Unknowingly Planting Seeds of Hate
In my time working with children, I know one thing to be true. Children see difference as something to be celebrated. It is adult influence that makes the differences. It can be in something as benign as a sports rivalry, or an election. How cute is it when your toddler can entertain your company by saying “Roll Tide” or asking a neighbor to “vote for Trump, because he’s the best.” It is in our natures to teaching our children to like the things we do, or uphold our same values. What we forget so easily as adults, is that children think concretely. As adults we know that it is okay to vote for the opposing candidate, it is okay to like another team. These nuances are lost on young children. It is startling to think such simple things can plant seeds of hate in our children.
As a child I grew up in East Tennessee. I’m not sure if you have heard, but we bleed orange. The biggest event of the autumn was the UT versus Florida game. The festivities and finger foods were as heartwarming as Christmas. I and my cousins were taught phrases like “we’re having gator for dinner.” Our parents left out the part where Florida fans were people too. To us, the Gators were just a thing on television that we wanted to lose. Even in high school I can remember being annoyed with a girl who dearly loved the Florida team. Did I really care that much about college football? Did I don my orange and watch religiously every weekend? No on both accounts, I could not care less about football, then or now. Because that game was something important to the adults in my life, so it was to me. Looking back now it is so easy to see, but hindsight is 20/20. The beliefs of my parents shaped a lot of my life.
Where I am from, it is not unusual for an older person to ask children and teens if they are a democrat or republican. Until my 20’s my answer would be democrat. Why? Well because that is what my parents were, and that was a good enough reason, right? If asked now, I answer with the name of the candidate who I believe can do the most good, but that is neither here nor there. The moral of the story is that children love us big people. They model and admire us. I strive every day to be someone deserving of that honor.
Spending my days with toddlers has given me a new outlook on the world. A world with so many problems, so much hate. These children do not view differences as a reason not to like someone. Children celebrate differences, children love with their whole heart, they do this until we show them differently. It is this love that changes the way I speak. It is my son and the children I care for everyday that changes the way I phrase things, which changes the way I see things. “I hate that someone bought the last bagel.” No, I do not hate that person, I am disappointed about the bagel, but that person was just hungry too. It is time for us to become the change we want to see in the world, and teach our children to do the same. Plant seeds of peace in our children, teach them to see the good in all situations, and let them teach others to do the same.