“But dad, that’s what he said. It’s real, seriously.” Mae said “seriously”, well, super seriously, and walked away in a huff. All because I wasn’t supporting something a classmates said he believes. You would have thought she was 16. Instead of listening to, and believing, her all-knowing-and-most-powerful daddy, she said she thought he was right, and I, by default, was wrong. On top of that pile of moldy cheese I was trying to digest, she wasn’t just disagreeing with me, she was upset I didn’t believeĀ him. What? She’s 5!

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Ah, school, where people from all walks of life come together and learn about the wonders of the world. A place where our kids develop the skills necessary to survive in society, skills that we aren’t equipped to teach them ourselves – see my math scores. It’s also an environment where they experience realities, thoughts, and ideas that they may not be exposed to at home. Ones that may run contrary to ours. Dun, dun, dun.

After the initial blow, the one that sent me reeling and realizing that I didn’t handle the situation the way I will, I was reminded why we think it’s important that the girls are around ideas, beliefs, and situations that we may not provide. We want them to become individuals who listen to other people’s perspectives, ask lots of questions, try out different identities, and ultimately decide for themselves how they’ll approach the world.

Of course, I would like them to share our beliefs. Yes, it rattled me when I felt like I didn’t have control of what she was hearing. But, I’m glad that she shared her thoughts with us. School, like anywhere else we aren’t right by their side, is full of people presenting their views. The earlier we expose our kids to the differences that exist between people, teach them to appreciate those differences,not fear them, and create an atmosphere where they are unafraid to ask questions, I think the better off we’ll be. This isn’t easy.

Last night, my knee jerk reaction was to reject an idea that someone else told her, one that didn’t align with our perspective. It’s then, after talking to two of my brothers and Robespierre, that I realized the hypocritical nature of that response. Our goal is to create thinking and respectful individuals who will consider all angles of a situation and make informed decisions. By rejecting, instead of asking further questions to help her think about what she heard, I risk her viewing the world as a contentious place with people vying for her to be a member of their “team”. Instead of a place where we can find common threads and weave together solutions that will keep us all comfortable. I prefer the latter.

Oh, “Pollyanna” Andy is back.

*I’m not speaking about teachers, or other adults at school, sharing their personal views – that is another discussion. I’m discussing what her, and someday Haze’s, classmates talk about during lunch, recess, and other in-between times during the day. All of which are, more than likely, mashed up versions of things they overhear at home.

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