Many years ago as a baby shower gift, someone gave me the book Kids Are Worth It Too! by Barabra Coloroso. I remember reading the book and questioning much of what I read. Growing up in a very strict household, my brother and I received clear instructions regarding just about everything. Basically, our parents told us what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Period. We obeyed and respected all "the rules" for much of our younger years. We did not ask questions knowing the answer would be "because I said so." We did not dare take opposing positions, speak our minds or question any authority figure. Any attempt to do so would result in severe groundings. No. There were no beatings or any physical punishment, for they were unnecessary, thank God! For the most part my brother and I passively adhered to "the rules." So, as I read Coloroso's book, I realized perhaps for the first time in my adult life that there was another way to raise children, and it might produce good or even better results. In the book, Coloroso basically encourages parents to see and treat their children as people. At times, parents, me included, forget that our children happen to be human beings with feelings, dreams, ideas and insecurities. And so when my oldest child who is very inquisitive, opinionated and bright began to ask "why?" and I began to say "because I said so" and that answer still did not suffice, it hit me. The "because I said so" method did not work. I wanted to raise two strong, courageous, confident and knowledgeable individuals who would not be afraid to ask questions, defy authority when they saw injustice or abuse and display honesty and integrity. Therefore, on one specific occasion my oldest son, who was 5 or 6 at the time, asked why he could not play in the street with the older kids or ride bike. Instead of saying "because" I chose to give him a reason. It went something like this...If you play or ride bike in the street, a car may not see you because you are too small. If the car does not see you, it will hit you, break your bones and kill you. If you die, your mommy will die, too.
My precious son looked at me with these big sad eyes and said, "OK Mom. I don't want to play in the street. I don't want to die and I don't want you to die." He never again asked me to play or ride bike in the street until he was much much older. I can give you countless examples of the many times I chose to answer my children's questions, the easy ones and the very hard ones. No. I don't involve them in "everything" but I do offer honest and direct answers, advice and suggestions. I always have and hope I always will. The oldest is a teenager and the youngest thinks he's in his 30's, but they understand responsibility and accountability. They know how hard their father and I work to provide them with the things we never had, and so they know where money comes from or how much milk, gasoline and shoes cost.
And so where am I going with this? Don't be afraid to ask questions, but most importantly don't be afraid to answer them either. Why are we afraid to answer questions? Why are we afraid to say "I do not know the answer?" Why are we afraid to acknowledge that there is so much we do not know but need to know? How many times have we paid dearly for our ignorance? At some point in our lives, perhaps as we get older, some of those insecurities begin to fade away or the fear of looking like or sounding like a fool is just not as important as it once was. I don't know; I could be wrong, but maybe just maybe we become more comfortable in our own skin or walking in our own shoes and we begin to accept that face we see in that mirror every morning. Wearing purple seems most appropriate and if others find us strange or different, brushing it all off comes easy and quick maybe because we know ourselves a little more now than we did when we were younger. Regardless, at the end of our life, no living human person will travel with us, carry our baggage or light our way. We will only have ourselves.