My kids don't know what I do for a living. Not really. When I worked at Cobb Pregnancy Services they would sometimes visit me and see the little 12 week fetus models, which anyone familiar with prenatal development knows looks like the really small human being that it is. Later when I asked them what they thought I did for a living they said, “You sell babies.”
Some people in the pro-life community raise their children with an intimate and extensive understanding of abortion, but my wife and I decided to shield our kids from the ugliness of the world for as long as the world would let us. Our view is that there is no reason to prematurely burden them with the worries of their parents, though we respect our friends who make different decisions.
Our children know that we are not huge Obama fans just as the children of the President's supporters know that their parents don't want Romney to win. From the stories my kids share with me, apparently grade schoolers have very interesting political discussions. I assume as a by-product of one of those converations, my 7 year-old daughter asked me who I voted for in the election as we walked together today. I cleared up that the general election would not be held till November, but that her mother and I would be voting for Romney. She then asked me one of those questions that remind me how much our kids are listening.
“What does President Obama do that gives you more work?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Mommy once said that he did something that made you have more work to do. What does he do?”
I explained that I travel around talking to groups about the idea that all human beings matter. That all of us deserve basic respect and basic consideration no matter our age, ability, or health. As long as we are human beings we matter by virtue of that fact alone. There are other people that believe that what we can do matters most. They use that idea to say that some human beings don't matter in the way that others do. Perhaps if they are severely injured, older and in declining health, or haven't been born yet then they don't deserve the same basic considerations as others. They believe they are different than us in value because of those types of differences, that those differences are very important. “In many other areas we differ as well, but President Obama defines valuable human life differently than your mom and dad.”
She then asked something that reminded me why I think organizations like LTI are so important. “So that is why you hate President Obama?”
We were already holding hands as we walked, but I stopped her and made sure she was listening. “We do not hate President Obama. What I do is to train people how to disagree about these important things without hating each other. How can we teach that all life is important and precious and yet hate people for disagreeing with us? We have to stand up for what we believe, but we have to do it in a way that shows people we are motivated by love. Both of those goals, arguing our case and loving our enemies, are part of our jobs as Christians. I love President Obama and wish him and his family no ill will.”
“So would it be right to say that you hate some of his ideas?” she asked.
“Yes. And that is why your mother and I would prefer he is not our President and will exercise our right to vote for his opponent. But if he wins, we won't freak out or act like it is the end of the world.”
She nodded, “You will just have more work to do.” She paused for a moment clearly still mulling some things over, “Maybe you can change the President's mind. If I were the President and you told me that all human beings mattered I would listen to you.” I explained that unfortunately adults aren't always open to changing our minds that way. Some people voted for him because he promised explicitly not to change his mind about what we are allowed to do to human beings that haven't been born yet.
“You know one of my friend's mom had a baby that died before it was born.” She paused for a moment. “It was very sad.”
“That is sad when that happens,” I told her as she squeezed my hand tightly.
“I agree with you and mommy. I think that all human beings are valuable.” She quickly shifted gears discussing her future as an artist and some objections she sensed that I had to that career choice.
I know a lot of my friends feel I should have been much more explicit in telling her about abortion, but I can't help but think of the example of Caspar ten Boom, Corrie ten Boom's father, when she asked him about sex on a train ride at the age of 10 or 11. She relayed the story in The Hiding Place:
I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sex sin?"
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
"Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
"It's too heavy," I said.
"Yes," he said. "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
That incident weighs heavily on me as a father. It is extremely gratifying to hear my little princess ask such questions and to try to help her understand what she needs to know right now. If she truly grasps that all human life matters and that we do not hate people because they believe ideas that we hate then it is a good start. For now, I am content to carry the suitcase a while longer till I am convinced they are ready to handle it on their own.