Teaching Moment

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On a recent evening, I was quietly sitting in my apartment in Uptown Oakland watching TV with my kids. Little did they know that demonstrations by the hundreds had been taking place in Oakland this day. I thought it was done until the sounds outside grew louder. The police, ambulance and fire engines were going up and down Grand Avenue and Broadway, and the helicopters were practically on top of us, shining their powerful lights down on the streets. Should I tell the kids to stop and look or should I let it pass?

Right here in my backyard of Uptown Oakland, the Occupy movement was once again in full swing. From empathy and general support in the early days to confusion and disillusionment as the days progressed, I've struggled with understanding what it all means.

It would be easier to not have to explain the Occupy movement to my kids. Why worry them? Where do I begin? Corporate profits? The housing bubble? First Amendment rights and democracy? If our elected leaders are having a hard time understanding the movement and its progression, how do I expect my seven and five-year-olds to comprehend this ever-evolving struggle?

And then, the parenting side kicks in. There's always a teachable moment. It's not about having the answers, but asking the questions. I turn the TV off and ask them to look out the window. The first question was, "What's happening?" "Why were there so many police officers?" My five-year-old was excited to see an ambulance go by, as the lights were flashing. My seven-year-old had just finished learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in school. I think she understood a little more. I tried to explain protests, how people disagree with each other and how they do it peacefully, at least at that very moment outside my window. Our conversation lasted no more than two minutes, but it became one of these teaching moments for all of us.

I continue to struggle with how to make sense of the Occupy movement, where it's headed and ultimately what it hopes to achieve. While my kids were satisfied with my answer today, I'm not sure I could explain it any better tomorrow.


With a Perspective, I'm Nik Dehejia.