Sometimes our family talks go something like this:
Hubby: Does a crow crow?
Me: No, a crow caws.
Hubby: It doesn’t craw?
Me: No, that’s a raven.
Hubby: So a crow caws and a raven craws?
Eryn: NO! IT’S RAVENCLAW!
And sometimes, they look more like this:
Me: Eryn, when your friend said that she could stay living in America if Trump wins because she is a Christian, how did that make you feel?
Earlier this evening Eryn who is seven (SEVEN??!!) going on 16, was allowed her very first phone call to a friend. I lent her my phone and after practising proper phone etiquette (“Hello, this is Eryn calling. May I please speak with June?”), she excitedly stole away to her room, closed the door, and spoke with her friend on speakerphone.
After about five minutes I joined her in her room. She gave me a thumbs up and a huge smile signalling that the conversation was going well. Because apparently the stressful juggling act of creating and maintaining key playground relationships begins early, dontcha know? (I didn’t)
Then June said:
I saw a funny picture of Hillary on my mom’s phone!
Eryn: Who’s Hillary?
June: She’s going to be the next president of America. Do you know Trump? My mom said he’s a bad man.
Eryn: Yeah my mom said he doesn’t like Muslims and that if we lived in America he would kick us out.
June: Well I’m Christian so I can live in America.
I flagged the moment as a teachable conversation.
After dinner and some play time with the neighbourhood kids, I had a few minutes of alone time with Eryn. And while I did her hair, I asked why she felt sad when June said she could live in America:
Because she’s Christian and can live in America. This means I can’t and that’s not fair.
Me: Well, actually, June is missing something really important about Trump.
Me: She said she can live in America because she is Christian. But Trump doesn’t like a lot of people. He said he would build a wall to keep people from Mexico out of America. He also has a lot of really bad ideas about people of colour. A lot of the people he has issues with are also Christian. So it’s more complicated. June can talk about religion because she has something called white privilege.
Eryn: (looking at her palms) My hands are white…
Me: Yes, you have privilege too.
Eryn: Does Hillary like everyone?
Me: She likes more people than Trump…
Eryn: I hope she wins.
Then, later as I tucked her into bed:
Me: Do you know what responsibility is?
Eryn: Is that like, doing what your teacher tells you to do?
Me: Kind of. It’s like doing the right thing. You have some privilege, and with privilege comes great responsibility.
Eryn: Like Ms. Marvel?
Me: Yes! Privilege gives you power and when you have power you should always try to help others. So you were born in Canada, you go to a good school, and have nice things. This is all privilege. So whenever you see someone who needs help, or if someone is being mean, you should always step in to help, or to speak up for others.
Eryn: Ok mama.
Did she understand? Who knows! I was kind of blown away she remembered an offhanded comment I made MONTHS ago during the Republican National Convention and had the acuity to apply it in a conversation that I was expecting would revolve around Shopkins.
I would like Eryn and Ivy (and one day Quinn too) to have the capacity to call out simplistic world views that help perpetuate racism or discrimination. I mean, not necessarily today or tomorrow morning on the playground. But one day when they are able to understand the nuances of their position in life and those around them.
For now, they are surrounded by good, diverse people. The phone conversation today was innocent. It was, wasn’t it? I mean, in all fairness to June, it did end off with the both of them meowing at each other like cats. But the comment still made Eryn feel othered. I certainly wasn’t expecting to introduce white privilege as a part of our bedtime routine.
I wish it was as simple as making a Harry Potter pun.