How one couple is raising their boys without a safety net.
In retrospect I probably told my sons about Hitler too early.
My younger son was an oddly precocious 2-year-old, and somehow I imagined that prepared him for learning about the Holocaust. Seven years later he has just finally stopped renouncing his Judaism as a result, while his brother has simply decided not to travel to Germany.
Point being, there are no velvet curtains or smoke and mirrors in our house. We talk about the world with all of its warts and wonder. Then we let them learn from living in it. Here’s how.
1) We provide information that might help them make choices.
- We list foods that can give you constipation and watch them eat everything we named.
- We explain the procreative and pleasurable outcomes of erections, and laugh at the shouts of “My penis is practicing!” that emerge from their rooms on many mornings.
- We show them Supersize me, and then we still drive them to McDonalds.
2) We let them learn from natural consequences, not lectures.
- We give them money and talk to them about saving and sharing. Then we watch them spend it down to the last penny without a word of judgement.
- We talk about the benefits of being polite, and see them warm to the idea as people warm to their handshakes, eye contact and interested inquiries.
- We let them navigate the internet, and after finding the frightening graphics work together to develop safeguards they willingly follow.
- We let them fight and then work it out or just get away from each other.
- We let them leave the house without homework and learn from the natural consequences of not being organized.
3) We start conversations about controversial things.
- We show them the bloody videos of racially questionable police officer shootings.
- We talk about the history of religion, looking at both the great art and the horrific reality of ISIS.
- We explore phrases like “the greatest good for the greatest number” when we talk about government.
- We review news headlines to see how many of them play on fear to attract readers.
- We talk about ways that each generation is responsible for the next, and how they may or may not have fulfilled their obligations.
- We talk about our different upbringings and how that can shape the way we see the world.
About halfway through our job of growing grown ups we have capable kids who ask lots of questions. Which feels like a strong start — even if it means we won’t be visiting Germany any time soon.
Photo credit: Annie Spratt