Oh well, there goes my one shot at being unique.
It was my goal to be the only columnist in America to not write about Kobe Bryant.
I was proceeding nicely until a reader wrote a letter asking The Saunders Report's resident shrink, Dr. Anthony Smith, how to deal with her son's idolatry of the late hoop star.
Dear Dr. Smith,
My 9-year-old son is a huge Kobe Bryant fan and he was devastated when he died.
He has a Kobe jersey that he only takes off long enough for me to wash it, and he has posters of him all over his room.
My question: I know Kobe was a great basketball player, but he had other issues as well. How much should I tell a 9-year-old boy about allegations of rape and financial settlements?
Do I let him continue thinking Kobe was a hero or do I introduce him to reality at 9? My husband says there'll be time in the future for him to find out. I disagree.
What do you think?
Signed, Concerned Mom.
Dear Concerned Mom,
Grief is difficult for most people to process. Many people choose to engage in harmful or destructive coping mechanisms that ultimately will cause them more grief. It is important to understand the grieving process and the barrage of emotions that may accompany grieving.
This dynamic is intensified for children, who typically do not have the emotional and intellectual maturity to adequately express the pain, sorrow and discomfort they may be feeling. These emotions may seep out in negative ways.
In general, people may go through stages of grief that are widely known and identified as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These do not occur for everyone, but provide a structure for understanding possible places people might find themselves in when dealing with grief.
As it relates to your child, it is important to allow for a healthy expression of loss and to support your son as he is going through the grieving process. In this case, the allegations about his hero have been around for over 15 years so there was plenty of time to address them prior to his death if this was so important as a parent.
That being said, even if it were to be addressed when he was alive, the age at which this conversation becomes relevant enough to engage in a mature manner comes into play. Children mature differently, so there is not one age that we can say "Now is a good time to have this conversation."
One should consider what is to be gained from the conversation and how the information can be presented so that true understanding occurs. It should not be just because we want to get this information out. Rather than focusing on the allegations... I would instead focus on helping my child to grieve in a healthy manner and appreciate the goodness of his hero.
I would also be teaching my child about true heroes such as myself as parent, by modeling the values that I would like him to ultimately embody. If we parent in a way that is the opposite of "do what I say, not what I do" then we most likely will be instilling values that will allow the child to ultimately understand the complexities of life, and make decisions about how they will live their lives as an adult.
Dr. Anthony J. Smith, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Executive Director of Alase Center For Enrichment. We are delighted to have him writing a column for the The Saunders Report and answering readers' questions concerning important issues in their lives.
Send your questions to Dr. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com and he will answer them in thesaundersreport.com.
To make an appointment, you can reach him at (919) 957-7357 or visit his website at www.alase.net.
His podcast is called Black Folks Do Therapy.
The Saunders Report's feeling on Bryant is that you can't tell the true story of an individual's life without telling the entire story. It is impossible to do justice to Bryant, his alleged victim or journalism if you try to leave out the less-savory parts, the ugly parts.
Was the sexual assault charge a real part of his life?
Was it the only part?
Regardless of how one feels about Bryant or the allegation against him, no one has the right to threaten a journalist for asking questions. I thought Gayle King's questioning of Kobe's friend Lisa Leslie went too far, bordered on badgering after Leslie answered it the first time.
Does that give someone like foulmouthed rapper Snoop Dogg the right to not only call her out of her name, but to threaten her life in so-called defense of Kobe's widow?
The irony of Mr. Dogg trying to act as the protector of womanhood shouldn't be lost on anyone.
This is a guy, after all, who has made millions publicly denigrating women with vile epithets most of us wouldn't even use in a poolroom. (And I know from vile: I went to jail at 16 for cursing someone out. When I told the judge that I didn't know there was such a crime as "verbal assault" - which is the case they got me on - his pithy response was "You know it now.")
Mr. Dogg's profane rant against King was, amazingly, applauded by millions, even when he called King names propriety prevents us from repeating.
He now claims, after some backlash, that he didn't threaten her even when he said “Back off, b--ch, before we come get you.”
No threat there, no sirree.
We should all be glad that one's past isn't held against him or her, that America - despite what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote - does allow second acts. Snoop evaded a murder conviction, his running buddy Lee Iacocca - while idolized for introducing the Ford Mustang to the world - opposed life-saving seatbelts and fought to prevent airbags, shoulder harnesses and headrests from becoming mandatory in cars, and Snoop's current bestie Martha Stewart is back on top after doing a prison bid for conspiracy.
It makes no sense that any of them - or us - would be judged by the worst thing they ever did.
What does make sense, though, is Dr. Smith's suggestion that you - not some nasty-mouthed rapper or a basketball player - become your child's hero.