When the world appears to be falling apart, when there is scary stuff outside your door, when you feel isolated you can either hunker down in fear and show your children how to turn a blind eye, or you can see this as another opportunity to be a parent and use it to do your job and teach your children. That is what parents in Ferguson have done. They are modeling for the rest of us what it is we need to do. Be strong. Be compassionate. Act.

The parents I am talking about are the ones who are getting their children to go out and clean up after the protests. They are the ones speaking out asking the agitators to leave their community alone to work through the process that exists in the law. They are the parents who are comforting the family of Michael Brown and bringing dinners rather than wasting time marching in the streets looking for blame. That’s like throwing a tantrum in McDonalds right after you place your order because the hamburger isn’t immediately in your hand. It’s coming. The truth will be coming. Justice will be coming, it just doesn’t happen in 55 minutes like it does on TV.

Many thanks to the Post Dispatch’s Aisha Sultan for reporting on these parents. She interviewed Erica Hampton who took her children Aubrey (4) and  Jaden (10) out to clean up the mess in their neighborhood by the QuikTrip that was burned down.  “Tearing up buildings and trashing places is not the way to solve anything,” she told her children.

She also said she didn’t spend time explaining all the details of what was going on to her kids. “It was just too much.” She told them what they needed to know. “This what you do for your community.” As someone who will soon complete her degree in counseling, Hampton can not only claim the wisdom of motherhood, but also that of a trained degree holder when it comes to what children can handle.

This is in such sharp contrast to our education professionals who think that when a 5 year old child asks “Where did I come from?” they need to hear lots of details like all the anatomically correct terms and physiologic specifics. Those experts believe such a child needs to know that there are many ways to express love and could use a helpful illustrated guide like “It’s Perfectly Normal” (now available on the Wentzville school library shelves) to help them fully understand love.  A mother knows  that the child who asks this just wants to know that they are where they are supposed to be, in a family that loves them no matter what. She will model that love for them in the meals she makes, in the time she takes to read to them, in the way she makes them take a broom and trash bags to clean up their neighborhood because she knows that will make them strong loving adults.

The Acting Superintendent of Ferguson has Lawrence Larrew delayed the start of school until Monday after which the district will be trying to get back to school as usual. “We believe as educators that restoring normalcy and welcoming our students back to school is one of the most effective things that we can do to advance the healing and rebuilding process,” Larrew wrote in a letter to district parents. The district is still planning to have grief counseling available for students and to “provide guidance for constructive, age-appropriate discussions.” I hope they will take input from parents like Hampton into account in their guidelines for “age appropriate” discussions.  I hope they will focus on healing and rebuilding like their parents are.  I hope that school officials see parents like Hampton and Patterson (from the Post article) as competent, exceptionally good parents who don’t need a school to take over that role.  Such parents have a right to make parental choices for their kids and,  from here, it looks like they are doing a great job.



Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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