Dec 29, 2015

What Do We Tell the Children?

When I am sitting at karate next to another parent and I say "Did you have The TALK, yet?" we aren't referring to sex. The hard conversation we don't know how to approach is what to tell our kids about police.

The children are pre-teens and some of them are tall. They are awkward and rowdy, able to haul garbage cans to and from the curb and maybe even take the city bus around town on their own soon, certainly big enough to take a dollar into the gas station for candy. These cute round faced children who are thinning out and tripping on their feet will drive soon.  We have an egalitarian household where we don't bark orders and one can argue a point for weeks, but I fear there is one realm where irritability and defiance (two qualities pre-teens have in aces) can get you killed. Where being a petulant punk who's not so round-faced and small, can get you tackled and handcuffed or worse. In these United States we're tasering eight year old children, using pepper spray in schools, and shooting twelve year olds on the playground.

I'm not sure what to say about it to my child who sometimes still believes in the tooth-fairy and is afraid to read Harry Potter before bed, but is big enough to steal my hoodies and flip-flops. What do I say to the kid about officer friendly?  I've got a rambunctious boy who's deaf in one ear and has a panache for running around pretending he's shooting bad guys.  What do I tell him?  Do I talk to him about it the same time all the magic of Santa Clause dissolve into the realities of the 5 o'clock news? Exactly how tall does he have to be before he's considered a "possible threat?"

Yes, yes, of course our perfect children will never get into trouble, never encounter an officer yelling at them, never have a reason to get face down on the cement, never get pulled over and look guilty. They same way they'll never have reason to walk calmly out of a burning building, or huddle into a bathroom and be silent for a lockdown, or duck under their desks and put a book over their heads, or swim to the edge of a pool, or not chase a ball into the street, or refuse to give directions to a skeezy candy wielding guy driving a van, or be smart enough to just say "no."  Not our kids.

Yeah, this is the discourse I don't have an after-school special for, no pamphlet on how to discuss, no first lady to tell us what to shout.  This is the talk that is hardest, because friends and relatives we love wear a blue uniform, because we teeter between just cooperate and 'am I being detained? Am I free to go?' ourselves. And while each parent's 'birds and the bees' lecture is slightly different than the next, I certainly don't want to be the 'abstinence only so we aren't talking about it at all' parent.



No comments: