Guest blog posts / Parenting

Talking to your kids about Sochi

Mike Cronin is the CEO of Gettysburg Flag. Mike holds a BS and MS from The University of Wisconsin in materials engineering and is a Vietnam era veteran having served in the Ordnance Corps of the US Army with an ROTC commission. Mike became an entrepreneur in the flag and banner industry by starting Gettysburg Flag Works in 1993 as a part-time venture. After 24 years of engineering for a small forge shop, the US Army, and a local defense research contractor, he was laid off in 1996 after a turn-down in the US defense industry. Mike then discovered his preference for selling and working with different people. He has built Gettysburg Flag Works from the ground up and now shares the skills he has learned with other aspiring entrepreneurs as an instructor in the Smart-Up program of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Mike values his fantastic staff and the great customer service they provide. He loves sailing, biking, the color yellow, figuring out solutions to mechanical problems, and inventing tools to make jobs easier.

PHOTO CREDIT: ERIN COLLIGAN

PHOTO CREDIT: ERIN COLLIGAN

It’s no secret that Russia’s anti-gay law has taken front and center as one of the hot topics surrounding the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Though the games seem to be riddled with problems, this year — the infrastructure, accommodations for journalists and other technical details — the anti-gay sentiment is not one that can be ignored. Depending on the ages of your kids, they may be hearing bits and pieces of the political ire that’s surrounding what should be a fun and patriotic-feeling time.

As the Olympics get underway, some of the political turmoil is being overshadowed by journalists’ viral photos and tweets of stray dogs in hotel rooms, water that’s too dangerous for bathing and actual bees in their honey packets. Eww. All of this doesn’t change the fact, though, that the U.S. (and the world) is participating in an enormous global event in a country where people aren’t permitted to be gay. While we realize that most places in the world are not as progressive as some of the U.S., with all of the careful consideration that goes into choosing an Olympic venue, was this issue never raised? Regardless of politics, if your kids are following the tide of enthusiasm for the games, if they’re hearing about it in school, or if you are planning to enjoy them at home together, now is the time to discuss the impact of Russia’s anti-gay laws.

If you’re fortunate enough to be raising kids in a community where LGBT families are (1) accepted, and (2) welcomed, then perhaps the concept that this is not the case in Sochi could be little more than a raised eyebrow from a child who knows no other way of life. However, if you are inclined to discuss it, one way to do so is to frame it as a political issue. Perhaps you’ve talked about the Cheney family, where right-wing daughter Liz publicly condemned her sister Mary’s gay marriage and family. You can always point to someone in politics and tell your kids that “S/he doesn’t agree with the way we live, but we don’t agree with her.” And that’s okay. While it’s hurtful, almost anyone in this country can find some politician who takes issue with who they are. In other words, any group of people in this country — blacks, Jews, women, Native Americans, pro-choice advocates, welfare recipients, immigrants, etc. — is treated unfairly by some politician. Sad, but true.

An alternative to the political slant is to encourage your kids to take a quieter stand. The Olympics isn’t something that affects our everyday lives (except for the fact that if you’re not watching, there’s no good TV during primetime), but it is an event for which the majority of the country jumps on the bandwagon. Part of the purpose, aside from being awed by death-defying ski jumps and gorgeous feats on ice skates, is to instill a sense of pride in your country. We cheer for the U.S. athletes, we root for them as we sit on our couches and watch them await their scores, we curse when they lose by a nose.

Maybe this can be a teachable moment for the kids that as much as we have American pride, we can have LGBT pride, as well. While lots of people are waving American flags to root for their favorite Olympians, they can have a “Rainbow New Glory” flag to support our beliefs for what a family can be. That is our patriotism. There are only a handful of countries around the world that support same-sex marriage. Let your kids know that part of living in the United States is not just that we have the athletes that sport red, white and blue, but that we live in a country that affords us freedoms we couldn’t have in lots of other places around the world. Sochi is a prime example.

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PHOTO CREDIT: GETTYSBURG FLAG

PHOTO CREDIT: GETTYSBURG FLAG

Gettysburg Flag has generously donated a New Glory Rainbow Flag for one of our proud VillageQ readers to win. Check out VillageQ Fan Page, and LIKE the contest post for a chance to fly your very own flag! We will select a winner after the Olympic closing ceremonies on February 23rd.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks so much, Mike, for sharing your perspective with us.

  2. Great post! Ps is the fan page on Facebook?

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