Difficult Questions from Innocent Mouths

I had of those great days with my son on Monday, I worked from home most of the day and got to chaperone him and his classmates on a field trip.  It was just the two of us when we got back home and we played and he was so well behaved.  We even went out to eat with my dad for a guy’s dinner.  We talked about sports and how the Orioles were doing and that was when I noticed the news on TV at the restaurant.  The good and light hearted time came to a complete halt, a headline flashed across the TV and I prayed that he wouldn’t notice, but nothing gets by him.  He then asked that dreaded awkward type of question, “Daddy, what’s a hate crime?”


It was at this moment that I wish that I was in one of those terrible Geico commercials and I could respond with “You know people can save a bunch of money by switching to Geico”, but we all know that wasn’t happening.  My first thought was how can I explain this in a way that not only would he understand what it is and how wrong it is, but also in a way that if he repeated in, neither of us would get in trouble.  I thought about dancing around it, but I know my son well enough that he wouldn’t let it drop that easily and would ask again later.  I took a deep breath and decided it was as good a time as any to hit this one head on.

There have been a few road trips that he listens to my podcasts with me, the family friendly ones of course.  We listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson on Joe Rogan, Manchester United Pod, Know Them From Adam with Adam Schefter and That’s The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe.  Mike Rowe is usually pretty tame and keeps his language on a PG level so I figured it was harmless but about 4 minutes into the 10 minute episode, I realized this was going to spark another tough conversation.  Mike was talking about how the news broke of a secret organization and their secret names through a kids cartoon, but the organization was the KKK; thanks Mike.  We had a lot of time in the car that day so I decided that we can have a talk about racism and prejudice.  It went very well and he was a little perplexed that people would act that way but understood that some people were just bad and didn’t know any better.


I went back and referenced this podcast at dinner and told him that groups like that commit hate crimes.  I explained that hate crimes are crimes against a certain type of person and not necessarily because of anything that person did.  I told him it could be because of someone’s religion or beliefs, the color of their skin or even because of who someone loved.  That last one got a strange look and took some more explaining.  I told him that even though he has a mommy and daddy, not all families are the same and some families have 2 mommies or two daddies and that’s OK.  He said “Yeah like Bree has 2 mommies”, I agreed and said that they are our friends.  I told him that it goes way beyond not liking people and that these bad people hurt, kill or destroy the property of others just because of these factors that are beyond their control.  I told him that some people weren’t taught the same way he was and haven’t been around different types of people growing up and they were just raised to hate people that aren’t exactly like them.  He was so profound in his response “That would be so boring if everyone was the exact same”, well said kid!

The topic was soon thwarted when our pizza came and he was thinking about how much pizza that he could shove into his face.  Later that night, I was thinking long and hard about this entire situation.  Though of course these things existed when we were younger and I heard stories from my mom about the Irish Republican Army and some of the terrible things they had done, but it wasn’t plastered all over the news on what seems to be a daily basis.  I’m sure our parents said the same thing about our generation, but I’m scared for the future and just how easy it is to get all of the news and bad information at your fingertips at any given moment.  The world is set up to turn any normal and happy go lucky kid into someone with extreme anxiety and depression.  It is so sad that I was thinking like this but it is true!  All we can do as parents is teach our kids the right way to think and be empathetic towards everyone.  Unless someone does something not so kind to you, they deserve the benefit of the doubt and you can be respectful to them.

Don’t avoid these conversations; they are a great way to instill the right traits and values in your tiny humans at an early age.  Stay strong out there dads!

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