I’m always amazed by the things that come out of my kids’ mouths. And not just what they like to show off at dinnertime.
Our six-year-old, Maddo, in particular, has an amazing ability to bring up stuff out of nowhere and speak about it as if it were matter-of-factly happening right then in there. It is not uncommon at all for us to be driving to school and have Maddo suddenly blurt out a mention of when she saw a hippo at the zoo four months ago, then say she needs new crayons and complete it all by giving us a rundown of who is in the BFF Club that she and about 7 of her kindergarten-aged BFFs recently created. All of which she can spout off in about 47 seconds.
So, it came as no surprise to me when a couple of days ago, just after I told for the 16th time to get her shoes, Maddo began talking, and the following conversation ensued…
Maddo: Daddy! When you have a two-dollar bill, you have to treat it extra special because of the people who are on it! [She had just gotten one of these as a kindergarten graduation present from a family friend.]
Me: That’s right. Two-dollar bills aren’t very common. That’s Thomas Jefferson on the front and on the back…
Maddo: Daddy! One time, there was a time when black people who were riding on a bus had to get up and move and stand if a white person wanted to sit down!
WHOA! Okay…Now, I try to teach my kids a bit about history, but they are four and six-years-old. I hit some high points and don’t get into too much detail: George Washington was the Father Of Our Country; Abraham Lincoln was President during the Civil War and the greatest President we have ever had; “Star Wars” was the best movie ever when I was a kid. Things like that. To my knowledge, I have never mentioned anything about segregation and the civil rights movement, aside from a bit about who Martin Luther King was. I certainly haven’t talked to Maddo about how buses were segregated in the South during much of the 20th century.
But, here she was, schooling me with her kindergarten brain. As far as I know, she picked up something on the bus boycott back in January, when her class was talking about MLK and his role as a civil rights leader. And now, there was no way I was getting out of this one.
Me: Well…Yes, that’s true. Back in the day, in some parts of the South, there were laws that said black people had to give up their seats on a bus to a white person if that person wanted it.
Maddo: And DADDY! There were different drinking fountains, too!
Me: Uh, yes, honey. That’s right.
Me: Well, some people thought that’s how things should be.
Maddo: But WHY?
Now, I’m a student of history. I even have a degree in the subject. If it happened in the past, I can pretty much give you the rundown on it. So, with that in mind, I reached back in my History Chamber and fired away.
Me: Well, do you really want me to explain the details of the Supreme Court’s controversial 1896 decision in Plessy v. Fergusson in which the High Court ruled that so-called “separate but equal” facilities such as drinking fountains based on race were, in fact, legal, thus codifying the Jim Crow laws that many Southern states put into effect in the wake of Congress putting an end to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period that ended in 1877?
Maddo: Can we have McDonald’s for dinner tonight?
Me: You won’t get an argument from me on that!