You will know when she is ready to learn the sadder truths of life and if now is not the time, then you did right by not forcing it.
    You followed the Spirit, though you may not have known you were doing it, and that is always the right thing to do.

  3. I think you did the right thing also. I’ve always been a proponent of the “honesty is the best policy” theory with my kids, but they have always seemed emotionally capable to handle most things, as long as I explain them in a way they can understand. If, however, one of them had the kinds of anxiety issues you are talking about, I would absolutely do the same thing you did. And there are certainly things I choose not to share or explain to my kids until they specifically ask about them.

    So stay the course, mama! Only you know your babies. :-)

  4. "There will be time enough to learn that the world is not really full of rainbows and unicorns. It doesn't need to happen in kindergarten."


  5. I believe in honesty with children, and I believe that children can learn about difficult topics in a safe environment. But every child is different, and what constitutes a safe environment will be different according to the child's needs at a given age and emotional maturity level. You know your daughter and you get to help her navigate the scary waters at this time in her life. Someday you can help her understand the more difficult parts of this period of history, but it is okay if that day is not today.

    Even in my graduate classes there was a wide reaction from students to novels with violence, difficult language, and sex - some were sensitive to images in movies but not so much to words, others the opposite, some always sensitive, some rarely sensitive. In graduate school the sensitive ones do not have their parents right there to help them, but in kindergarten, it is a blessing that they do.

  6. Thanks guys. I am really starting to believe I made the right choice. Especially after last night's nightmare about the rat king from the nutcracker. I think Civil rights will need to wait a while for this kiddo



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