One of the perks of being a mom is that your kids look up to you. You are their personal super hero, you walk on water. Nobody comes close to your ankle. No president, demi-god, big cheese CEO. No one. Because no matter how powerful, awesome or exceptional these people might be, they all had a mom who wiped the snot off their nose at some point. Moms rock like you wouldn’t believe!
The downside of being such a butt-kicking-rock star, is that moms are expected to have a lot of answers, solutions, or at least wise words about more or less everything. And if you think that, “Where do babies come from, for real?” is as hard as it gets, then brace yourself!
The toughest question I ever had to answer came up when my boys were respectively three and four. In those days, their world was simple: you were either a Goody, or a Baddy, and that was pretty much it.
One day, a visitor came to our house and my eldest asked him, “Are you a Goody, or a Baddy?” It was important for my kids to know which side of the fence anyone would be standing on, because it pretty much was all there was to life in their toddler world. In order to humor them a little, our friend answered,
“I’m a Goody. Or, maybe I’m a Baddy who looks like a Goody.”
And that’s when it all began. . . suddenly, the world wasn’t black or white any longer. My boys had officially been introduced to shades of gray.
Baddies could look like Goodies, Goodies might become Baddies. Some people could be Baddies and Goodies. My head started to spin with the endless stream of questions that followed our visitor’s statement.
“Mom, is it true that Baddies can be Goodies?”
“Hmmm, yeah, sometimes it is.”
“And can Goodies be Baddies as well?”
“Yes, they can.” My littlest one looked at me like I had become totally insane.
“No, no, no. It’s not true. Batman is a Goody and Poison Ivy is a Baddy, and that’s that!”
I should have said, “You’re right honey, Mom was just being goofy,” and that would have been the end of it. But as I made this really silly vow to never lie to my kids, I kept pressing forward with logic and truth, which I have now established are rubbish tools for three year olds.
“Well, maybe Batman became a Goody because he experienced life as a Baddy and didn’t like it. Maybe Poison Ivy used to be a Goody. Then someone hurt her feelings, and she decided to become a Baddy, so she doesn’t get hurt anymore.”
“Huh? What does that mean?” I could see his eyes begging me to make sense and restore order in his world.
So I did the only sensible thing there was to do in this very, very confusing situation. I turned to my husband and said, “Hun, pack the bags, we are moving to a remote island where there is no TV, no Goodies, no Baddies, or anyone for that matter.”
Of course, we only moved in my head and in real life, I am teaching my growing children that shades of gray are a major key to unlock empathy…without ever forgetting that some things are just plain wrong, and no gray lens is ever going to make them right.
How do you teach your children to empathize without compromising?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Nadege Nicoll. She was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. Nadege also writes a daily blog for moms who need to smile at everyday life. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her website www.nadegenicoll.com.
Photo credit to the author.
I remember a lecture in a graduate level anthropology class where the professor talked about the dichotomy of human thought. Everything was either one side or the other, black or white. The professor suggested it could also be attributed to having two hands — on one hand…but on the other hand. But there IS so much grey. And it is so important to teach our children about the grey. I want to high-five this post.
I find the best way to for our family is to keep the conversation going — we do exactly what you do here. I think finding commonalities is what is important for moving the world together and into the future peacefully!
Shades of grey allow us to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s a tough concept for kids, and sometimes for adults as well. Sometimes, we are not able to see others’ point of view until the same situation hits us. Then hopefully, we remember how un-understanding we were and how wrong it now feels. That’s the good that comes out of the bad.
Very interesting Nadege. In fact I am asking myself the same question. It’s not easy to make it easy for kids to understand this. So many shades of grey in this world!
Talking, answering questions and telling the truth, always. I think it’s the way to do things.
Thanks for the insight
Thank you Marie. I think that as an adult, I haven’t got it all figured out myself! Plenty of room to grow!!
I enjoyed reading your post Nadege. When we are trying to help our kids understand these “grey areas” we try different scenarios. Sometimes that works, sometimes that just makes more questions like you cited above. Either way, we’re talking about, so I figure that is a step in the right direction 🙂