Academic Leigh Speaking

A professor, four kids, and a crash course in work/life balance

The Hard Conversations January 28, 2015

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Politics,School for Boys — leighj @ 12:57 pm

I’ve said before that being a parent is increasingly taxing my ability to explain the quandaries of physics, biology, and abstract math. There are also questions of civics and equality to address, but I tend to do better with those.

In the last few weeks, we’ve had conversations about vaccines, the end of the world, taking care of our things, Martin Luther King, Jr., and more. Seamus wants to know what diseases he’s “not going to get” because he’s had the shots. And then he wanted to know what, specifically, each of those diseases would do to your body. After we discussed how Hepatitis attacks your liver (and answered what the liver does in the body), we had to have a conversation about how viruses “attack” the body, and how the body mounts a counterattack. Why do children always want to have the conversations when I’m driving?

Later, the same day! I’m laying on the couch reading, and Seamus comes over to cup my face and ask very seriously, “Will there still be people alive when the world ends?” Well that was a doozy. He thinks all the time, and his questions only give us a small glimpse into what he’s thinking about.

Gilbert requires a whole different arsenal. We’ve had long conversations (which we continue to reinforce) about the differences between tearing things up and wearing things out. There’s another category of keeping things nice, but G is completely incapable of acting in that vein, so we’re just trying to focus on what he can differentiate between.

With Porter, we’re trying to convince him to try new foods and try to crawl, but he’s not very interested in changing his routine at the moment.

The MLK, Jr. conversation went well this year. I feel like we’re finally building a base to talk to the boys about race, equality, fairness, and difference without being afraid of going too far above their heads. We’ve spent some time on the idea that the color of skin (peach, pink, brown, really dark brown) is one thing, whereas race that was (is) used to discriminate in unfair ways is a category that has something to do with how one looks, but that looks are by no means everything to do with race. This will be a life long conversation.

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