"What do I tell my kids about Ryan Braun?" How's about the truth?
It's the question dotting social media from young parents and a sexy angle for newsrooms: how do you talk to your kids about Ryan Braun?
Here's an idea: tell 'em the truth.
Sure, you have to take age into consideration when delving into details but the bottom line is this: the gods have given moms and dads a delicious teachable moment, one that should be pounced upon even if their child wasn't swaddled in a #8 t-shirt 24/7.
This is a lesson about actions and consequences, something we should be instilling in our kids every moment of every day. One of the best things my wife and I ever did as parents was to take a course offered by our local school district entitled "Love and Logic". The essence was simple: empower your kids to make choices early and often while allowing them to feel the full effect of their decisions. You outline options and anticipated results, allow them to think the situation through and then--here's the hard part--allow things to play out, EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW THINGS MAY GO BAD. Helicopter parents need not apply for Love and Logic. Moms and dads who can't resist the urge to swoop in and spare their child the consequences of a poor choice don't last long in this discipline. Admittedly, one of the toughest things about being a parent is watching your child fail. Trust me, it gets no easier as they grow older and the stakes are bigger. That's the wonder of Love and Logic: the lessons start young, when the consequences are small.
I don't know if Ryan Braun's parents employed a Love and Logic approach with their son, but he obviously is a grown man having a hard time coming to grips with both his choices and the results.
I DO know that having a chat with your kid about a fallen idol can be uncomfortable but it'll hardly be your toughest parental moment. You're going to have to deal with sadder, more personal crises including the death of beloved pets, grandparents and other close relatives. My parents had to try to get me to understand JFK's assassination and its historical significance while my six year old mind could only center on why I couldn't watch Sherri Lewis and Lamb Chop that November weekend. Other moms and dads have had to explain Clinton/Lewinski, 9-11 and other global affairs that remind us there's a big, real world out there ready to impose its reality on our innocent offspring.
Then there's the lesson parents should have learned by now, if they haven't already: it's not good to allow your kids to idolize people in general and athletes in particular. Madison Avenue wants us to cheer for superstars and wear their names on our backs, but it's healthier and much more satisfying as a fan to pull for a team over an individual player. Free agency means your favorite third baseman or pitcher can very easily mosey down the road when a contract is up, leaving you with a museum piece where his jersey hangs in your closet. It's far less taxing emotionally to pull for the name on the FRONT of the shirt instead of the one on the back.
My experience with children tells me they're bright, resilient and that they really appreciate honesty. They also appreciate it when you talk to them like, well, a real person. It's a parent's job to protect but you also have to be a portal, one that exposes your offspring to life's realities, as well as its pleasures. Nothing about the Braun situation is pleasant, but it's a chance to impart one of life's most vital lessons: actions have consequences.
That's truth a kid is never too young to hear, or old enough to be reminded of.