Our Flag and Other Controversies I Talk About with My Kids


our flag

Sometimes, it’s hard raising kids in this world.  There are times when I wish that I could put them in a bubble and pretend the rest of the world isn’t going crazy; that I didn’t have to talk about the insanity.  But as my kids age, it gets harder and harder to hide from it. 

At the same time, I’ll grab on to any opportunity to talk about my view of things.  I see the world in shades of grey, and typically can see both sides on an issue.  I believe there is value in not only knowing where you stand, but in knowing where others stand.  I believe it’s the first step in getting along, something I wish our politicians would practice a little more.

Our topic this month has been the controversy around the football players who will not stand for the national anthem, or our nation’s symbol: the flag.  That’s a hard one in this house.  As a military family, we honor the flag.  Once upon a time, I taught classes in military etiquette.  That included flag etiquette.  So, it’s really hard to watch athletes at the national level refuse to honor our flag and our country.

I’ve lived where we stood for the national anthem before the movie starts in the theater.  I’ve lived where everything stops (including traffic on the street) and everyone stands to honor the flag at the end of the work day.  Some of the funniest clips I’ve ever seen of Robin Williams are of him honoring the flag (dressed like one), and of him being totally bewildered when his audience on a USO tour suddenly all stood and turned their backs to him (the flag was being lowered for the day).  The flag is a big deal in our world.  We know there is a very real possibility that one day Daddy could come home in a box covered by it.  It’s not easy for us to understand the disrespect to it.

At the same time, it’s been a great way for the kids and I to talk about what the flag means, what it means to serve when others do not see the value, what is so great about this country (our rights!), and that even when we don’t agree with them-other people have the right to exercise those rights as they see fit.  It’s been an opportunity to talk to my kids about what free speech is, why it’s important to have it, and why we have to allow others their right to exercise it-even when we don’t agree with them.

It’s not always easy explaining why grown-ups do the things that they do. But, I try to always take advantage of the opportunity.  The world is complex and my kids are sorting out these issues.  I want to help them with that.  I want my kids to see it all, both the good and the bad in this world.  I don’t want my kids to see the world in terms of people being wrong or right, but with different opinions and ways of looking at the world.  I want them to be the positive force in the world.  I want them to see wrongs, and instead of walking past them, to figure out what they can do to make a positive change.  I believe that change starts at home, with me helping them to understand these issues that we are all arguing about so strongly.

As crazy as it is, when the controversies start, that’s when I get to really talk about the world we live in.  No matter how crazy it is, I always do my best to explain the world and the different views in it to them.  Pretty soon, they’re going to be on their own and I want to have raised people who understand the world, different points of view, and how to deal with those whose views differ from their own.  I think these skills can take them far.

And, in case you were wondering…

Basic Flag Etiquette:

  1. Always stand, for our flag or another nation’s.  It’s a sign of basic respect.  Covering your heart is an additional degree of respect (that you do not need to do for another nation’s flag or anthem).
  2. The flag should always be well maintained.  If it’s starting to fray or get tattered, it’s time to retire it.
  3. The flag does not fly in the dark.  Bring it in, or get it it’s own light-the porch light does not count.
  4. The American flag should always be the highest flag, if there is more than one.
  5. If you are on a military base at 5 PM: be prepared to stop your car in the road.  At the very least do this.  It would be even better if you got out and stood facing the flag (don’t worry, just face the same direction as everyone else).
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Once Upon A Time, in another life, Kristin graduated from the University of Michigan with a plan to teach high school math. But then, life happened when she wasn’t looking…. She married an Army guy and 23 years, 3 kids, a few dogs, 7 homes, and 2 continents later she’s now a single mom living here in Colorado Springs. Along the way she volunteered for the Army, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and several schools; managed volunteer organizations, coached judo, trained to be a whitewater rafting guide, biked down Pike’s Peak and even managed to teach some high schoolers a little math before forging new trails writing, teaching and financial planning. She never knows what’s coming around the bend, but she’s learned to handle whatever life (and the Army!), throws at her with a smile and a laugh. She’s pretty sure you can get through anything with those, even if you have to fake it occasionally!!