Driving By, Killing Animals, and Falling Out of Love

February 1, 2009

Driving By
Driving down a busy road in a very suburban area near our house we saw a family standing on the side of the road. The father held up a hand painted sign requesting help for his family because he'd lost his job. The mother stood beside him holding a tiny infant and another child sat in a stroller. It was a heart breaking sight and I gasped when I saw them. Noah picked up on my reaction and immediately started asking questions. He wanted to understand more about what it meant to lose a job and then quickly followed up with concern that his daddy might lose his job. The conversation continued at dinner when he suddenly turned to me and said "why didn't you stop to help them?" and that went straight to my heart because I had also been grappling with that all afternoon. My first social work job and much of my graduate school training had been working with the homeless in New Orleans, primarily women and families. I am all too familiar with the fact that many families (especially now) are just one paycheck away from being homeless and I am sure that there is already and will continue to be an increase in families needing serious help. It is a very sad and scary situation and I feel the need to do something besides just bringing food and clothes to local shelters. Noah's question has stirred up a place inside me that has been dormant. Since having children, I feel like I have withdrawn into the little world that is our family. I stopped watching the news. I have focused all of my energy, creativity, and skills on building a place that is filled with positive possibilities and adventures. I have tried to shield my babies from scary things (including the story of Hansel and Gretel...that gave me serious nightmares as a kid!). But as my children grow older, I realize I can't change the harsh realities that are a part of the larger world. And I want to be able to not only talk about doing the right thing, but more importantly "do" the right thing. I am seriously considering options for ways to reach out those in our local community. I need to do that for me and I need to do that for my children. I don't want to just drive by and gasp.

Killing Animals
As I was serving Noah a piece of meat loaf, he stated: "I guess we are carnivores". I laughed and agreed that his observation was pretty accurate. Out of the blue, a few days later he asked: "do all people eat meat?" I told him that some people were vegetarian. " You mean like some dinosaurs are carnivores and some are vegetarian?" I confirmed this and he quickly informed me that he wanted to become a vegetarian. "How can you be an animal killer? We like animals. We shouldn't kill them!" Camille quickly joined in the chant that seemed to fill up the van...."We like animals. We don't kill them!". It isn't an easy question to answer when your three and five year old are chanting about animal rights.

Falling Out of Love
Noah and I watched the original "Parent Trap" movie tonight. And as seems to be the case with most movies that I loved so dearly as a child, I am always a little taken aback when I now watch them as a parent. I still love Hayley Mills and we did enjoy the movie, but there was lots of pausing to explain parts (seriously how horrible to separate twins and never allow them to know each other or their other parent!). The longest pause came when we discussed the concept of divorce. I guess I should consider ourselves very lucky that divorce is such a foreign concept to Noah but he was seriously shocked by it. He kept telling me that I was wrong. That once people fall in love they stay in love. And then he started to worry that Adam and I would fall out of love. It was a very sad little conversation and I wish I hadn't watched the movie with him because the whole idea of divorce would still be foreign to him. But I guess that is the theme of all of these intense chats during the past week. My son is growing up and the reality is that he lives in a world that isn't perfect. Is anyone else out there struggling with similar issues/discussions? It isn't easy to explain these hard parts of life.
Anonymous said...

I so struggle with all of those things you've written about. Judson and Noah seem like kindred souls. (As I'm sure many kids their age are) Judson doesn't eat meat. Will NOT eat it. If you ask, he'll tell you it's because he doesn't like the taste. BUt it goes deeper. He cannot conceive of killing an animal.

We seriously have to watch what we let him view on TV. I don't think he could handle much of those kinds of things. I wouldn't let him see some of the pictures Randy brought back from Ethiopia. He would've insisted we go right back and make it right. Heck, I would if I could. I struggle with it too.

I struggle with getting him involved with local charities and wonder how much to let him know. Right now, we just go 'shopping' for items they need. he cannot understand why they need them. I also don't want him to think you just throw money at the problem but that you have to get involved. I think what I want to do is get him involved with community clean up campaigns, stuff like that. Anytime we go for walks, he picks up trash. I need to start carrying a bag and make it a purposeful walk and say we are doing good for the environment. When he and his dad go hiking, he knows you always carry out your trash. I just don't think he's ready for other things just yet. (Or I'm not ready to break his little heart and burst his perfect world)

Jan

morninglight mama said...

Oh my, what a beautiful post-- just your tone conveys the level of deep thinking you apply to all of your parenting choices. You have my total respect!

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Jan and Dawn, thanks for the comments. Glad to know I am not alone in this wild world of parenting. Jan, I really wish our boys could meet up. Like you we also have done projects related to donations but I like your idea of trash collecting. I went today to sign up to do some volunteer social worker "stuff" at one of the local agencies. But I would love to figure something out for Noah that is more hands-on. Would really love to find or start some type of family community service program...get together once a month to do a project. And like you I am trying to balance the desire to protect him with the desire to instill generosity and compassion and the ideals of social justice.

Dawn said...

We too are struggling with some of the same issues. Maybe its a five-year-old thing? We have also added war to the mix! That's been our tough one lately... not fun!

Since our move we have not been involved with anything beyond donations. I definitly feel your need to get invloved.
Thank you for the reminder to think outside the walls... and letting me know I'm not the only one straddling the line between sheltering and sharing the compassion and understading we all need...at their level!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, thoughtful post. I never realized that activism started so early!

Victoria said...

This is something we are dealing with too. My children are just 7, 4 and 2, and the older two are beginning to become aware that not all people are as lucky as us. My oldest has done some fundraising with her school and as a family we try an involve them in making donations. My four year old is the one who asks all the questions, and a donation to an African charity led to a lengthy conversation about the causes of poverty. It's something that particularly concerns me about our travels - I've written a blog post about it and would welcome any advice.

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