In a world ruled by orange-haired dragons, gangs of bigoted ogres with torches, and hate-filled trolls on the internet, we are all desperate for our homes to be islands of peace. But where do we start? What do we do? How do we keep the world out?
But I have to remind myself to hold up: It’s not about keeping the world out. It’s about making your home more powerful than the hate that surrounds it. This is part of my goal in writing this series on nurturing a peaceful family culture. You might remember from part 1 that when I talk about “peace”, it’s not about a lack of conflict; it’s gratitude, acceptance, belonging, right action, and empathy. And I’m stumbling along, right beside you, trying to figure out how to do this.
When I first began writing this post (I’m on “mom time” here, so some posts take me weeks to write), the events of Charlottesville, Virginia and Barcelona, Spain were still being processed. Trump then came out against the idea of football players protesting racism during the national anthem (““If [you refuse to stand], YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”). At the moment, people are still reeling from the Las Vegas shooting, and Agent Orange is moving towards the next phase of his war on women by attacking access to birth control. It’s Canadian Thanksgiving today, so it’s important to reflect on how to protect the things I am grateful for.
At 5 months, Juniper is too young to be conscious any of what is unfolding at our proverbial doorstep. She just knows boobs, baby carriers, diaper changes, and inexplicably loathsome baths. But Kas is developing a sense that things are not always “fair”, that some people out there do not mean well, and conflict may perforate his days from now on. Honestly, if I could bubble-wrap him and keep him in the place where his biggest crisis is that his right shoe does not fit inside of his left shoe, I’d be tempted.
One inspiration for my
questionable highly illustrious parenting career has been the work of William Glasser (for those of you reading from my Outward Bound days, this might sound familiar). I’ve really liked his idea that we all have a set of “quality world pictures”, each defining what we see as our ideal life.
We start compiling these “pictures” from birth. If we are exposed to a lot of TV and junk food when we are young, for example, these things will be stacked in our brain as two quality world pictures that we have to choose from. If this never gets supplemented by other pictures of what brings us pleasure, we will default to Doritos and Netflix. While this doesn’t sound too awful (I’m pretty sure this was my Friday night after the kids went to bed), problems arise when we only have a few pictures at our disposal, especially if those are negative or hateful ones.
Glasser sees 5 basic needs as defining human existence: belonging/ love, freedom, security, fun, and power. All behaviour stems from these needs either being met or not met. I imagine a white supremacist’s sense of belonging is based on exclusion and hate, for example. Terrorism, however, is overwhelmingly complex; it would be naive of me to reduce its existence to these needs not being met and some negative experiences. There are massive structural, systemic, psychological, and social pieces at play. But for all involved in these types of attacks, some really negative quality world pictures came to dominate over any others.
There is no way I can guarantee that my children will never fall to these terrifying influences. Nonetheless, Eric and I desperately want our home to be anti-racist, LGBTTQ+ friendly, body-positive, feminist, and social justice-aware.
Our kids are mini, so we’re starting small. Here are some of the things we are trying to create healthy quality world pictures, in the hopes of building a home stronger than hate:
Love & Belonging:
- We create rituals (such as this one described here) that instil a sense of family togetherness- I’m hoping these things will put our family attachment bond as primary when our kids start testing boundaries and forming outside relationships (this is the premise behind the amazing book “Hold on to Your Kids” by Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld).
- As my kids grow, I want to teach them that we live in a “free” country, but that (a) freedom is not dealt equally to everyone in our country, and (b) we mustn’t ever take this freedom for granted. Books are an awesome way to teach kids about these abstract concepts. I just ordered my copy of “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” to teach about awesome women who have fought for freedom, justice, and human rights.
- We try to create positive, confidence-building activities that are led by our kids’ needs. Camping, yoga, and bike rides are all faves. I’m not saying that we never turn on “Paw Patrol” or watch exhausted from the couch as he destroys the living room for pleasure; we just try to make those other “quality world pictures” of fun the stronger, default ones.
- We allow our kids to feel safe in our love for them. As my #1 fave psychologist Gordon Neufeld says, “We liberate children not by making them work for our love, but by letting them rest in it.” Our affection is never used as a carrot or a stick- it’s simply a fact.
- We do not use our adult power punitively. We don’t ever resort to corporal punishment, obviously, but we also don’t use separation-based consequences either (e.g. here is why we don’t do “time-outs” and here’s what we do instead). For our family, this works, even though Kas still spits, hits, throws, and yells: we want him to come to us when he’s having a hard time, and not feel we will turn him away. We always want to be his “answer” to put it in a Neufeldian way.
I could write a far, far longer post about the many other ways we create positive, anti-hate, quality world pictures around these needs, but instead I’ll just ask… what do YOU do in your home?