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Character is Worth the Fight: Addressing Current Events with the Kids

Like many Americans, I was enthralled in the Judge Kavanaugh Senate Hearing on Sept. 27, 2018. (As I write this, we don’t know if/when the vote is coming forward.) While you have access to plenty of commentary about the hearing itself, I look at this from a perspective of a parent of two daughters and two sons, all around the ages of when the alleged incidents took place.

To all four of our children, I consistently have preached this message: Your integrity and character are of utmost importance, and deserve to be promoted and protected. It is the essence of who you are.

I tell them this in the context of knowing when to fight and when to back down. At times life does not go as planned, and we can’t predict human behavior. Sometimes, you discern to let it go; for instance, when a person says something that hurts pride or when you know you are right, but at the same time being right is not going to help you win in the long run. I tell the kids to fight when it impacts your character.

The other message, I have shared with the kids, universally, is it to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to assume positive intent. They are not always fans of this personal wisdom; they get frustrated when I present the other person’s side of the story. As a parent, I sometimes need to be reminded that my job is to first love them, then teach. They do not always like my attempts at compassion.

Assuming good intent, I share a story from another parenting moment that sticks out as maybe a not-so-stellar one. I had all four kids in the car, and Number 1 brought up a school conversation about the interaction between boys and girls and saying NO. Mind you, at the time, she was in junior high -- maybe in the sixth grade, which means her siblings were in grades 4, 2 and Kindergarten.

Triggered by a book I had been reading at the time about raising a successful teen, I launched into a lecture about what it means to say NO and accept a NO. I distinctly remember pulling the van into the garage, turning off the engine, locking the doors and saying, “Hang on, let me finish this point.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror, and saw all four sets of eyes looking directly at me. I turned around and said, “Girls, you have every right to say NO to something you do not want to do. Even if a boy puts pressure on you and coaxes you, you have a right to say NO, I don’t want to do that…and boys, if a girl/woman says NO to you, please remember that NO means NO “and you stop.”

Perhaps that was not an okay message to say to a 2nd grader and Kindergartner who lived in a blissful world of playdates, Legos and other activities. Nonetheless, I asked each child to verbally agree that he or she heard me, and they understood. The memorable moment for me is when these two young boys gave me a glazed look, like a deer in the headlights, slowly nodded heads and said yes.

Looking back, aside from grilling the kids based on a personal trigger, I was biased in my remarks. Of course, the rules apply for both men and women. When men say NO, it also means NO. (The boys, one now near 20 and the other of legal driving age, will be getting a call from me soon.)

The Senate Hearing was a case of He Said, She Said. (I have to fight in my writing to not call it a trial. It is not.) It was a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee to determine if a candidate for the Supreme Court – a lifetime appointment in the highest court of law – is the best candidate for the job.

Now, as a parent, I watched this with a perspective of a parent -- what if the people involved, the main focus of the hearing, were my daughter or son. Again, regardless of your political view, these are human beings. Both have admitted to a lapse in memory and/or action in the teen years of which they are not proud, as many of us can relate to.

One person came to the hearing from a perspective of seeing a sleight of qualified candidates for a prestigious, lifetime appointment, and she allegedly experienced something that reflected her interpretation of the character of a job candidate. For the other person, these allegations potentially impacted not just prospects for a prestigious, lifetime job, but also the integrity and reputation of his entire life.

This is all about character. It is about two people, in a very public spotlight. These people are a husband and wife, a mom and dad, and a daughter and son, in a very public spotlight.

The conversation with my kids around these issues today is to remind them that behaviors and choices have consequences; behaviors, especially in the era of social media today can be documented via video, pictures and more; and to be very clear on the root cause and end result of what you are seeking. This is not a trial. It is a hearing for a job that is both complex and compounded by a number of related issues.

It is about character and integrity, two things that are important to stand up and fight for. It is a current event that shows character and the importance of it.

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