Kneeling during the National Anthem and refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance continue to be controversial topics that plague our Nation. As we start the 2018 school year, I’ve watched posts flood my social media feed in support of both sides of this heated debate. And while I’m all for a good, healthy political debate, this one in particular kind of makes me sick.
When did we, as Americans, lose our pride in the beautiful country we call our home? When did immigrants stop coming to America with gratefulness and thanksgiving for a country that has provided them a better life?
Where has the respect gone?
I understand the concept of freedom of expression. I’ve studied the right to freedom of speech. I’m fully aware that there will always be opposing views and two sides to any topic and a difference of opinions.
I understand that as citizens of the United States of America, we are given legal entitlement, the right to think, the right to speak, and the right to believe as we individually see fit.
What I don’t understand is how we can support and encourage the complete disrespect of the symbol, the people, and the foundation that has awarded us the privilege of these rights.
I don’t understand how we can refuse to stand for a flag, or an anthem, or a pledge that symbolizes our right to that freedom.
Is it that hard to give a moment of respect to the hardiness and valor, the purity and innocence, the vigilance, perseverance, and justice, and, most importantly, the freedom that the American flag represents?
We have been awarded so many privileges in exchange for our citizenship in this great country of the United States of America.
Do we not understand that?
Have We Just Forgotten the Meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance?
As a parent, I’m frustrated that the once common expectation of respect for our country, our military, and our flag has become so compromised. I’m aggravated to see that my child is raised at a time when he needs to go out and FIGHT for his choice to stand in honor and memory of the amazing men and women who fought, who sacrificed, who died to give him the rights he enjoys every day.
I’m sad that he needs to justify his choice to remember the fallen, honor those who have served, and support our military men, women, and families who are in active duty today.
Is it too much to ask us to stand to respect the flag that our fellow Americans fought for? That they died for?
Why has this happened?
Why is it so hard?
I’m not one to voice my opinion freely in a world where opposing views create hatred, result in lost friendships and ruined relationships, and cause people to turn to public humiliation of one another. But, sitting on the couch one night, I couldn’t help but see the importance of my voice on this particular debate.
We were getting ready for his first day of Pre-K 4 orientation. The innocence of a little boy written all over his face as he ran up to my husband and I. Sporting his Ninja Turtle boxer briefs and his “Mommy’s Little Surfer” t-shirt, my son turned to us and asked.
“Is this how it goes?”
We weren’t sure what he was referring to at first, but with no prompting, my 4-year-old began to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He placed his hand over his heart and began to recite the Pledge, looking to us for some feedback.
The last time I heard him say it, his rendition included a child’s spin with phrases like “to the public,” “where witches stand,” and “under visible.” But, that night he was pretty spot on.
As he nearly perfectly recited our Pledge of Allegiance, I was taken back a bit. Mostly because I didn’t know when my little boy became a preschooler who outgrew his unique, cute little rendition that always made us laugh. But, I was also taken back because I realized how disappointed and sad this moment was also making me feel.
Just that morning I had read a Facebook post showing a form that allowed parents to waive their child’s obligation to stand with their classmates, place their hands over their heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Here was my FOUR-YEAR-OLD practicing his Pledge of Allegiance as he got ready for his first day of Pre-K, and there were adults out there passing around waivers to excuse their children and students from this American tradition.
Still considered a toddler, my son turned to his parents to make sure he still had it down pat as summer vacation came to an end. He set aside his matchbox cars, Army guys, and his Legos for a moment just to make sure when he entered school the next day he was prepared.
I could picture him there in his preschool classroom.
Standing with pride, his tiny hand over his heart- a heart that bleeds everything American.
I could picture him proudly stand for his flag, as I’ve seen him do so many times.
I could envision the smile on his sweet face as he recited the Pledge of Allegiance in the best way he knew how.
As tears of pride rolled down my face for both his developmental advances and the admirable quality of the Patriotism he carries in his heart, those tears also symbolized sadness.
Parenting the American Child in 2018
I’m sad that my son is growing up in a time where his impressionable young mind is forced to watch political movements instead of an exciting game of the most American sport to ever exist.
