Public radio host Krista Tippett on kids and the meaning of life
Krista Tippett, the public radio voice on faith, talks about parent responsibility to engage the inevitable questions kids have about the meaning of life.
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The question becomes: What do you do with that? Do you take it seriously? A lot of people hit that place when they have children. They start asking themselves this question: What do I need to pass on to my children? And I think it does feel like a huge burden. But just seeing that as an adventure and as a moment of possibility for yourself can be really important.Skip to next paragraph
Clara Germani is a senior editor for the Monitor, based in Boston. She handles in-depth projects, or cover stories, for the weekly print magazine.
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Rabbi Sandy Sasso [an expert on spirituality and parenting interviewed by Tippett] says, don’t let the people who ruined your tradition for you define what that tradition is about. Often many of us – even if we have grown up uprooted or have uprooted ourselves – we have a mother tongue, we have a homeland. Start there; don’t let it be defined by the people who turned you away from it. See if there’s something there for you to work with as an adult bringing your questions now, your curiosities now.
Can you define “homeland”?
Your denomination. For me, my Southern Baptist upbringing was so rooted to a place, it was a whole universe which stopped making sense when I left.
But when I started realizing that what I was asking – what I initially thought were ethical questions which in fact were spiritual questions – I did realize that Christianity was my mother tongue; the Bible was my textbook.
I could have moved away from that. But I really needed to go back there and see, because I knew how to read that. And I did find that I was reading whole different things there than what had been taught to me in Sunday school. And that was really exciting.
I didn’t return to the Southern Baptist tradition, but I did go back to Christianity. And now I really identify more as Christian instead of a denomination.
Parents want their children to be virtuous. But you talk about virtues becoming charged and uncomfortable to discuss. Why?
A lot of the words around the classic virtues are either charged or just watered down – compassion, gratitude, love. Love is something you fall into, you fall out of. Compassion and gratitude have been on too many Hallmark cards. And words like "peace" and "justice" are politically charged. So for the virtues we want and need, the language itself doesn’t carry the water for us.
I think a lot about how to use other words and stories and narratives with the connotations virtue has when these things are meaningful.
And what about nurturing virtues in children?
I did an interview for Mother’s Day last year with the Jewish-Buddhist teacher, mother, and grandmother Sylvia Boorstein. And she really brought me back to the fact that what we nurture in our children is most of all what we demonstrate to them.
So I think a lot about that: What are we passing on? What are we supporting in them? And what are we modeling? And it’s uncomfortable that it comes down to that. But it really does.