RLC “sat down” with Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, editor of The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Children for a Just World for an interview about her new book! Read the full exchange below.
RLC: Your book The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Children for a Just World releases soon. Can you tell our readers a little about what inspired you to take on this project?
Lydia: I began dreaming of this book in the long nights of sleep deprivation with a baby and long days of swings and sandboxes with a toddler. I was exhausted and lonely. I looked out upon our world and the future my kids are walking into and I would just weep. I was hungry for community. I was hungry for stories. I ached with questions longing for dreaming and imagination for how we raise kids to love this world and fight like hell for the future on this sweet Earth.
So, I had the amazing gift of calling together a circle of folks whose lives were bound up in the work for justice and were also bringing children alongside them into the work. I begged the questions: How do we, as parents, cultivate in our children a love of the earth, a cry for justice, and a commitment to nonviolence? Where do we place our bodies so we teach our kids that resistance is crucial and change is possible? What practices do we hold as a family to encourage them to work with their hands, honor their hearts, and nurture their spirits?
And now, I am so grateful to hold this book in my hands that offers collective wisdom to wrestle with the questions, navigate the challenges, offer concrete practices, and remind parents of the sacredness of the work.
RLC: What can we expect from the content? Who has contributed and what topics are they focusing on?
Lydia: The Sandbox Revolution is written by parents who are also writers, pastors, teachers, organizers, artists, gardeners, and activists. This anthology offers a diversity of voices and experiences on topics from contributors including Randy Woodley, Jennifer Harvey, Dee Dee Risher, Laurel Dykstra, Frida Berrigan, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, and more.
The book is divided into three sections. The first, “Nitty Gritty Decisions as Radical Practices” dives into all the everyday decisions we make raising kids offering them as an opportunity to think radically. These chapters including topics about how we define family, where we live, education, money, and spirituality.
The second section is on “Confronting the “isms’ in our family.” This section addresses sexism, racism, ableism, patriarchy, white supremacy and all the ways they can sneak up at our dining room tables. These chapters offer beautiful invitations to engage these conversations head on early and often.
The last section is on re-claiming community. I honestly believe that the greatest gift we can give our kids (and ourselves) is community. And that there are a million different ways to do that.
Each chapter, each writer is amazing. I have so much love and gratitude for each of them. Each of their words in one way or another has somehow seeped into my own parenting.
RLC: What do you think is helpful in our world right now for raising children for a just world?
Lydia: One of the things I never could imagined about the moment this book would land in readers hands was just how tired parents would be in this moment. Parenting is always exhausting, but pandemic parenting is something I never could have comprehended.
This is not a book to tell you the right way to do something or to tell you that you are not doing enough. You are doing enough! This book is simply company for the journey to remind you that you are not alone in your questions or hungers for this world.
This past year has been unbelievable. We are living through a global pandemic that has brought with it so much death and grief and has also lifted the veil on inequities in our health, education, and economic systems. Continued police brutality roamed our streets spurring movements for racial justice around the country. An election season that brought with it lies and attacks on voting rights. White supremacist wave guns and have committed violent attacks from the Capitol to the salons. It is almost too much to bear as a human being….let alone as a parent. How do we talk to our kids in this moment? How do we speak truth? How do we offer hope? These chapters are full of vulnerability, intimacy, imagination, and invitation.
RLC: What do you think we fight against in our efforts for raising children for a just world?
Lydia: I think that parenting is so deeply personal that we often keep those conversations and decisions private. We don’t talk about parenting or the choices we make around school or money or housing. Yet all of these decisions exist within systemic realities and affect who are children become. I think we often keep those conversations quiet because we are worried about judgement. We have to fight against this, because we need each other in this exhausting, messy, isolating, and often lonely work.
“We need one another to do a load of dishes, to rub our aching backs, and to laugh with us at our mistakes. We need to remind one another that we are not alone in our fears, our grief, and our hope. We need one another’s hands to hold as we look with despair at this world and the future that we will give our children. We need one another’s courage and imagination as we experiment with ways to live humanly.” (page xvii)
RLC: What’s one piece of advice would you have for parents and guardians who are interested in justice?
Lydia: I think am learning more and more that the best parenting I can do is to let my kids lead and to let them change me. Our kids have such a deep sense of justice and they notice what is happening in the world. I want to honor that, to encourage their questions, to answer them honestly, and let their prodding change the course of our lives.
I often think about my eight-year-old who has a beautiful and stubborn moral compass. He is aching these days with grief and frustration around climate change. He shares a deep intimacy with the earth and real rage at how humans have treated the earth. He also shows a willingness to do something.
How do we honor that? How do we continue to create space for that intimacy to grow? How do we nurture his power in responding to the injustice he feels so deeply?
I write about an example of this in the conclusion of the book where my son is calling on us hard to not drive a car because of the pollution. He wants us to ride bikes and take public transportation. We live in Detroit, the car capitol of the world! It would be so inconvenient…it would take energy and work for my partner and I to give up a car. But…it’s not impossible. And his anger is valid and real and what he is asking of us is right and good.
What would happen if we let his conscience change our family patterns? How would if affect who he becomes? I think in part it would show him that children have power and can make a difference. And I believe it would affect the rest of his life. As he gets older, there will be so many cultural forces telling him that something is “too hard,” or “not effective” or “impossible,” but he would forever know that it is possible to do hard things, to shift the patterns of our lives for the sake of justice.
RLC: Can you tell us a little about yourself and where people can find more of your work?
Sure. I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. My partner Erinn and I are now raising our two boys on the same block that I grew up on. We are just down the street from my dad and sister and a wonderful community of beloveds. I delight in knowing my kids are eating the same dirt I did when I was a kid.
I am also the editor of Geez magazine (www.geezmagazine.org) which is a quarterly, print magazine at the intersection of art, activism, and faith. And you can now buy The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World (Broadleaf Books) wherever books are sold. You can find more information including a study guide and recommended kids books at www.thesandboxrevolution.com.