Part of growing up is learning to appreciate differences

Lately, the kids’ questions seem to be outpacing my ability to deliver satisfactory answers. In the last week, we’ve covered Electoral College votes, climate change, credit cards and the Democratic Party.

The kids are like very small, emboldened journalists who have learned the art of interrogation; everything is fair game. When I walked out of the bathroom at our favorite Mexican restaurant last week, Rose shouted across the room, “pee or poop, Mama?”

Also, Col and Rose want to know, definitively, “is it good (the Dems, credit cards, etc.) or is it bad?” As if you could toss it all in a centrifuge of ethics and watch as the good separates cleanly and distinctly from the bad.

And it’s not that I don’t have opinions. You could map the brain regions responsible for outrage and pride by conducting an MRI on my brain while I read the daily letters to the editor (especially during this political season). I can get quite self-righteous about the righteousness of the right candidates, whom I so rightly identify with.

But, I am noticing that there is skill in considering opposing viewpoints, holding them in balance for even a moment to see what catches in the sieve and what honestly falls away; to see if I can unclench the fists that lock up like Pavlov’s boxer when certain issues enter the ring; and to see the humans behind the ideas.

For most of my life I didn’t know anyone who hunted or even owned a gun, and it was as easy to misjudge this population as it is to click “thumbs down” on a Pandora song and move right along. And yet, last weekend, there I was, butchering the buck deer that Dan shot with his rifle, feeling immensely grateful for the many gifts this animal and experience brought my family.

When Rose confided in me that one of her classmates doesn’t eat very healthy because she has a lot of cookies, juice and packaging in her lunch, the boomerang of my own judgement slammed me like a cautionary tale about the way I share information with my children.

I am trying to be more careful about saying, “this is what our family believes, other people may believe differently,” or “I feel really strongly about everyone in our family wearing bike helmets, but this may not be a priority for all families. We all get to choose what feels right for us.”

Our neighbor, whom we like very much, sprays his lawn with herbicides, while 10 feet away our organic garden thrives with food, life and weeds; I appreciate his tolerance of our funky jungle.

Part of growing up and expanding your orbit beyond your small family home is discovering how others do things differently. I picture children who get to seriously consider two different views as actually growing new neural pathways, expanding their capacities for compassion, openness and curiosity, all important skills in our complex world.

Reach Rachel Turiel at her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.

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