Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Little Mermaid Rocks!

I confess, most of the time when I am 'watching' TV with my daughter, my mind is thousands of miles away. But sometimes something will penetrate the wall that I have put up and I find myself drawn to whatever is on the screen.

Today was one of those days.

We were watching the TV cartoon version of The Little Mermaid. It seems that a baby whale got separated from his parents and the Little Mermaid took him in and loved him. Whenever any kind of baby gets separated from his parents, my daughter has a visible and visceral reaction. She wanted that whale to find a family and was thrilled when the Little Mermaid took him in. Of course, the Little Mermaid was criticized by some friends for caring for and loving the whale-after all he was a whale and could make crab cakes out of dear Sebastian. Besides, he wasn't "one of the them".

But the Little Mermaid persevered and handle things quite well-for a mermaid. While she sang and sang about how love was all that matters I couldn't help but think about the veracity of love conquering all.

Clearly, love is the bedrock from which our children grow and flourish, but is it really enough? I know it sounds heretical, but sometimes we just can't love our children's pain and issues away.

No matter how hard I try, I can't replace my daughter's birth parents or the pain that not knowing them causes her. I can never know what it really like to be a person of color in the US. That doesn't mean I just walk away or shrug it off. Try as I might, I will never really understand how she feels. I used to feel badly about that but not any more. I am not a bad parent, I am a realistic one.

It means that I need to find the tools that will help her heal and to cope with the realities of her life-just like you do every day.

The world that my daughter-and your kids-are running in is quite different than the one we grew up in. Bullying is at epidemic proportions-160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of it. More and more children of color are being raised by Caucasian parents who will never understand what it is like to be a minority-let alone know how to model racial identities other than their own. Family structures have caused the definition of families to shift to accommodate the variety of families today. The list of significant differences is endless.

But some things haven't changed-like our responsibility to help our kids navigate their unique place in the world, to provide language that doesn't hurt others and a world view that allows them to accept and respect everyone-no matter how they may differ.

To be successful, our kids are going to have to be citizens of the world, able to deal with incredible diversity in people and experiences. You can start today-it is never too late!

Love comes first, but it not nearly enough.

With respect,

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