This post is not about professional content, branding, or marketing. But it is about communication, in a deeply personal way.
Sparked by a recent tragedy, here is a brief story of how I approach motherhood, honesty, and a sometimes incomprehensible world.
Elliot (my almost 6-year-old son) and I were driving home from a town fair when I turned on the radio and first heard the news. He heard me gasp and asked what was wrong. In that moment I could have turned it off and said “nothing.” Instead, I turned it up and we listened to some of the reporting together, then I explained what had happened.
I didn’t think through all this consciously but in the back of my my mind were questions about whether he is too young to hear such things, whether he’ll get scared and traumatized emotionally, but instinct told me to brush those thoughts aside and I chose to just be honest. He should know that the world is complicated, that unthinkable things happen, and that dying is not a game… right? Most importantly, I think I wanted him to understand that even if something doesn’t happen to us directly, it is still important, it affects us, because other people are basically our extended family and we are all connected.
I don’t remember if it was me that said it or the reporter on the radio but Elliot picked up on the words “hate crime” and asked what that was.
His sweet and innocent voice asking such a loaded question nearly broke my heart.
I answered that some people don’t know that we are all the same inside, that people do bad things out of fear, hatred, confusion, and most often from a lack of love. We talked about how people are different and that’s what makes us all so wonderful and interesting, and that we must all love each other, all creatures and living beings, and the planet, in order to create a better world, a happier world, because this is the challenge we are faced with and love is the seed of change that we need. He said yeah, I love everyone, then he grew quiet and looked out the window thoughtfully.
The conversation was complete. His questions were answered. He wasn’t traumatized.
This wasn't the first time. We actually have talks like this fairly regularly, basically since he started to speak. We’ve talked about poverty, racial inequality, sustainability, energetic connectedness, universal principles, evolution, the microcosm and the macrocosm, sacred patterns, extinction, climate change, corruption and greed, creativity and innovation, and how there is still much that we don’t really understand about how things work.
We’ve talked about Martin Luther King Jr. and political movements, we’ve talked about John Lennon and how ideas can both inspire good and invoke fear, we’ve talked about what might happen when you die. It is never forced and I’m not trying to “teach” him anything. These are just conversations that emerge organically from situations, events, or his curiosities.
I’ve never felt the need to hold back or shelter him from knowing that he is part of something much bigger than himself, something continuously unfolding in which he has a role to play, something that is both magnificent and heartbreaking, an existence in which life and death, creation and destruction are intricately intertwined.
Kids understand much more than we generally give them credit for, they can handle these things if we can speak about them frankly, without alarm, but still conveying relevance and being clear that some things are open to interpretation and different viewpoints. I believe they have a right to know, they are better served and will grow into more open-minded and conscious adults, with a more global view of the world - and that is something humanity desperately needs of the next generation.
At the end of these talks I always leave him - and myself - with hope, empowered, knowing that one person, no matter how small, can make things better, knowing that there are far more good guys than bad and that together we are already building a new, more loving and conscious world, we just have to keep going even when it's hard.