When I was growing up, I declared myself to be of a certain political party — the same one to which my parents and one of my favorite television characters belonged. But I had neither any idea what the affiliation meant nor what beliefs the party held. No one ever explained it to me — it was just presented as “the way it is,” so I accepted it as such. By the time I was old enough to vote, I had developed the self-confidence to have real opinions, and enough knowledge about the world to make my own decisions. Only then did my party affiliation change. Someone once said that we have merely opinions and beliefs until they are put to the test; only then do they become courage and convictions. This is what happened to me when I was called upon to vote as a young woman.
As I examined my feelings about war that morning with my son, I realized that this was a test: one of those ‘hands-on’ moments with our kids that force us to acknowledge our own comfort levels with our selves and who we are. The fact that the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq is now over 3,000 makes me angry, and my conviction is that war is wrong. But I don’t want to just state that categorically to my son; this made me realize I have to walk a fine line as I try to explain the world to him.
Every day as a parent gives us opportunities to grow. I’m not insecure about my opinions and beliefs anymore. But while I’d like my children to agree with me, it is not something I can force. My beliefs are not “just the way it is.” What this incident made me see is that I want to be able to present my outlook to my children in a way that will help them understand the world, without slanting or influencing them. Only in this way will they be able to develop beliefs and opinions of their own. Only then will they have the tools they’ll need for when their own tests come along, those that will let them build their own courage and convictions.