It felt so real that when I woke up, I stared at the ceiling for several moments, separating fact from fiction in my mind, reminding myself of where I was, who I was, and what was true.
In actuality, the dream itself was absurd. It was the likely product of extreme fatigue, an Advil PM, and the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I’d watched with the kids the night before. But it felt like there was more to this particular dream than just absurdity.
This was the kind of dream you don’t really want to forget, so you take a few minutes to review it when you wake up, solidifying every crazy detail in your brain before your feet hit the floor.
The dream started as most dreams start – right in the middle of the action. There was no lead up, no back story, if you will. If this dream were a novel, the reader would be confused.
I was in China, on a bus. Not too strange, given the fact that we are in the final stages of a Chinese adoption.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? It’s been a while since I shared in this space.
We are about two months away from flying to China to pick up a little boy that’s been set apart as our son. We’ve passed all the necessary background checks, been vetted and scrutinized by the United States powers that be, and the Chinese. We’ve been given the stamp of approval, and now need only to clear a few more hurdles before we go pick him up.
I’m going to tell you all about the events that led us to this little boy in the next post, but for today I want to focus on the dream.
So I was in China, on a bus, and I was scared. Terrified, actually. Outside the left window of the bus, a volcano smoked and belched ash. Flecks of lava spit from the top, and the air was kind of fuzzy and hazy with heat and smoke.
Outside the right window of the bus, winds swirled and howled as a hurricane whipped its way toward us. No matter which way I turned, there seemed to be chaos, and the overall feeling inside the bus was that of impending doom. People screamed and jostled around. Nothing felt safe or secure. It felt overwhelmingly frightening.
Now, trust me when I tell you that the silliness of all this is not lost on me. Like I said, I’d watch Jurassic World the night before with the kids, so the seed of outrunning a volcano was firmly planted in my consciousness (though, to be honest, it would have been kind of cool if I’d also been outrunning dinosaurs while escaping raining lava. Chris Pratt gets to have all the fun…).
And one year ago today, we were packing up our house and heading to a shelter as Hurricane Irma barreled toward Florida. That the two natural disasters came together in a single dream is not all that far fetched.
But there was more to my terror in this dream than those two events. Something deep inside me felt unsettled, like the moors of confidence had slipped away and I myself was being swept up in the winds outside the window.
I felt panicked. My heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and my throat was completely dry as my head whipped side to side and people screamed around me.
Then someone handed me a baby.
He was very, very small and had a head full of thick, black hair. His twig-like arms flailed and his legs kicked as he wailed. I don’t know where he came from or who put him in my arms, but somehow I knew that I was supposed to be the one holding him.
I pulled him tight to my chest, and immediately the feeling of panic disappeared. I didn’t hear the screams or the wind or the thunder of the erupting volcano. I didn’t feel the bus bouncing, and my heart beat calmed. I stared at his face, though I couldn’t really make out any features.
For a split second, I let the sounds of what was happening around me seep back into the moment. I looked up, confused, and tried to hand the baby to someone next to me, a faceless person who took the child from my outstretched hands. As soon as I let the baby go, the feeling of panic returned, the sounds around me were deafening, and I felt an immediate sense of dread.
I reached for the child again, and he was placed back in my arms. This time, he reached up for me, and I pulled his cheek to mine. The second our skin met the noise and panic and fear subsided again.
We are now one month into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it has been a heckuva ride so far, hasn’t it? The world is alive with noise right now, everyone jockeying to make their opinions known, fighting to prove their “rightness” and everyone else’s “wrongness.”
And along for the ride, bouncing in the wake of this political madness, are our children. Young and old, they’re watching and listening, and make no mistake, they are trying to figure out their place in this crazy world.
I’ve seen a number of disturbing posts and articles from parents lamenting their fear at raising children under a Donald Trump presidency. While I can certainly empathize with these sentiments, the truth is they baffle me.
Parents, why are we afraid? Now is not the time for fear, but for action, and what better way to exact change in this world than by raising strong, confident children who care well for the needs of others?
Here are 3 Keys to Raising Confident Kids in a Contentious World
1.) Have Age Appropriate Conversations About Politics
My seventh grader is currently learning about Individual and Civil Rights in his Civics class at school.
“I have the right to say whatever I want!” he boldly proclaimed at the dinner table the other night. “It’s my freedom of speech. I can say anything because it’s my natural, individual right.”
Ah, seventh grade is fun, isn’t it? Sometimes I have to remind myself of how cute he was as a toddler so I don’t throttle him now as a teenager.
“Yes,” I responded, my voice sugary sweet. “You do have the right to say what you want. And I have the right to take your phone away if I deem your speech hurtful or inappropriate.”
I had to bite my lip to keep from ending my comeback with a good old fashioned, “BOOM! Take that sucka!”
Because my first-born is older now, we’re able to have deeper conversations about what’s happening in the world and how we should be responding. He’s privy to a little more information because he’s old enough now to process it, and to dialogue with us through it all.
My nine-year-old, however, is still a little boy. He doesn’t need to hear everything that I perceive to be wrong with our nation and the world. He’s not ready to process that information, so I don’t share my every concern with him.
Our kids are bombarded with enough messages on a day to day basis. Let’s not fill them with undue and unnecessary fears over political messages that we may or may not agree with.
2.) Teach Them to Be Kind
Most parents are already doing this. It’s a pretty second nature response when we have children. From a very young age, we admonish them to share with others, to speak kindly, to treat one another with gentleness, and so on.
That training has to continue, though, and as the children grow into young people we need to change our tactics.
We need to be teaching our older children to be kind to those who may think or feel differently about things than they do. Basic kindness may already be ingrained into their youthful hearts, but grace toward others is a skill that needs to be honed over a lifetime.
Today’s youth are bombarded with messages from the world, and social media takes the nuance out of difficult discussions. We need to work with our kids to help them navigate conversations, both online and off, with kindness.
3.) Show Don’t Tell
When I was a senior at Baylor, I took a class called Writing for the Popular Market. Our only assignment for the year was the write the first draft of a novel.
Every week, we met at a local coffee shop (there were only six of us), and we exchanged papers, reading and editing one another’s stories. And over and over in the editing process, our professor would repeat the same basic principle of writing:
Show, don’t tell.
Don’t just tell the reader what happened, show her. Give her the action that paints a mental picture.
The same is true for parenting. We can talk to our kids until we’re blue in the face, but our actions will have a greater impact than our words.
So let’s show them how to care for others, how to put the needs of our neighbors (both near and far) above ourselves.
Raising children in this contentious time feels like a gigantic hurdle, but really this time is no different than any other in history. Now is not the time to fear for our children, but rather to dig in and fight for them. And that fight starts at home.
What are your thoughts? How are you working to raise confident children in a contentious world?
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