Home > Love, Parenting > You are capable of changing them

You are capable of changing them

My five-year-old suddenly became quiet during our playtime yesterday morning.

After a few minutes, I asked if anything was wrong.

“I’m sad your friend has to go back to prison,” he told me.

“Oh, sweetie. I am, too,” I told him with a hug. “But it’s not too much longer. She’ll be out only a couple of weeks after you graduate kindergarten … “

“But that’s a long time away,” he told me. “A really long time!”

“You could help make it feel a little shorter by writing her more letters or drawing her pictures,” I suggested.

The thought made him smile, for a moment.

I wondered briefly if I should have served up a kinder version of reality than “some people are vindictive jerks.” If my husband and I should have told him some watered down version of real facts having nothing to do with even the innocent serving prison time.

But the truth is that I’m glad my mom spoke to me of hard truths when I was young. I’m glad she said things that made me worry, and then helped walk me through the worry as best as she could. She helped me accept hard truths others might have rejected as outside their experience, and wonder how I might change or fix those issues for the future. It’s helped me feel her presence–and her hope–when I face hard truths now. I feel her most profoundly when I look at something seemingly unfixable and try to understand where there might be room for change. Even slight change.

I wish my sons could rightly see only unicorns and superheroes. Truly I do. And yet I also feel enabling them to see only those happy things in a not wholly happy world would be contributing to its problems:

Acknowledging climate change is inconvenient to you? No problem! Ignore it! There are a lot of deniers in this world happy to benefit from your disbelief!

Racism is inconvenient to you? No problem! Ignore it! There are a lot of deniers in this world happy to keep you disbelieving!

Poverty is inconvenient to you? No problem! Ignore it! There are a lot of deniers in this world happy to keep you believing poverty is a simple choice!

I feel deeply my son’s sadness today. And yet, I also feel my older son’s sadness today is a profound part of his strength tomorrow. He can’t solve problems he doesn’t see. When unseen, they’re not potentially fixable problems, but part of the crud you just have to slog through in life.

So, today, I’ll work to keep guiding him toward seeing problems, the better for him to maybe–someday–resolve them. I’ll keep answering his questions as honestly as I can, with an occasional, “I just don’t know how to answer that for you right now, sweetheart.”

As I feel my mom when I face hardship today, I hope that he’ll feel me in his yearning to resolve and heal. I pray that after I am gone he will hear my whispers not only from answers but from the problems themselves:

“You are stronger than all these paltry things. By acknowledging them,

knowing I am always with you and cheering you on,

then and only then, are you capable

of changing them.”

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  1. May 25, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    We don’t to get to pick and choose our trust, do we.

    • May 25, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      I think we do. Even from a young age, Li’l D asks lots of questions … some of which I can’t quite answer, and where he says he doesn’t believe me. That’s fine with me. I’d rather him disbelieve me than believe anything anyone ever tells him.

  2. May 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    The conflicts of motherhood, huh? Protection vs. truth. You are doing the right thing, letting them ease into the darkness and hurt while you are there to keep them from drowning in it.

    • May 25, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      I like how you summed this up: while I’m still here to keep them drowning in it. While I’m here, I’m part of all their experiences of the world, good and bad. I don’t want to just be part of their positive experiences of the world. I want them to know that after the hard times pass, the sun will still be found somewhere. More than that, I wish I could give them a world of perpetual soft sunshine … but since that’s not within my power, I’ll do my best with what is, and take all the encouragement I can. (I was thinking about how to work one of your recent posts in here, actually, but I think there’s another post in that!)

  3. May 25, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    How did you get to be so wise so young?! Love the post–and the approach to helping your sons see and understand life and the little things they can do to try to make things better.

    • May 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      I’ve had some really remarkable mentors! I’m glad to live in a world where that wasn’t limited to those within physical reach. I know a lot of sad things can flow from our constant connections, but it’s also true some very good things can flow from them. The connections to wise and kind people (nudge, nudge) are among those good things!

      One of my first mentors told me many years ago there’d be a time where she would no longer be able to guide me the right direction and I’d have to guide her. It seemed preposterous at the time, and yet a few years later, she replied to one of my emails saying the point had come where it was my time to guide her.

      Happily, she was only half right. Change had come, but it was a balance, not a switch. I still have much to learn from her, and I’m glad for that. The world is much harder to face alone than with a solid team. ♥

    • May 27, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      very nice, always go with the truth.

  4. May 25, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Five weeks, it is a blink of an eye or an eternity, all depends on perspective. I love that you listen and answer to the best of your ability. Your children will change the world for the better because they know they have the ability. They are not shielded from trial and tribulations, they are able to see what is and what may be.

    • May 25, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      I’ve been thinking about those weeks since Li’l D and I spoke. Five weeks can feel like nothing if spent in familial vacation along a quiet beach, or like an eternity if spent alone in harsh environs. For me, picturing Rara’s arms trembling through the morning and early afternoon, I imagine those weeks as an eternity of wondering and missing and I wish again I could do more than write a letter or two over those weeks. But then there’ll be a time a couple years down the road where those weeks are just a fragment of memory, so that’s true, too.

      Your comment leaves me feeling so hopeful. I hope my kids–our kids–will change the world for the better. I know that Li’l D believes he can, and I think that will be a powerful guide toward effecting the changes he wants to see … because he is learning to see both what is, and what he would like to be, rather than trying to treat the two as interchangeable.

