We Know How You Feel, Mom—Now Let Your Kids Have Their Own Opinions

Mother, daughterThis week was a high-intensity one for anybody with even a hint of a thought on current events. The Troy Davis-fueled protests and his impending execution brought the political analyst/armchair revolutionary/ethics evangelist out of a whole heap of people, from college students to syndicated columnists. And in the midst of all that hot debatin’ were moms, stoking the fires of discussion with their passion.

I was standing in line at the store when the mother/daughter duo behind me broke out in a squabble over the implications of the case. “He deserves to be exactly where he is,” the elder woman huffed. “They need to just kill him and get it over with it already. I’m sick of hearing about it.”

“Mom!” the girl gasped. “How can you say that?” And she launched into a whole list of reasons to not only save the man’s life but abolish the death penalty in general. 


Mama wasn’t having it, though. She cut Teen Theorist off at every turn, telling her she was raised better to get duped by this and she thought she’d given her more sense to think that. Well dayum, I thought to myself. Can the kid have her own beliefs?

When you live in a household that is vehemently pro-life, it’s kind of a no-brainer to fall in line and go right along with the anti-abortion stance that’s popular thinking. If your parents were anti-war hippies or Black Panther activists, they probably spun you into a mini love-bead or dashiki-wearing version of them, too. The poor child in the store was railing against not only the killing of a man she believed was innocent, but she also had the audacity to break tough against the death penalty (the nerve!), something that her mother was clearly an active cheerleader of.

We say we want our kids to not be followers. But if we’re truly shaping them to be independent thinkers and revolutionary action-takers, then that also means going against some of the thoughts and beliefs we personally hold near and dear, too. Dangit. Maybe we should’ve thought that out a little bit better.

I, for example, can’t stand the Washington Redskins’ name. I love D.C., but I can’t support the home team. Hate it. Think it’s offensive to an entire nation of people who’ve already suffered humiliation, devastation, and marginalization at the hands of the government, fueled by citizens who were basically allowed to run roughshod over them whenever and however they felt like it. My heart goes out to Native Americans — especially considering my grandmother had Susquehannock and Nanticoke blood threaded with her African heritage.

Despite my best efforts to align The Girl with those sensitivities, she’s a fan. Yesterday, some guy walking in front of our car in a Dallas Cowboys jacket made her break out in boos. She cheered “Redskins!” from the passenger side like she was sitting in a stadium seat. I rolled my eyes and just barely caught myself from launching into a lecture. For one, the more I snort at it, the more she’s going to posture for the Number One Fan spot. And secondly, although it irks my soul, I can’t encourage her to have her own opinion only when it doesn’t oppose or refute mine.

Be honest: do you give your kids the facts and let them draw their own conclusions and opinions or do you force yours on them?


Image via ElvertBarnes/Flickr

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