We arrived at last night's baseball game a bit early, having given ourselves time for traffic and to get into the parking lot and find our way to our seats. We sat with the girls and watched the field crew finish up their last bits of raking and then watched as Minions took the field for a "first pitch". Then the in-stadium announcer asked us to rise and remove our caps for the National Anthem.
Since K had already crawled up onto my lap, I stood up, holding her and waited for the performer to start. As she started singing along, I happened to glance over at B. She was standing there, slightly slouched, arms akimbo (I never thought I'd be able to use that word in my writing) and seemed to just be waiting for the song to be over. I reached over, grabbed her right hand and put it over her heart. She laughed and dropped her hand. I gave her a stern look, reached over and again put her right hand over her heart. She sort-of laughed the second time and still moved her arm down. Then I swatted her backside and Rob gave her a look. She still did not get it.
I waited until the song was over, and leaned over to her. I was trying not to be too loud and trying to keep my "upset-ness" (Is that a word?) in check. I calmly explained to her that she needed to respect the flag and our country by putting her hand over her heart, that her grandfather and great-grandfather (and many aunts and uncles) had fought for this country, and that I never wanted to have that discussion with her again.
Later that night and into this morning, I kept thinking about what happened. I do not think that my 8 year old set out to be disrespectful. I do not think that she doesn't care about our country or her freedoms or her rights. I do think that she possibly just did not understand the gravity of what was happening in that moment, or my reaction to her actions. I decided to chat with her a bit about it today.
On the way to the dentist's office, we had 15 uninterrupted minutes (no K trying to join the conversation) and I brought it up. I explained to her that we live in a country that has many freedoms that others do not enjoy. I explained that it goes beyond basic freedoms, because we are women and in many countries, women cannot drive or go to school or work in various professions (such as law) like I do. I tried to (gently) explain to her that just the simple act of me taking her to the dentist without a man in the car was impossible to imagine for women in some parts of the world. I said that our freedoms demand respect and that you show respect by standing during the anthem, and putting your hand on your heart, just like during the Pledge of Allegiance.
I could see her in the rearview mirror and like many times I have serious conversations with her, I had to wonder if she was listening, or taking what I said to heart. Thinking that I might have more of an impression on her with something "closer to home," I mentioned that in countries, girls are not allowed to go to school - even elementary or high school. I said that last year, there was a little girl, age 15 or 16, who believed that all kids should have access to an education, and some people tried to shut that little girl up because they did not agree.
I mentioned that her grandfather (my dad) and great-grandfather and many other aunts and uncles and cousins had fought in wars and battles, because of people that believed not everyone should have the same freedoms. I told her that in World War II, her great-grandfather fought against Hitler's armies and that Hitler believed that Jews did not belong on the earth.
Like I said, I'm not sure what got through to her. I can certainly understand that it is hard for an 8 year old to see her mom happy and laughing one minute and then ultra serious and upset the next. But I explained to her (in the car this morning), that there are a few things that really set me off, and a lack of respect for the flag and our country is one of those things. (I cannot stand to see people sitting during the national anthem, or not taking their hats off - that drives me absolutely nuts!) I finished our discussion hoping that something got through.
As we were leaving the dentist's office, B said that there were a few things we talked about this morning that scared her. When I asked what, she said the part about the little girl who was hurt and the part about having to wear long, black clothes all day and keep covered. I apologized first - nothing that I said was meant to scare her, and then I suggested that she focus on the good things that come with freedom, and the benefits of living where we live. But with that comes responsibility to be respectful and to acknowledge certain things, like the flag and our national anthem.
Only time will tell whether or not my little chat has any impact. I hope that the next time we are at a game somewhere and the national anthem is played, that she will rise and place her hand on her heart without thinking about it. I hope that she will remember our discussion and that she will be proud of her country and her freedoms. Of all of the things I hope for my little girls, this is a big one, I think.