I’m sad that Sundays in our home aren’t for football jerseys and watching our favorite team hit the field. That we don’t gather as a family with chips and dip to scream and cheer at the TV as we jump in excitement for a touchdown scored.
I’m sad that the professional football player, who was once every boy’s childhood hero, has taken it upon himself to force a movement upon us that has divided our country.
I’m sad that they’ve used their career to kneel in front of a Nation of real American heroes.
I’m sad that this gesture disrespects our military.
I’m sad and I’m worried.
I’m worried that someday, my son may lose the fiery passion he so valiantly displays when he recites the Pledge of Allegiance today. A passion he’s displayed from the time he was a baby.
I’m worried that one of the oldest American traditions in our schools will be permanently robbed from students across America.
I’m worried and I’m scared.
I’m scared that my son will someday be forced to feel bad about his intense Patriotism.
I’m scared that my child may have to stand amongst his peers and fight for his right to be a proud citizen of the country in which we all reside. That he may be pressured to stifle the honor and support he holds for our military personnel.
I’m scared that he may someday be forced to feel bad about who he is. That the innocent 4-year-old boy I see today will lose the pride he carries for the place where he was born and raised. That he’ll lose the excitement in his heart when he thinks of the United States of America. When he thinks of home.
As a parent, I feel the need to fight for my child’s right to express the same values, morals, and respect I was taught as a child. I feel the need to fight for MY right as a parent to instill these qualities in him.
As a parent, I feel the need to fight for my son’s right to WANT to stand for the flag, to WANT to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and to WANT to be proud of this great country we live in.
As a parent, I feel the need to speak out against the disrespect we’ve seen towards the men, women, and families that sacrificed their time, their health, their dreams, and their lives.
United we stand, not united we kneel.
United we stand for a symbol that represents everything we are as a country.
Divided we fall.
Or in today’s time, divided we kneel.
I feel frustrated, angry, and sad when I think about the pride lost from a people born and migrated to the greatest Nation in the world.
But then I look at my little four-year-old boy and my frustration and sadness turn to drive and commitment.
The Boy Who Stands Beside Me
My All-American, Patriotic son who spends the night before Pre-K orientation proudly practicing his Pledge of Allegiance. He makes my American pride much stronger than it’s ever been.
I think about him and I rise a little prouder.
I watch how he stands and I stand a little taller.
I hear him speak and I recite a little louder.
I stand and I pledge because I’m proud to be an American, I’m indebted to those who gave it all so I could be free, and I respect the people and the country who made it possible for me to live the life I live.
I stand and I pledge because the American flag is a symbol that reminds me of all the reasons I’m awarded the privilege to have this freedom. I’ve always stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and it was never an option when that beautiful red, white, and blue flag caught my eye.
But now I stand and I pledge for an extra reason.
I stand and I pledge so my son knows that it is not only the right thing to do, it is OKAY to do. That he can still rise to his feet, place his hand on his heart, and recite those words he set aside his favorite toys to practice.
In 2018, I stand and I pledge so that if my 4-year-old fiercely passionate, all-American boy is asked to stifle his Patriotism, he won’t waver. So he’ll stand through the political storms, unchanged in his views and unwavering in his passion for this great country of the United States of America. For OUR country.
As I hear the National Anthem, as I’m called to my feet to recite the Pledge of the Allegiance, I stand to say thank you and I stand in respect for the country of which I am a proud citizen.
And as I look down to my side, I stand taller when I see the boy who stands beside me.
I stand taller and I speak louder because I want my son to understand that even though he was born into a time where American football heroes, American citizens, and probably many of his peers will refuse to stand, will even kneel to the very symbol of our free lives and the place we call home, he can still stand proudly.
I stand taller and I speak louder because I want my son to know that it is still an honorable and respectful gesture to stand in thanks, to stand in respect, to stand with pride for your country.
I stand taller and I speak louder because I want my son to know that even if his peers condone him, many others stand beside him.
I want my son to know how incredibly proud we are of his respect, his honor, and his pride.
For the Anthem.
For the Pledge.
For the men and women.
For the Flag.
For the country that has awarded him the right to be proud of being proud to be an American.