The boys slept late this morning. They had the day off from school in honor of Martin Luther King, and they had been instructed that they could play the Wii if they stayed in bed until 8:30. They agreed. Such are the compromises of weekday holidays.
“Do you know why you are home today?” I asked.
“It is Dr. King’s day,” said the youngest.
I asked them if they knew why we celebrated the life and achievements of Martin Luther King.
“He was a civil rights leader,” said the youngest.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“That’s all it says on the video,” he said. “Dr. King had a dream.”
I looked at the oldest, “Haven’t they talked about Dr. King at school?”
“Do you remember me talking to you about him last year?”
And then I sat down and explained to two small children about ignorance and hate, and how they manifested themselves in the belly of a nation. Again.
I spoke in gentle detail about harsh realities, just as I regretted the need to do so. Their faces were alive with disgust and confusion, and the more we spoke the more another layer of innocence slipped away.
My oldest pressed closer to me. He is sensitive to the feelings and treatment of others with an empathy that does him great justice, and the fact that he could not recall similar conversations said more about his desire to be in a better place than any lack of attention.
“We talked about this last year,” I said. “It is something you need to remember.”
“Why did people act like that?” he asked. “Why would people be so mean?”
“They were people that had been taught to hate,” I said. “Dr. King helped them to dream and love.”
“That’s what I said,” added the youngest. “Martin Luther King had a dream. It was about love.”
“It still is,” I whispered.
We sat there for a moment, perhaps in peace, thought, or an exercise in patience, and the day pushed quickly forward.
“Remember this,” I said, and they paused a moment more.
“Can we play the Wii now?” they asked.
“Sure,” I answered.
Such are the compromises of weekday holidays.
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).