This is one in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Zoie from TouchstoneZ. Zoie tells about parents who made the choice to work through a challenging dilemma consensually as a family.
Guest post by Zoie from TouchstoneZ
Last year the son of friends of mine asked if they would help him create his Halloween costume. Intrigued by the idea that their son wanted to make, instead of buy, a costume, they readily agreed. But, what he wanted to be gave them pause.
He wanted to dress up as a Nazi.
This family normally practices consensual living and allows all members of their family to make their own decisions. This decision was a tough one for them.
So the parents discussed it together first. They decided that they were uncomfortable with their son1 dressing in a Nazi costume because of the potential hatred that would be directed at him, because of the hurt it might cause those affected by the Holocaust, and because of how their family would be viewed.
They thought about the visceral hate directed at Prince Harry of England when a photo was released of him dressed as a Nazi as he attended a private party specifically designed to be inappropriate and tasteless. They wanted to protect their son from threats or harm that wearing the costume might bring.
They thought it would be disrespectful to the memory of the Holocaust victims. This was a line that should not be crossed. There simply was not an appropriate answer for this issue.
They knew their son would be interacting with strangers and neighbors while trick-or-treating as well as with family and friends at a Halloween party. They worried there could be lingering doubts about their son’s character and about their radical parenting style that could outlast Halloween night.
Their next step was to find a way to address all of these concerns and come up with some solutions they could work on together with their son.
I admire these parents because they gave a lot of thought to understanding their own feelings on the decision. They were willing to put aside their strong emotional reactions in order to work through the issues rationally. They rarely deny requests from their children, as they firmly believe that everyone’s needs in the family are important. The parents do not simply hand down decisions. They mediate and compromise to find a result that best meets everyone’s needs.
They sat down with their son and shared their serious concerns. They had also worked out some ideas for compromises about when and where to wear the costume that would meet their needs to protect and support him. They were resigned to supporting whatever decision he made and would work with him, even though it was hard for them. Most of all, they wanted to hear him out.
My kneejerk reaction to this was the same as the parents’, except I would need to do some serious soul searching to let go enough and trust in my son. That is, until I heard the reason their son wanted to dress in a Nazi costume.
He said that he wanted to be the scariest thing he could think of. If people saw him, they would have to confront their own fear and hate. They would not forget.
The awareness that their son had of the impact that just seeing a Nazi uniform would have on others convinced me that these parents approached this decision in the best way for both their son and their family. He knew full well the power of this symbol of evil. It was more frightening than any ghoul or goblin because it represents what we fear most of all — ourselves. The Nazi uniform pushes on the most tolerant of people in a way that forces them to confront human evil. And whether a person is aware of it or not, we all recognize that potential in us all. And it is something that should never be forgotten, or it will happen again.
I look at my sons who are younger and see the potential in them for conscious, compassionate consideration for others — if it is what they are given consistently. I already see the way they care about the feelings of others and value cooperation over individual ego most of the time.
I also know history and recognize that Nazis were also other mothers' sons who were loved (or not) and nurtured (or not). It is terrifying to me to be confronted with the truth that we are all human and cannot be written off as simply evil or simply good. It is the most frightening thing I could think of.
It is a huge leap for me to see issues as prickly as the Nazi costume question coming, but I do know they are coming one day. I hope that by then, we will have a strong enough connection for us all to take that leap to trust in one another.
This family’s son is a bit older than mine, but I find comfort in the idea that since his parents have consistently modeled this way of non-reactivity and consensual decision-making, their son would come up with this idea. It’s a choice to allow feelings to exist without judgment and not react to them. On some level, he was attempting to wake other people up to the idea that you can hold onto emotions without being ruled by them.
Their son ultimately decided not to dress as a Nazi for Halloween because he felt the strength of his message was inappropriate for his Halloween activities. Instead, he chose to dress as a homeless person wearing a “Will work for candy” sandwich board — a more subtle message about confronting fears that perhaps fewer people understood.
How would you react if your child wanted to dress in a highly inappropriate costume for Halloween? I’d love to hear from you.
Further Reading on Consensual Living:
- PhD in Parenting’s great synthesis of Consensual Family Living.
- Natural Parent’s Network’s taste of Consensual Living.
- Consensual Living has many resources and essays for understanding all the nuances and applications of Consensual Living.
Zoie is the Yogini mama to three boys on earth and one girl who soars. She has been known to bust out ardha chandrasana pose while unloading the dishwasher and she enjoys seeing how far her partner can roll his eyes at her hippy ideals. She blogs about yoga, mindful parenting, postpartum depression, and other meaningful topics at TouchstoneZ.