There is some new anti-bullying legislation being worked on in our province, and as part of it there are some potential curriculum changes afoot, mostly related to raising awareness of sexual orientation and sexual identity issues, visible and invisible differences, different types of families, etc. As you can expect, there is some discourse going on at our church about these issues, and as you can also expect, some of the discussion is reasoned and thoughtful, and some of it is inflammatory and/or seems to be based on misinformation or misconceptions about what these changes mean and how they will be implemented. This seems to be the way these things tend to go, and it makes me sad and frustrated, but an interesting side effect of this has been some further discussion in our house about how we’d proceed if Ellie was ever learning something at school that maybe didn’t align precisely with our household values (not that this is one of those issues, because I am completely comfortable with these curriculum changes and I hope they are implemented and are successful in reducing schoolyard bullying, as the educators and legislators hope). I know it’s hard to say now, having never really been tested in this area since Ellie is still so young, but we both feel really strongly that we alone are ultimately responsible for shaping Ellie into the kind of person we hope she will be, socially, morally, academically, and in every other way. We have no intention of avoiding issues that may come up, and in fact we both welcome the time when we can have an honest discussion with Ellie about what we care about as a family.
It’s possible that Ellie will come home from school one day and tells us in an awed tone of voice that she learned that there are some families out there that — for the sake of keeping this as lighthearted as possible, because I truly don’t see what the big deal is and have already expended a lot of energy this week feeling angsty about all the angst, and also because I have a terrible cold and can’t come up with a better metaphor here — don’t have orange cats. If that ever happens, our current plan for handling that is as follows:
- Affirm for her that this is true
- Explain the various reasons that we’re aware of why some families might choose this (the tumbleweeds of fur; the near-constant expense of owning a pet; the fact that while you’re getting your daughter breakfast, they sometimes hop up onto the counter and EAT YOUR YOGURT)
- Reaffirm our position as an orange cat family
- Explain the various reasons why we’ve made that choice (orangeness, snuggliness, niceness for petting, tendency to sit in the comfy chair in your office while you’re working and keep you company)
- Remind her that we expect her to treat everyone kindly, regardless of their status vis a vis ownership of orange cats
In my family growing up, we didn’t wear slippers but we did talk about everything. And we argued about things that were important to each of us individually. We still do, and I love that. I feel like that is one of our most basic jobs as parents, having these sorts of conversations, and I really hope that at the end of the day we’re confident enough in our values that they won’t be devalued in any way by someone else’s opposing beliefs. Or choices. Or whatever. I was just going to leave it at that, but before I conclude here, I feel I should tell you — in the interest of full disclosure — that my whole metaphor fell apart as I was typing this, because Max (our fat orange cat, who still outweighs Ellie by half a pound even after her first birthday) got into a fight with our other cat, Norton, and the two of them knocked a giant pile of books off an end table and scared me almost all the way to death, waking up the napping baby in the process. As soon as I hit the Publish button here, I am going to open a Word document and draft a letter to our provincial representative asking him to amend the curriculum to specify that anyone who owns an orange cat is an idiot.