Over the past few days, I have been trying to think through the best way to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with Little Man. For the past two years, we have read the board book, The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. and given his age at the time (one and then two), it seemed like a good start. Now that he is three, it feels like it is time to start expanding the celebration a bit. Like anything, it is challenging to find ways to talk about significant things at this age.

I struggled similarly at Christmastime to find the right books, activities and traditions to give accurate information. Frankly, the world is teaching our kids things whether or not we contribute. At Christmas, it became clear that without creating our own Jesus-centered traditions at home, the world would teach about gifts and Santa. If you know me, you know I love shopping for gifts. And, I don’t have any particular issue with Santa, but it isn’t what Christmas is about. So, it took work to create traditions around our Advent candle/readings, a family Advent devotional and purchasing gifts for people who might not have gifts at Christmas otherwise.

But, when it comes to the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is one day that many people treat simply as a day off of work or school, not a day to remember or observe. So, in a way, it is easier because I don’t feel like I have to offset other information as much. But, on the other hand, it is challenging because the legacy of MLK feels particular poignant for our little family. And, I want Little Man to understand the significance of his legacy.

As I was looking through Pinterest and at youtube videos, I couldn’t help but think about how the conversation might look different if I was also African-American. Or, if I would even be thoughtful about this day except for in a cursory way if I had a white child. I won’t linger there other than to say, it is difficult for me to teach my son about such a hard part of our human history when I cannot relay it to him in terms of “us”. The reality is that had we lived in 1968, the year MLK was shot, we could not have been a family. In fact, we would have been segregated in different schools, churches, and restaurants. So, I have to think and pray deeply to find ways to share the hard and beautiful story of MLK because the very premise of his work puts me in the “whites” category in a way that makes me feel sad and ashamed. Maybe it makes you feel uncomfortable that I said that? It should. We need to be uncomfortable in order to move forward with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

An obvious takeway of MLK’s story for kids is the idea of “I Have a Dream”. I have seen countless crafts and writing prompts that take his story and then ask kids to translate that into their own dreams. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this. But, I guess I felt a bit like it misses the point. Perhaps if the prompt is more specific to changing the world for the betterment of all people, I could go for it. But, it makes me crabby to see meaningless things associated with the “I Have a Dream” speech that so profoundly shapes how we think about racial reconciliation.

So, I am conflicted. That is obvious. But, where am I landing on how to celebrate this year? Here are the things we have done this weekend or plan to do today!

      1. We will read Story of Martin Luther King Jr. again
      2. We watched Kid President’s youtube video about Martin Luther King, Jr.
      3. We baked a cake for Dr. King and sang happy birthday
      4. We will read Chapter 7 (as much as we can) called The Civil Rights Movement in our A Kid’s Guide to African American History: More than 70 Activities (A Kid’s Guide series) book
      5. Perhaps, most importantly, we will be sensitive to ways of talking about Dr. King and others who have worked for peace, justice and equality.