Martin Luther King Day and our Teachable Moments

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As a mother of children ranging from 18 to 3 years old, celebrating a holiday of any kind can run the gamut. They are often lovingly chaotic, and there are elements I do forget. I try to make sure we work together to ensure that each person has an equally important role in festivities regardless of age. Celebrating the life and immense contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. is different. MLK Day is not just a holiday, but also the celebration of a man who has shaped their lives. I find discussing the details delicate because we have to also delve into this country’s discriminatory nature. However difficult, it is extremely important for us to have these conversations so they have a better understanding of the world we live in.

Our Conversation

This year we decided to start with an assessment of sorts. A simple question was presented to the children: “Do you know who Martin Luther King, Jr. is?”  Of course, we have had the conversation before, but each year their revelation about who he was and what he fought to achieve is more refined. We started with my 3-year-old. He shrugged and had no idea who I was talking about. Next was my 6-year-old, who responded with, “Who is that?”.  I cringed. Parent fail! I could not believe it. Of course, our 18 and 8 year-old knew the facts, but how could I have neglected telling my younger children about the man that worked so hard for equal rights for all people?! The shame I felt was so intense, I went into curriculum mode. I gathered pictures online and took a trip to the bookstore to get started. Hello MLK crash course weekend!

Our Family’s Teachable Moments

As a family, we focused on his message, his methods, and how we can continue his dream through service and activism. We spoke about Dr. King’s message of equality, non-violence, and fairness for all. I encouraged them to stand together so that everyone has a chance. I emphasized that they deserve equal treatment and opportunity. We discussed and realized we could continue his dream. In our opinion, we do this by becoming friends with and being kind to all types of people, putting God first, and expressing ourselves when things are not fair. I showed my little ones pictures of Dr. King, and thankfully they began telling me what they remembered from our previous talks as well as what they had learned in school. I also found the book, “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport to be extremely helpful. As an act of service we went out to participate in a neighborhood clean-up. And for continued learning we subscribed to The Because of Them We Can Box.

martin luther king

Going Forward

One thing I have learned over the course of this pandemic is – time is fleeting.  I must be intentional about the time I have with my children. To me that means being present, listening to them and teaching them the lessons they’ll need to grow. It is also my job to demonstrate and show the qualities they’ll need to positively contribute to this world. It is my responsibility to lead with service, love and faith.

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