I’ve probably mentioned a few times before that I like listening to podcasts when I go running. Today’s installment was from This American Life, one of my go-to podcasts.
This episode is called “Birds & Bees,” and it’s all about grown-ups talking to little kids about the things in life that are big and complicated: sex, death, race, and racism. They are the things that so many of us parents aren’t sure how to broach with our children. Honestly, many adults are still trying to negotiate their feelings around these prickly, serious subjects.
The race and racism segment of the show comes from comedian W. Kamau Bell, who is married to a white woman and the father of two daughters. After a rude, racist incident Bell experienced at a coffee shop in Berkley, California, he tries to figure out how deep he wants to wade into the treacherous “racism pool” with his young 4-year-old daughter.
Bell talks about race and racism in his comedy act all the time, but he wasn’t quite ready to delve into talking about racism in American and its violent history with his young daughter. He mentions using the book A Case For Loving — an MMM fave — as his jumping off point.
It’s a good piece. Definitely listen to the 22-minute segment. It’s Act Two: “If You See Racism, Say Racism.”
There’s a line from another father Bell speaks to about racism that keeps playing in my head:
“I don’t want my children confused. I want them knowledgeable.”
So true. About so many things in this life.
Which kind of leads me to the final act of the TAL podcast. It’s about trying to explain death to young kids, especially those who have lost a parent or sibling. The story focuses on this remarkable grief counseling center in Salt Lake City called The Sharing Place. It’s where kids can go to work through and understand their own grief.
The children sit in support groups led by adults and they talk. But it’s important to note how they talk about death; they use concrete language. “Because, the thinking goes, that’s how to process death’s finality. So people don’t pass away, you don’t lose them; they die,” reporter Jonathan Goldstein says.
The really heartbreaking part of the story was hearing these little voices, young children who have lost a parent or sibling to suicide, say the words raw: “… my father died. He shot himself in the head.”
This podcast segment is heavy. It is. But it’s useful and good, too. As an adult trying to raise a little being into whole and healthy grown-up, I think it’s important to listen to the heavy stuff. Because this life, it’s not all light and laughter, and we need to help our kids see that the weight of the heavy stuff is real, but it certainly won’t break you.