I have been trying out a new early-reading program with Graham the last few days, teaching him language skills that I hope will one day benefit him.
Teaching is what parents do, after all. Every day, every hour, we teach our children.
We teach them to read and to count and to identify colors. We teach them to tell time and do up their shoes and button their coats. We teach them about their body and their family and their history. We teach them to be gentle with animals and respectful of people and that manners and social skills make life easier and more pleasant.
But tonight it occurred to me that as Graham grows, he’ll be better off if I can prevent him from learning certain things: his intellectual and emotional life will develop in a more healthy fashion if I can, at the very least, delay his knowledge of certain truths that discourage and demoralize, that call into question our faith in the inherent goodness of humankind.
Strange, isn’t it, to think that sometimes a parent must work to ensure their child does not learn things? To think that thoughtful parenting is often a balancing act between revealing to our children some realities and shielding them from others.
There are certain things that I hope will dawn on Graham gradually, well after he has the maturity to deal with them: there are certain things I wish he didn’t have to learn.
I wish he didn’t have to learn that a lot of medical breakthroughs are really just press releases for big drug companies and that a lot of people cheat on their taxes because they think the government is corrupt.
I wish he didn’t have to learn that where a person is born, the color of their skin, the language they speak and the way they worship often determines their access to basic nutrition and medical care.
I wish he didn’t have to learn that some people don’t care for children or animals or worse, see them merely as commodities. I wish he didn’t have to learn that newspapers are in the business of selling ads and that lending institutions want to see him indebted.
I wish he didn’t have to learn that a lot of the time the runt of the litter will die, the person dating the boss’s son will get promoted, the nice guy will finish last and the jerk will walk away with the girl.
I wish he didn’t have to learn that the world isn’t fair and that bad things happen to good people and that some folks out there will never, ever change their minds, so it’s probably better not to waste your energy trying to make them.
But most of all, I wish to be successful in teaching him that wisdom, knowledge and compassion are always the best weapons in the fight against the world’s ugly truths.