In The News
Controlling Our Own Fear When Raising Our Children
When I first heard of the 6-year-old boy who was suspended from a Maryland elementary school for making a gun gesture with his hand and then saying “pow” while aiming at a classmate, my heart beat a little faster.
But not because it had only been a week or so since the Sandy Hook shooting. Not because I was still feeling sad and angry and nervous and uneasy over the issues around gun control and the every day safety of my own children and family. No, I was surprised by how the school officials reacted to the incident: by suspending the child from school and noting his permanent record.
In reading about the gesture, I thought about the moment when I first heard one of my boys imitate the sound of shooting, and make his own gesture while playing with his brother one afternoon. I responded by explaining why I didn’t want them to play that way, and I have had to repeat this message to my boys more than once. I could have gone on about how so many children his age have been murdered, or how kids playing with guns have resulted in death. I could’ve gone on and on about the gruesome stories and tales involving guns, but he is 6 years old, dammit!
Of course it makes me uneasy and uncomfortable. We don’t allow our children to watch violent movies or play violent video games. We don’t own guns, approve of them in our home, or partake in any sport or hobby where guns are involved – this long before the many tragedies now so often taking place in our society. We’ve had conversations about guns with our children to explain why all of this is so, trying to balance it with the fact that our children (except for our teen) are so young and deserve to trust those whom we leave them with. We’ve told them about the do’s and don’ts regarding many things from strangers to scissors to guns. But what we can’t control is other people’s fears and inability to process things in a way that is fair, logical, or even realistic.
Reading about how the school responded to a 6-year-old’s gesture made me wonder how far fear will take us? How much will we allow fear to control our lives, motivate our actions? Of course it’s horrible what the kid did, made worse because of what we adults know. Of course he needed a talking to – more than once. Of course, had it been my child that was gestured at I would’ve been livid. But, I can admit that I would’ve been more upset now than any other time before because I am scared and I know that it is that fear that would trigger my emotions had it been my kid.
I try with all my might to remember that they are still children and that even though there are other children out there who have inflicted harm and pain to others, I will not live looking at every child who is different, who makes a mistake, who uses inappropriate gestures, who plays good guy-bad guy, or even who goes hunting every weekend with his or her parents, as a potential killer.
The tendency to disrespect teachers and classmates is often followed by many other steps before it leads to suspension and a negative mark on someone’s permanent record. Especially when the kid is 6. Fear-based reactions and seeing the potential of evil (or failure, or disorder, or whatever it may be) in every child who acts in a way that makes us uneasy, is not the answer.
If we don’t learn to control our fear and maintain a rational sense to how we manage situations, especially with our children, we risk becoming the problem more than the solution.