What Orlando Teaches Us About Our Duty as Parents


There is so much to say about what happened in Orlando this week. So many questions are left unanswered and so many issues raised—from mental illness, to gun control, to religious fanaticism, to politics, to everything in between.

I am a citizen of this world. I am a Canadian living just across from the border where atrocities like these seem to be increasing in number every single year. But more than that, I am a mom. I am a parent of two young, impressionable children, and I am raising them in this new reality.

I’m sure many of us are questioning how to talk about what happened in Orlando with our kids, how to teach them about what goes on in the real world, without making them petrified of it. We want to teach them to be diligent and safe. We want to protect them.

But there is so much more to our role as parents beyond teaching them how to be safe in the world. We are raising citizens of the world. We are charged with teaching them right from wrong. We teach them, whether intentionally or not, how to feel about themselves, about others and about the world around them.

When the new sex ed curriculum for Ontario was announced and people FA-REAKED out over it, one of the sticking points was that in the proposed curriculum children would be taught that men sometimes love men, and women sometimes love women. That is true. That is reality. There are people in the world who are gay. You can like it, you can hate it, but none of that changes the fact that some people—actually many, many people—love people who are the same gender as they are. The sex ed curriculum is teaching only that. It isn’t a lesson in morality. It’s a lesson in reality.

And yet, whether or not rumours are true that the gunman in Orlando was in fact homosexual is kind of beside the point. Because either he hates gay people, or hates himself for being one. Any way you slice it, this was a person for whom the reality that men can love men and women can love women was so diametrically opposed to his moral compass that he snapped. We do know, at the very least, that he was certainly not enlightened to that reality.

We can be religious. We can hold tight to our beliefs and raise our children in our faith. That is our inalienable right as parents in this amazingly free society in which we are fortunate enough to live. But it is our job, no, it is our duty, to teach our kids tolerance, acceptance, and love. Because no greater power, if you believe one exists, wants a world full of hate. And no right-minded citizen of the planet wants that either.
If we all raise our children to know that there are people out there with different skin colours, different body types, different incomes, different abilities, different hopes and dreams and loves and dislikes and on and on and on, if we teach them that there is not a single person on the planet who is the exact same as they are, and some people are completely different in every way, and there is a world full of people in between, if we teach them that different isn’t bad, it’s just different, then we can all go about our business being who we are and not thinking twice when we see someone who is different than we are.

My children know that some kids have two mommies, others have two daddies, some have a mommy and daddy, some have just one or just the other and some have step parents. That’s not because I’m some super liberal parent. It’s because some kids have two mommies, others have two daddies, some have a mommy and daddy, some have just one or just the other and some have step parents. Whether or not any of those scenarios are against my person beliefs (they’re not) is irrelevant. My children know it because it’s true.

We don’t know why what happened in Orlando happened, though any right thinking person knows there really is no real ‘reason.’ There is just an excuse for hate. There is a lack of tolerance and a lack of awareness that, combined with mental illness and accessibility to high-powered guns, created the perfect storm that night in Orlando.

You don’t have to teach your kids that you approve, (though you should. But I’m not going to attempt to change people’s minds on that) but you do need to face the reality that like it or not, there are men out there who love men and women who love women. Once we all get a grip on reality, we can accept that not every person on the planet sees things the way we do or loves the way we do. Deal with it.


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