By Diane Hwang
When I was pregnant with our son, we didn’t have a name for him picked out right away. We spent a lot of time looking up different names and sharing our likes and dislikes – until one day, my husband shared the name Xander, and there was something about it that caught my attention. When I asked him what it meant, he said, “Defender of the people” and I knew it was the one.
Later on, as we shared his name and its meaning with friends and family, we confidently wrote down and shared that “Xander will be a freedom fighter who speaks up for those who have no voice, includes those who have been excluded, and defends the marginalized and mistreated.”
Now that a few years have passed and Xander is a toddler, I often think about the meaning of his name and wonder what it actually looks like to raise him and his sister to do the very things I described…in a diverse world where racism, hate, and injustice have caused so much pain.
How can we raise them to advocate for others?
How can we raise them to be bridge-builders?
How can we raise them to celebrate differences while also recognize the commonalities we all carry as sons and daughters of God?
How can we teach them about tough topics like racism, justice, and reconciliation?
As I wrestled with these questions, I began looking for answers in scripture and started having conversations with other women in my community who come from different backgrounds and cultures from me, who have different skin color than me, and who share a passion for justice and reconciliation while also raising children of their own.
As these moms shared their perspectives and their hearts, I realized that the questions I wrestled with couldn’t be answered quickly in a simple ‘how-to’ list, as I had hoped, but would be answered little by little and day by day, as I committed myself to listening to the stories and perspectives of other moms and families and asked God to reveal His heart for humanity to me.
While I still have so much to learn, here are a few things that I’ve personally learned so far to help my husband and I proactively raise our children to pursue understanding, justice, and reconciliation:
1. Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Listener
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19)
My friend, Kaila Alvarez, who is finishing her double Masters in Theology and Reconciliation and Intercultural Studies, recently shared with me that “we must teach our kids the importance of listening and teach them to value the story that each individual has to share because we are all connected to one another’s story.” While this seems so obvious, I discovered that I’ve put a lot more effort into teaching my children to speak than I have put into teaching my children how to truly listen. If I desire my children to advocate for others, I must teach them to listen and seek to understand the perspectives and needs of other people, especially when those perspectives and needs are different from their own.
2. Encourage Questions and Learning
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” Proverbs 18:15
My friend, Kennesha Buycks, who is an author, mother of four children, and an advocate for justice and reconciliation in my community, challenged me to not limit learning to certain months or days of special recognition, like Black History Month, but to engage in constant learning as a family and to “challenge our children to move beyond the narratives that have been intentionally and unintentionally introduced through the media, our education systems, and other systems in society to learn about how different people groups have been impacted and shaped by our country’s history and our culture.” Whether it’s visiting a local African American Museum, attending an intercultural event, or listening to someone share their personal story, as we encourage continuous learning, our children will grow up understanding the many struggles of and many contributions made by different cultures and minority people groups.
3. Our Example is the Best Teacher
“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching” (Titus 2:7)
You’ve probably heard it said in parenting that ‘more is caught than it is taught,’ implying that our children learn more from what we model than what we teach, and I’ve found that this statement couldn’t be more true and comes up in every conversation I’ve had on this topic. Both Kennesha and Kaila reminded me that my children will learn first by watching me, and that as I intentionally advocate for others and surround myself with people who don’t look like me and don’t necessarily share the same perspectives as me, I am teaching my children to do the same as they look to me as their example.
As I finish writing this, I recognize that I’m just beginning this journey of learning how to parent well in a world where the issues of racism, injustice, and reconciliation come wrapped up in so much misunderstanding, division, and pain; and to be honest, it can make the task of raising the next generation feel quite daunting. While I don’t have all the answers, I’m thankful that I serve a God who does, and although I may feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to navigate tough topics like this with our racially mixed children, I believe as we lean into each other and lean into the heart of God, laying down our perspectives, our thoughts and our assumptions, God will continue to reveal to us the power of the Gospel and equip us with everything we need to raise our children to be the freedom fighters that He created them to be.
Diane and her husband have been married for three years and are raising their two small children in the rainy, but beautiful city of Seattle. After years in sales, Diane is enjoying her life as a stay-at-home mom and volunteers at her local church while her husband begins his new career as a police officer. She’s a lover of coffee, fresh mountain air, quality time with family and friends, and the Pacific Northwest. Check her out on Instagramand Facebook!