When a baby is born the mother in particular enters into a new larger relationship with the world. She has become connected to all people. She is part of keeping us on earth, not the “us” comprised of individuals but the species itself. By protecting this one baby this gift a mother accepts life’s clearest responsibility.
~Gavin de Becker
Last week, Monkey Boy and I went to get donuts before school. He was pretty excited about it. When we pulled into the parking lot, he froze. I went around to open his door and he said, “I don’t want donuts anymore.” His eyes were glued to the front door of the donut shop. That’s when I noticed what he saw.
There is a man in town who I’ve seen many times. He sells brooms and mops. He is legally blind. The story I’ve heard more than once is he put two kids through college selling mops and brooms. I have no idea if that’s actually true. He shuffles around Hillcrest and the Heights, sometimes making his way over to midtown.
He’s usually dressed shabbily. He wears extremely thick glasses. He’s African-American with particularly dark skin that sags with age. I’ve seen and interacted with him enough to know he is kind man, just trying to make a living. I don’t find him scary at all. But my son did. He did not want to get out of the car.
I reminded him I was with him. He did not have to be scared because I would hold his hand. The man spoke. I spoke back. It was very polite. I did not buy a broom. We don’t need one. We got our donuts, and everything was fine. When we left, I wished the man a good day and he returned the pleasantry.
You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.
~Gavin de Becker
It’s bothered me since what I taught my son in that moment. On the one hand I want him to be a little bit afraid of adults he doesn’t know. I want him to learn what his intuition is telling him and listen. I want him to know his feelings are valid and should be respected. That way he will know other people’s feelings are valid and should be respected. I don’t want him to override that quiet voice in his head when it says, “This is not a good idea.”
I’ve been accused in my life of being too trusting of people. There have been times, looking back, my lack of fear, or rather my refusal to acknowledge fear, took me into potentially dangerously, dumb situations.
I honestly believe that’s partially because I was raised to be a good Southern girl and even if my gut told me not to trust someone, I should just ignore that. For example: if an elevator door opens and the guy inside gives me a bad feeling, I usually just get on the elevator anyway. Think about that: I’ve just locked myself in a sound proof cell with a person something in my gut said was dangerous. But it would be rude to refuse.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
So now I have two competing values I’m trying to sort out. I try to be a good Christian girl. I fail a lot, but I try. I want to teach my son to be kind, polite and helpful to all people. We have purposefully put him around children of all races, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds so he will learn to respectful of all people.
I also don’t want fear to run his life. He could see the donuts. He wanted them, but fear was between him and the thing he wanted. His fear was of something that looked scary, but in reality, wasn’t. I want him to learn to push through uncertainty and get what he wants, rather than walk away because a challenge presented itself.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s some stupid donuts and a man with a broom. There’s no reason to make such a big deal. On the one hand you’re right. But on the other, I know the words that come out of my mouth are meaningless to him if they don’t match the actions he sees from me.
And I’m back to where I started: What did I teach him? Was it the right thing? I really don’t know.