When my son Langston was 11 years old, he asked me take him to ComicCon in Baltimore. I didn’t read comics as a child and I knew nothing about the about the comic book (or graphic novel) culture, but I knew that my son did, so I wanted to give him an opportunity to experience it. As we approached the convention center, I was completely surprised by the number of grown adults dressed up as cartoon, comic book and graphic novel characters. My mouth was literally wide open! When I saw a group of young adults dressed up as characters from the movie “Ghostbusters” I said out loud, “Goodness! This is the land of nerds and weirdos.” Langston instantly replied to me, “Mom, I guess I am a nerd or weirdo too because I am one of them.”
In that moment, I realized how my flip words could potentially affect my own child. After I apologized to Langston for my narrow-minded comments, I started to wonder if my “casual name calling” affected his own views — Did I unknowingly affect his self esteem? Have I taught him classism, sexism or racism without realizing it? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. But, that moment taught me how impactful my prejudices could be to the thoughts and beliefs of others, and I needed to be mindful going forward.
So, what do I do? Before I speak, I try to ask myself, “Are my words going to help or hurt?” If my words are going to be hurtful and/or not necessarily based in truth, I identify them as judgments, then I let my thoughts pass without saying them out loud or acting on them. If I hear my son pass a judgment on others, I ask him where he learned that thought. — I want to get to the “root” of his belief, then I try to teach him the same practice of mindful behavior that I am now trying to practice myself.
I pray with time that this practice will lessen the power of our misconceptions, prejudices, and judgments. And, Langston will continue to be comfortable telling me that he identifies with a group that the world finds a little weird.
Side Note. Over the years, I have learned to LOVE the comic book world, and I feel so blessed that Langston allowed me to experience the quirkiness and weirdness of it all with him.
Love & Soul Always, Kay