Always, Always Under One Sky

It started last week.

LittleBrother brought home a project he had worked on in school. Let it be known: I am not an overly sentimental mother. My husband and I have often wondered aloud to one another if our children will be angry with us as we have not kept every card they have received, every art project ever created. In fact, we have kept very few of anything. I mean, it’s not as if I haven’t done anything to preserve memories. See also: This blog. But for the most part, I keep some holiday things to use as decorations and very little else.

So when I pulled a white piece of paper out of LittleBrother’s backpack the other day, I didn’t expect that it would catch me off guard. That I would want to hang it in my office. That I would feel a surge of pride in a few blue sequins glued to a piece of copied paper.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of equality and… peace.

Then BigBrother got home from school. Rinse repeat, but with colors and words he wrote on his own.

“Hands are lots of different colors. You can be friends even if you have different skin. Every body can be friends.”

Later, I read through his homework with him — a book about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. An advanced book, it delved a little deeper into the topic than his art project. I found my heart catching in my throat as my seven-year-old read to me about the racial injustices of our country’s history. More than simply “I have a dream that kids will play together,” he read the words and gave voice to the scars of our collective history. Hearing it from him, however basic in his understanding of what he is reading and saying at this age, made the hair on my arms tingle and dance.

But, it’s just a water fountain, Mommy. Why couldn’t they drink from it?

Discussions have popped up over the past week about things like rights and water fountains and kids in his school and, finally, a verbalization of the simple fact that his sister’s skin tone does not match his own. I breathe slowly and answer carefully, hoping I am setting the foundation of a greater understanding.

Today’s inauguration seemed fitting.

As Richard Blanco read his amazing poem, my tears fell. The beauty of his words mixed with the truth and weight of those same words hit me hard. We’ve done so much, and still have so much left to do. And yet, we are always — always — under one sky. Together. To teach my sons this concept, that we are together under that one sky trying to do what we feel is right, is something I don’t take lightly. It is a responsibility I hold dearly, that I aspire to — for fear that if I don’t get this one right, I will have let down future generations. I want to teach them to respect, to honor.

I look at their faces and I feel the weight of the dream, the charge to do better.

Peace and Love

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to teach them to be the light, to be the love that this world so needs.


What Am I Teaching Them?

As today is Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I wanted to do something with BigBrother. Sure, he’s only three. Sure, Martin Luther King Junior is a mouthful for older children. But being the family that we are, touched by King’s dream, I couldn’t simply let the day pass without some form of discussion and a few moments together. As it is bitter cold outside, I was left to fend for myself inside. And when I’m left to fend for myself, I turn to coloring pages.

It’s amazing the things you can discuss when you’re coloring together. Not only do we talk about what we’re coloring, but my oldest son’s brain seems to open up as he’s concentrating on coloring in the lines (a new task that he is so-very-determined to do most of the time) and, as such, he talks about things he likes. Things he doesn’t like. And he even listens while we’re coloring. It’s quite handy, really, doing some parenting and teaching work while doing something I enjoy. (Really? Why doesn’t anyone buy me coloring books for my birthday?)

And so, I chose this coloring sheet for the information about King included on the page itself. (And a little bit for the traingles but mostly for the information.)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a minister, civil rights leader, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King believed in equal rights and worked very hard for the benefit of African Americans. He said that all people should be treated equally and with respect. Nine years after his death, the United States honored him with the Congressional Medal of Freedom and declared his birthday a national holiday.

In true BigBrother fashion, he attempted to repeat each word in the nanosecond after I said it. As we colored, I told him that all people deserve for us to treat them nicely. All people. Then we named off everyone that he could think of at the time. Then he started making up names of people and we had a good laugh. He posed with his picture after he was done coloring and ran off to get his Superman cape and fire boots, his new wardrobe of choice.

He obviously doesn’t understand what today is or what the legacy of King’s dream means for our immediate family. But, I found this particular quote from King and, well, it’s just fitting for what we’re trying to do in the Fire Family.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In this household, we don’t leave education solely to the school system. We know that BigBrother and LittleBrother alike are very intelligent boys. We help them along with the intelligence part of it, reading non-stop and learning new words on a daily basis. I do things each day that foster a learning atmosphere within the house. But, maybe more so, we’re concerned with their character. Are they using their manners? Are they sharing? Do they legitimately care about the feelings of others? Are they compassionate human beings? And, in turn, am I being compassionate with them when they bop each other on the head, steal a toy from the other and refuse to say I’m sorry?

I hope so.

In addition to raising children who respect the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am hoping to raise children who understand the process and value of a true education. We have a long way to go, of course, but I think we’re heading down the right path. I hope we’re heading down the right path.

[Picture is also our shot for today’s Project365 over at Stop, Drop and Photograph. Sorry for duplication!]