No matter what the storm is outside, within the walls of our home, it is always safe. Or should be. I want anyone who enters our home to know that they are okay and safe, no matter what they look like, what they believe, what political views they have, what their background is, etc. You are safe in our home. So walk through our door, sit down, and feel a part of our family – even if only for a short time. You are welcome here. I want strangers, acquaintances, and our friends to feel warmth when they walk through the door. I want them to want to come back.
But how we treat our own family members is something to which we must pay close attention. How often we neglect those we love most! Do we forget that they need just as much love, attention, acceptance, and warmth in order to want to be there with us? In order to want to come back, are they feeling like they are also welcome? Though I value each individual, there are no human feelings that are more important to me than my own children’s and husband’s. My little family takes priority.
You see, though I may stick up for you, and stand alongside you through your journey even within the safety of my own home, I will always choose my child’s well-being over yours. It’s not to say that you no longer have value, or your feelings no longer hold value . . . it’s just that I have a responsibility to my children. When my husband and I signed the adoption papers, we signed our commitment to these individuals not only legally, but we signed our lives to them. We bound ourselves to each other. When I raised my arm to create a steady right angle, and in court told the judge that I was going to be their mom, I also was promising that my heart would forever beat with theirs.
There are times when I don’t fully understand what my kids are thinking or feeling, and I maybe feel our heartbeats are . . . hmmmm . . . off. I don’t know what to do, but I know something is wrong. Though I luckily have never had a severe and crazy experience such as this, I’d really like to talk about it since it is something I’ve thought a lot about. Two weeks ago on This Is Us, Rebecca confronted her own mother about racist comments she was making, not only in their home, but also in the presence of Randall, their black son. For some time, Rebecca absorbed the words and frustration, trying to brush it off as “It’s just how my mother is.” Rebecca hated it, but she never did anything. Finally, with immense courage I might add, Rebecca said s o m e t h I n g.
I’m not going to go into how we should have these conversations because I feel ill-equipped to offer such guidance. Should it be as strong and damning as how Rebecca talked to her own mother? Should there be a softer approach? Should it be a sit-down conversation or an on-the-spot, full-of-passion moment? I don’t know.
I think every single situation will be different, but the key is to take time and think about what you will do BEFORE it happens. BEFORE you hear a family member, or friend, in your own home use language that degrades your child because of his/her race, decide what you will say, and how you will say it, so you will be prepared. Practice what you will say. Be prepared. Think it through. If you have other children in the home, talk to them about what they can say and do if they hear something said by a family member . . . someone they love and trust . . . that makes them uncomfortable. They must learn to stick up for themselves and each other.
These moments are not easy but they are defining. Most people don’t want confrontation and this is one of those times when you will have to confront someone with a topic that makes people uncomfortable. It is not easy. But it will define you as a mother/father and advocate – advocate for your child, and advocate for your home. When you are worried, scared, unsure . . . let your character take over. Your character is at stake if you don’t say something.
Protect the safe haven you’ve created or are trying to create. In some cases, this may mean some individuals can no longer enter your home because their words are too dangerous to a developing child’s ears and soul. In other cases, a small conversation is all that needs to happen; it’s amazing how clueless many people are when they’ve never been confronted. There’s not a need to humiliate someone when all they need to hear is, “When you say things like ________, it makes me really uncomfortable and I don’t want our kids hearing it. When you’re in our home and around our family, could you be mindful of that and not use (those jokes, those words, those phrases, those implications).” You decide how it should be done, but keep your home a safe space.
Have you had to confront a family member about racist remarks or attitudes? If so, please share in the comments so we can learn from each other. We all need to be prepared to handle these situations.