Thursday, February 23, 2017

Politics, Parenting, and Scared Kindergarteners

I want to take a moment to talk about #parenting and #politics. A few months back, on the day of the election, AL told me that he had heard that if Donald Trump got elected all the "brown people" would have to leave America. He was worried about them. It was a fear he mentioned again after the election. His best friend's mother is here on a Greencard from Kenya. The kids he and Kalem play with the most in the neighborhood have parents from Venezuela and Mexico. Down the street, our cat adopted a family from the Muslim country of Uzbekistan (I think). And it would not surprise me if a huge chunk of the Spanish speaking students at Evansdale have family members who lack valid documentation to be in this country. All this in mind, I couldn't tell him that he shouldn't worry about it; that it wouldn't affect him. What I told him was "We will try to make sure that doesn't happen." A few months back we were battling with AL about bedtime every night. If he didn't fall asleep before I left the room, he would be up 1000 times complaining about being scared. He wanted to sleep with the light on, with someone in his room. He wasn't willing to lie still and let sleep come. I admit, we were frequently less than sympathetic. Especially since he could never tell us what he was scared of. If he woke up in the middle of the night he would crawl into bed with me. Sometimes he cited bad dreams, sometimes he was "just scared." He could never articulate why. By the time the President started signing Executive Orders, he was crawling into bed with me every night, and I'd given up on relocating him back to his own room, since he would frequently just wake up a few hours later and crawl back. At bedtime I'd just started trying to stay until he fell asleep, even if it was after our allotted time. He switched nightlights with his older brother for one so bright I just consider it a light. My boy was terrified and needed me, and nothing else I said or did seemed to help except just being there. And then we went to the airport to protest Trump's immigration ban. AL decided what he wanted his sign to say (America is for Everyone). He held it up proudly to be photographed so it could be shown to Donald Trump. He chanted "Love, not hate, that's what makes America great!" And then we went home. Cold, exhausted, very hungry, and a little overstimulated. That night he understandably crawled into bed with me just like he had every night the weeks prior. But he's only done it once since then. Since the protest my son has crawled into my bed in the middle of the night *once.* The baby's new sleep routine frequently means me putting KH to bed right after I finish reading to AL, and he simply lies in bed waiting for me to come back and lie with him (sometimes even falling asleep with out me). He has, *on more than one occasion*, chosen to turn off his nightlight and sleep in the dark. I can't say for certain that these events are causative and not correlative. But I can tell you that to me there seems to be a very strong Before Protest and After Protest mentality to my son. This little boy still has plenty of behavior problems, but being inexplicably, cripplingly scared all the time, doesn't seem to be one of them anymore. Which isn't to say it won't come back. But regardless of what politics my boy ends up with as an adult, I will never regret teaching him that he has the power to DO something about the things that worry him. He has a voice, he can make it be heard. He can be brave.