      I love listening to my boys. I love how well they listen to me as a result. And on my most exhausted days I am so, so grateful for how that openness buys me an occasional pass: “Oh, kiddo, I just don’t have it in me to have this conversation tonight. Could we try again tomorrow?” They know we will come back. We always do, when we’re both ready.

  5. Paul
    May 25, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Rara’s case is an excellent example of how the Law and Justice are not necessarily connected – something I am sure that you have seen many times. To me the Law is laid over Justice and there are points of commonality, but the two are separate and distinct. This is an important lesson for a young child. To me it is our job as humans, to align the the Law with Justice – we are here to work at making the world fair, that’s our job and raison d’etre. I have found (having been around children as they grew) that kids can always handle the truth – they may need it offered in a simpler manner, but they can handle it. And they should. I never sugar coated reality for our two kids and they had a solid understanding of the world when they grew up. Well done Deborah.

    I followed over here from somewhere relating to Rara, read your “about” and signed up for a tour. I love the fact that you enjoy negotiations as i truly believe that there are inevitably uncaptured commonalities in any adversarial relationship. There is also a reality or framing that often goes unsaid or unnoticed that can sabotage any negotiations unless the negotiator is smart. We take a lot of things for granted that are not real. For instance when asked what the business of McDonald’s is, most would answer: food or hamburgers or some such. In truth, they increase the value of the company yearly more by real estate transactions and valuations, than they do with sales revenue. They are primarily a real estate holding company. Or, here in Canada, our mail organization – Canada Post – has a retirement fund deficit of over $6 billion, more than they gross in a year. They have many times that amount invested on behalf of employees and are currently faced with the situation of downsizing when there are already 10,000 more retirees than employees. Canada Post is primarily a retirement fund company. And so on. I enjoyed negotiations in B-school, although I was a tad too collaborative than the prof desired. I think the key to most negotiations in the long term is to reduce the adversarial component and build the collaborative component. What are your thoughts on this Deborah?

    Oh, great post – I agree completely.

    • May 25, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      I recently found a blog run by people who work defending people long ago convicted of wrongdoing, but whose innocence seems highly likely in light of newer evidence or readings of evidence. In a few cases, innocence was virtually certain, but the convicted were held in prison regardless because of procedural issues like failure to discover discoverable evidence. The fact that someone’s innocence could be conclusively established (such as by a videotape showing a perpetrator bearing no physical similarity to them whatsoever) and yet that person could languish in jail says much about our (in)justice system. The fact that the jurors who listened to my family’s case decades ago unanimously said they’d never subject their loved ones to such indignity is a facet of that. So when Rara said with quiet resignation–a year ago–that she didn’t have it in her to fight for years and years, I got it, although I still can’t imagine the resolve required to act on that understanding.

      As far as collaboration in negotiation, YES! I wrote this related post late last year. There was another one a little more spot on that I can’t locate, possibly because I deleted it on accident … with hundreds of other posts, argh. (This is another one that gets somewhat close.)

      I began my contracts career trying to pound people into doing what I wanted them to do, without regard for their needs or what they’d consider success. For example, do they really want more money for their product, or are they more interested in publicity? Or beta testing for future versions or related products? Potentially even other kinds of partnerships?

      My then manager (and forever mentor) suggested that I’d get a lot more by honey than by stinging. It seemed preposterous at the time, but my small efforts to apply her wisdom yielded great results. They transformed my thinking about what negotiation was–not force, but collaboration. Not all success needs to be at someone else’s cost, but I wasn’t equipped to see that at the beginning of my career. I’m happy to see it a little more clearly by the day now.

      (It’s exciting to imagine how I might frame these questions in another decade!)

      Thank you so much for this thought-provoking comment. On this basis alone, I’ve followed your blog … and looking forward to reading some after my oldest one is in bed shortly!

      • Paul
        May 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm

        Ummm, I have a blog? This is possible, but if so it was done without my knowledge. I’m OK with it – just surprised. What is the title of my blog? Oh, and i do very much enjoy your writing Deborah. Thank You.

        • May 25, 2015 at 7:32 pm

          Your profile contains a link, which is typically to the commenting individual’s blog, In your case, of course, I’ve since learned it’s … appropriately … a link to a more collaborative endeavor instead of an individual blog!

          • Paul
            May 25, 2015 at 8:04 pm

            Ha! I’ll have to check it out. 😀 I love finding out new things about myself. Bwahahaha!

    • May 26, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Well-said, Paul!

      • Paul
        May 26, 2015 at 6:47 pm

        Thank You AR Neal.

  6. May 26, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Truth telling, even to young children is important my friend. Sometimes, it is a terrible truth telling, but your sons will grow in strength and like you take on the world someday.

  7. May 26, 2015 at 8:20 am

    everyone here has touched on my thoughts lol so I won’t repeat…but bravo to you Mom! honesty rocks! truth is freedom 😉 no matter how bitter the pill. you’re on the right track! namaste

  8. NotAPunkRocker
    May 26, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I think you handled it perfectly and you are well on the way to raising an even more compassionate, social advocate of a child. Well done, mom and dad. ❤

  9. May 26, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Deb. You are obviously dedicated to helping your children become strong, powerful, open-eyed adults. Unfortunately, sugar coating some of the tough lessons doesn’t help children today, and I don’t really think it helped back in the day either 🙂

  10. May 27, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I agree with letting kids see the hard parts of life. I don’t think it does any good to hide it from them. It does so much more good to walk through these things as a family where we can support one another and try to do something good in the face of difficult circumstances.

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