Kids are so sweet. So innocent. Which makes the famous photo all the more haunting. A young boy dressed in a white robe and a tall, white, conical hat touches his reflection in a riot shield held by an African American State Trooper named Allen Campbell. The photo was taken in 1992 at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Georgia. “Me and this kid, neither one, made a choice to be here,” Campbell said sympathetically some two decades after the photo was taken. “The state patrol made me come, and his mom and daddy brought him.”
Let’s be clear: you’ve got no right—no right—to fill your children’s minds with your own nonsense. You have no right to pass your hate, your issues, your limitations on to them. Because make no mistake, kids are incredible sponges. They will absorb whatever you put in front of their eyes, whatever you shout into their ears.
Not only do we not have the right to inflict our bullshit on our kids, we have an obligation to do the opposite. We have a responsibility to push them to be better than us. Where we are angry, they should be given love. Where we are suspicious, they should be given exposure and taught how to trust. Where we are afraid of change, they should be given a chance to experiment. Where we are conservative—in the true sense of that word—they should be able to take risks and to explore.
What is the point of a new generation if they are shackled with the baggage of the old? What is the point of creating life if we’re going to extinguish the joy of it? Your kids are a fresh start. A second chance. They can be better than you. They have more potential than you. They certainly have more time to get it right.
Drag yourself down if you wish, but let them be free—free of your politics, of your dysfunctions, of your fears, of your pain. Let them become who we hoped we would become when we were their age. When we were the new generation. Give them that gift, that freedom.