Been watching the news lately? If you’re anything like me, watching it isn’t the problem — the problem is stopping. The problem is deciding how many sources of a story are enough; how many comments and conversations should I digest to form an intelligent and educated opinion? How do I react to it?
The bigger problem is that I know that those reactions can create an opportunity for both parenting success and parenting failure.
That’s where I trip up.
I wish that I could give a mature recap of the election season in our house. How Mom and Dad’s differing opinions resulted in animated and enlightening discussions that expanded the entire family’s knowledge of world events and our place in the democracy of this great country.
But the truth is we fought about it…a lot. If I were to spin that into a good story, it would involve teaching our children how to hold a proper debate of opposing ideas. How we showed them that this world is full of people who don’t think like they do but those differences are what makes our society great. Our discussions could have taught them about empathy, compromise and understanding that even if people come at a topic from different sides, they are both still thinking of the greater good.
Yeah, those would have been great lessons.
When the election was over, we thought that those discussions were over. We’re both grown-ups, both have seen a lot in life and both should know that, somehow, it’s all going to be OK. Except one of us didn’t think that and one of us did.
So the poor example of civil discourse continued. Do I think we argue more than other married couples with ideological differences? Yes and no, but I do think we fall firmly on the spectrum of normal family behavior.
If you are looking for some responsible grown-up examples of parenting while in conflict, you should probably look someplace else. If you’re looking for someone to tell you that you’re not alone in feeling like you’re messing your kids up, you’ve come to the right place.
Life is about living, learning and then combining those to improve yourself. But, in this case I don’t feel like I’m improved; I often feel defeated. But the worst part? I wonder what it’s doing to my kids; what exactly they’re learning from this.
So, I did something radical: I asked them.
“What have the political discussions your father and I have taught you?”
The 12-year-old rattled of a smart-aleck answer full of language inappropriate for this space, as 12-year-olds are wont to do, but then said, “It’s taught me that yelling is not the way to debate. But I do know a lot more about current events than my friends.
“I guess that’s a good thing about living in a family without a lot of filters. Most of my opinions about politics come from what you guys say, but when you’re split it makes me have to think.”
The 18-year-old threw in his 2 cents. “I think it’s good that you guys can get fired up about something and have something to believe in so strongly. But I’ve learned to try not to get too heated about things. It doesn’t solve anything.”
The college student daughter wrapped up the conversation. “It’s given me a chance to learn about our government from differing points of view, explore what I believe and how to act on those beliefs.”
I still don’t know how much news is enough and I have no plan to sit down and shut-up with my opinions about it, but three kids offering three positive take-aways from their parents sharing of their differing opinions?
That might just be enough for now.