In Daring Greatly, Brown writes that “Who we are, and how we engage with the world, are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”
Ding ding!!!! When we think about our children’s educations and imagine the horrors we might be setting our children up for if we don’t grab The[narrowly-defined, super-problematic]Best for them, read this line again. When integrating is uncomfortable and messy, read this line again. When we think about how ‘living our values’ can feel like it conflicts with our parenting, read this line again.
Later in the chapter, Brown quotes Joseph Chilton Pierce: “What we are teaches the children more than what we say. So we must be what we want our children to become.” As we think about the decisions we make about where we live, where we send our kids to school and how we behave in those spaces, talking about empathy and not-being-racist is only part of the game; our choices and actions matter. How we engage with the world matters.
Brown writes that “The most vulnerable and bravest thing that parents do in their efforts to raise wholehearted children [… is] letting their children struggle and experience adversity… We [parents] can’t stand uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, even when it’s the right thing to do… I now think twice before I let my discomfort dictate my behaviors.” The piece we’d like to highlight here is the awareness of our discomforts and how this shapes our parenting. Attending an integrating school may or may not help build resilience or present adversity any more than a white/privileged segregated school. But the idea that it *might*, that making this choice is a risk because we don’t know the families at that school and it hasn’t been vetted by other white &/or privileged parents, that all the noise around our “broken schools” applies to us and could ruin our childrens’ futures, serves up a heaping bowl of stuff-to-be-anxious-about. But maybe our GoodParent job here is not to run toward the comfortable spaces, but to deeply reflect upon our own uneasiness.
Brown talks at length about the damage of judging and shaming other parents for the decisions they make. “You cannot claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they are making.” Relating everything to school segregation as we do here at Integrated Schools (and doesn’t everything relate to school segregation?!?), we can consider this in a number of ways. First, we can use Brown’s words to help free ourselves from the judgement of other people who tell us that we are not doing right by our kids in sending them to integrating schools. Second, we can use this to help ground our interactions with parents at our school, parents who might make different parenting decision in different parenting contexts. As Brown later quotes Pema Chödrön “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded, it’s a relationship between equals.”
Thirdly – and this is a place many of us struggle – is how we think about and interact with parents who are participating in educational opportunity hoarding. The world of “you do you” conceals the very real and consequential impacts that “doing you” has on others. “You” do not exist in a vacuum. Where we send our kids to school affects other children. Full stop. Reconciling the racial justice call for white people to hold other white people accountable for their actions means finding a balance between calling out the oppressive and racist cultural systems our educational choices maintain and calling parents in to this work. For those of you (and I know there are many) who have thought more deeply about Brown’s work on the differences between shame and guilt, how do you square these things?