Why I don’t want my kids to “get it when they are older”

A few weeks ago, we arrived back in the city we inhabited before we took off on our indefinite journey around the world. For all of it’s grit and rough edges, it’s my favorite city on earth. As I got reacquainted with the culture, the (fabulous) food selection, the people, and the daily grind I paused more than once to marvel at how many people spend their days running from place to place, chatting away on their $500 phones while people around the world (and on our own streets) struggle to piece together an existence. That may sound like a judgment on our more affluent brethren but, in reality, it’s just that I have ceased to accept that the great divides that haunt us are “normal”… and yet it still makes my heart sink each time in comes back into focus.


I wonder, more and more frequently, when exactly is that tattered phrase I heard throughout my childhood- “you’ll understand/get it when you’re older”- finally going to take shape? I’m thirty and I still don’t “get it”. I used to say it to kids too but then I started to wonder… what exactly am I expecting them to “get” when they add a few more years to the birthday count?

Am I expecting them to “get” that some people are more deserving of food, clothing, and shelter than others?

Am I expecting them to “get” that those who have money “deserve” more things than people who are struggling “deserve” help to acquire the basics for survival?

Am I expecting them to “get” that some people believe those who “have not” are also lesser than?

Is it our culture, so very consumed by material wealth and defined parameters of success, that I am expecting them to “get”?

Maybe it the idea that nothing will ever change because this is just how it is- always has been, always will be. Is that what I am expecting them to get?

It seems to me that “you’ll understand when you are older” is code for “you’ll learn to stop questioning and accept the way things are when you get old enough to be expected to make yourself feel better about making choices that inadvertently hurt your fellow human beings.”


I don’t think I want my kids to “get it”. In fact, I definitely don’t want my kids to “get it”. I hope they question everything- wonder aloud why things are the way they are. I hope the think about each choice they make and don’t placate their own guilt when they could simply make a better choice, one that resonates more fully with their own ethics. I hope they take trips and return home, ready to see the current reality of our world- the beautiful and the ugly- with fresh eyes…. and maybe some fresh ideas.

Some of us just DO NOT GET IT, no matter how old we are. I’m not sure that is a bad thing.

I will no longer wait for that magic day when I am “older” and suddenly accept the things about our world that do not serve us. I no longer believe that “getting it” is a sign of maturity or adulthood. I will continue to wander this earth looking for good people, in all shapes, sizes, and colors who also wonder if the phrase “you’ll get it when you are older” holds a little less glitter than was promised. I will stop saying “you’ll understand when you get older” and instead I will listen for the truth behind the words spoken by children young enough to see things more clearly than we give them credit for.


Seems like we, as a species, are using up a whole lot of energy struggling to “get it” instead of… changing it. Do I sound a wee bit idealistic? Maybe. But then again, what’s wrong with that?

Posted by | Comments (1)  | June 12, 2014
Category: Ethics

One Response to “Why I don’t want my kids to “get it when they are older””

  1. Sarah Says:

    Love this!! I hope my kids question every darn thing too!