Talking To My Four-Year-Old About Ferguson

I live 5.5 miles from the QT that burned down this week. “My” Target became the staging area for the armored tactical units used throughout the week. When I turn on the news and see places so near my home in what looks like a war zone, my heart sinks.

It’s hard to describe what St. Louis is all about to someone who doesn’t live here. There aren’t words to describe the beautiful diversity that spreads across this city. But, like most cities across our country, it’s broken. There’s heartache and mistrust. There are undertones that have been highlighted this week, magnified even. And it’s close. It’s so close. Close to my home. Close to my heart.

I’ve spent this week trying to figure out how to talk to Lucy about it. I think it’s important that she understand it as much as a four-year-old can. I want to open a dialogue so that if she has a question, she can ask me. It’s our job to raise our children as citizens who understand words like equality, justice, and racism. I don’t want to wait for her to hear them from someone else.

So we talked.

Me: “Hey Lucy. Do you think there’s anything different about our family and Ms. Tracie (Landon’s OT) or Amani (her favorite babysitter)?”
Lucy: “No.”
Me: “Hm. Well have you ever noticed that their skin looks different from ours?”
Lucy: “I guess it is a little different.”
Me: “But that doesn’t change who they are as people you love, does it?”
Lucy: “No!”
Me: “Do you think they’re beautiful?”
Lucy: “Oh yes. I loooooooove Amani’s hair.”
Me: “Their skin is different because people whose grandparents come from different parts of the world have different colored skin, hair, and eyes. We wouldn’t want everyone to look exactly the same, would we?”
Lucy: “No, Mom. I like it.”
Me: “People in our city are upset right now because there are people who treat others different because of the color of their skin, and that’s not something we like. There’s this thing called equality that we believe in, because everyone should be treated fairly. Jesus wants us to love everyone. Understand?”
Lucy: “Yes, Mudder.” [Which is what she calls me when she wants me to leave her alone.]

I have a business degree. I have no background in counseling. Honestly, I don’t know if I did it exactly right. But I did go into the conversation with a few goals.

We can’t tell our kids that race doesn’t matter. To me, that’s like saying Catholicism doesn’t matter because we aren’t Catholic. I wanted her to understand that people are different, but diversity is beautiful. Roots and heritage are amazing, and something to take pride in.

I wanted her to realize there were people in her life already with different colored skin. I honestly don’t think she’d thought much about it. And then I prayed for all of the children who notice that much sooner. Because it does impact their daily lives. And it does impact the way others treat them.

But I love that it wasn’t an issue for her, so I tried to keep the conversation short enough that I didn’t make it into an issue. I love that we live in such a diverse area that she doesn’t find it strange to be around others who are different from her- and that she even finds herself in the minority often.

There are so many facets to this story. There are facts we don’t now and may never know. But I think it’s a great opportunity to talk about the bigger issues it raised. There’s a lot to pray for, but I pray most that we become a community bonded stronger rather than torn apart.

I want her to understand beauty and love. Those are the things I want her to spread. There’s so much beauty here. And we have so much love to share.

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