I wish I had said this. I love what this lady has to say here so I’m going to share it with you.
By Ann marie Houghtailing
The day of the Paris attacks, I got several texts from friends asking about my older son. He was safe in London where he’s spending his first semester of college. On Facebook, I saw parents asking what the university was doing to protect our children. One parent pointed out London was on “high alert”– a post 9/11 phrase that has seeped into our lives reminding us that we are vulnerable, in case we forget.
But the truth is, in order to raise compassionate, emotionally, intellectually and culturally curious human beings, we have to surrender our illusion that we can protect our children from random acts of violence.
When I visited my son in London, three American universities experienced gun violence on the same day. As I came home from London before the Paris attacks, I walked out of a client’s office in San Diego to booming warnings from a police helicopter directing pedestrians to get off the street. A shooter was firing a high-powered rifle from the top of an apartment building.
Violence is happening on university campuses, movie theaters and city streets. There is plenty to fear. The school my younger son attends was on lockdown recently because of a threat phoned into the school district.
I worry about my children because I’m a mother and that’s simply part of what it means to have a child. What I don’t want for my children is a life of fear and limitation. We need to raise thoughtful, expansive citizens of the world to confront the complex issues we face.
My son told me that a restaurant owner in London made a derogatory, rage-filled comment to him because he thought for some reason my son was Syrian. While that small exchange makes me cringe as a mother and a human being, I also see its value for my son. My son’s beautiful brown face and exotic eyes fill me with love but can incite rage in a stranger who identifies him as ‘other.’ How can my son not be transformed by that exchange? To wish to protect him from those experiences is to compromise his capacity for compassion and empathy. Indifference, disconnection and otherness are fed by our own ignorance.
Is there a risk in allowing our children to travel abroad? Yes. But there’s a risk to shrinking their experiences in some vain, misguided effort to keep them safe.
This spring, my younger son will be going to Spain, Italy and the south of France for spring break. Last year he went to France and England. It was always my dream to raise curious, adventurous spirits ravenous to see the world. My children have the kind of privileged life I couldn’t even imagine at his age. I saw plenty of violence and struggle growing up, and while I certainly don’t wish my children to have that life, I want them to know the world is full of struggle.
It is an act of ferocious courage to let our children go. I have chosen to parent from love instead of fear, knowing that the world is dangerous, and knowing that as much as I wish for their safety, I want my sons to live big, full lives. I refuse to allow the actions of a few to diminish the richness of my children’s lives.
I feel an enormous responsibility to raise informed, empathetic people. I want my sons to see ruins and the thick brush strokes of original Van Goghs. I want them to tour parliaments and argue about politics and walk through castles and mosques and temples. I want them to know the world and understand all kinds of people so they grow giant, compassionate hearts. It’s not just what I want for my sons. It’s my social responsibility. We need a generation of curious, compassionate seekers.