Monday, January 17, 2011

Dream Coming True

As parents, we often worry about how our children will be affected by learning about bad things. It begins with the decision of when to explain about "stranger danger." As children grow older, they, of course, hear things on the news and ask about them. NPR in the car is replaced with the Wiggles, not just to entertain, but to protect. But as much as we would like to shelter our children, the reality is that they must learn, take in the new, process it, and apply it to their world.

During the Inauguration last year, my three girls kept asking, "Mommy, why are you crying?" Of course, I could explain these were happy tears, but to explain the enormity of our nation's first black president would be to explain the decades of injustice and evil done by some of our own countrymen. Besides, to the girls, Obama just was - he wasn't black or brown or whatever. They loved him because Mommy and Daddy said he would do good things to help people, and because he had two little girls.

So now, Queen Bee is in second grade. Late one night, when emptying her backpack, I found her weekly reader. This week it was on Martin Luther King, Jr., his life and the challenges that the nation was facing at that time. It was, in fact, a very thorough summary of slavery, "whites only" signs, Rosa Parks, burning buses, and protesting students. All things that I hadn't talked to her about, not wanting to scare her. But here we are.

The next morning in the car, I mention that I had read her reader - it had some pretty bad and scary things, didn't it? She agreed and started to talk about MLK. Her sisters, who, of course, have had none of this exposure yet, chime in, wanting to know what we are talking about. So I launch into a slightly glossed over version: that in the past (not wanting to go in the present just yet), people thought if your skin was a different color, you weren't as good or didn't have as many rights. "Civil Rights," says QueenBee, "I learned that!" Then we talked about MLK and that he was shot. "Why?" "Because some people don't like change, didn't believe what he was saying, and were scared.

I told the girls about his most famous speech, that he spoke about a dream he had that children of all colors could play together and that black children and white children would be -- QueenBee interrupted, "would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Yes, that is right child - that is exactly what he said.

The rest of the way to school, with a few tears on my cheeks, I felt proud. Not just that QueenBee had clearly been moved by this amazing speech - so much so that she memorized part of it. But proud of our country. As hard as things are right now, MLK's dream is there. Child by child, it is coming true.


  1. What an amazing and compassionate and intelligent girl you are raising! All of your words ring so clear and true. Lovely tribute to MLK and his dream. We must all keep working toward realizing this Dream. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I love this. I'd be sobbing with tears of joy.

    We read "Who was Martin Luther King, Jr" as a family last month. It deeply affected Jack. It opened the door for honest discussion and surprisingly intelligent questions. I think kids identify with MLK's story in a way that can't be understood by adults. It gives me hope.

  3. Love those kiddos. I can't believe it was during our childhood that people were questioning the validity of having an MLK holiday. And now our kids absolutely embrace him and his message. It does give you hope.