Dear Unreliable Narrator,
The school year is almost at an end, and you’ve learned so much about the world–most of it wondrous, some of it not so good. You started out the year unable to swing your way across the monkey bars. Now, you can. You can even curl yourself up and around and drop down, just by hanging on with your hands and flipping your legs over your head. You write your name with ease. You can even read some three letter words, although I feel certain you can read more and just aren’t telling us. When you talk, I’m always amazed to realize that you’re only 4.5, and not 8 or 9 years old.
One of the most interesting developments in your life is discovering the existence of bad people. I think this is absolutely correlated with your fixation on creating a taxonomy of the superhero universe, knowing exactly whose magic powers can go up against whose, at what strength, and who would prevail. At the beginning of the year, A., H., A., and another boy in the older pre-K classes tormented you, and it broke my heart and your father’s heart to see you so sad. I don’t know why they targeted you, and it defies the reality that everyone else finds you agreeable if not delightful. Maybe they instinctively hated what others found so appealing; since Iago hated Othello with an irrational dislike this has been so. Or maybe I’m just a mama who glosses over your faults and talks up your many fine points. So be it, I’m partial to you. I see that as my job.
At any rate, we wondered how to equip you against these Mean Boys. We talked often with you, role-played, gave you things to say and situations to say them in. We talked to your teacher, who then talked to the Mean Boys’ teacher and also to the Mean Boys themselves.
It took a while before the sadness left your eyes and you regained your enthusiasm for going to school. And even now you worry about going to the bathroom in the 3-4 pm after-hours twilight zone, just in case those Mean Boys are there to hassle you when you’re vulnerable using the toilet. I think they have left you alone but I think they’ve also left a scuff on you. (And when I see them in the playground I admit I can’t help but scowl a little.)
It’s a hard walk to balance in the world of men, and I’m already feeling something I’m saddened by: the loss of a ready remedy that I can apply. At the same time, I know it simply means that you are coming into your own world, and you will have to seek the remedies that work for you. I can’t learn everything for you, nor can I absorb everything bad of the world on your behalf. Much as I would, if I could. But these little dents and setbacks will have to be your practice for learning resiliency, so the bigger cruelties of the world don’t unseat you. I’ll help you as best as I can. But as with learning anything, you’ll have to get your hands all over it to feel what it feels like.
I will help you to stand up for yourself without aggressing against others. I will help you learn to assert who you are without tearing someone else down. I will try–and, lordy it’ll be HARD because it doesn’t come naturally to me (see previous post ranting against Clinton)–to show you how taking the high road now can save you from having to eat crow, burn a bridge, or get burned in return later. I want you to feel deep in your bones, from the souls of your feet, that you are wonderful and you matter and you are unique. BUT. So are other people. And your wonderfulness shouldn’t detract from others. And their wonderfulness doesn’t lessen you.
It’s tempting to view the world through a model of scarcity. But is that really the case? Can we will a model of abundance–spiritual abundance–into being?
I want you to learn how to lead, not by coercion or through force or deception, but because you have an inner moral compass attuned to justice that other people can sense and trust. I want you to learn how to be part of a mass movement for justice where you truly experience how the sum can be greater than the parts.
Last night we sat on the sofa and I watched Obama give thanks to his wife, daughters and grandmother as he accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party. And you watched a little bit before you got bored (I guess four straight months of “Obama, Obama, Obama” can do that to a four and a half year old) and asked for Thomas the Tank. But at least you saw a tiny piece of history made. You’re growing up to think that IT IS TOTALLY WITHOUT NOTE, BORINGLY EVERYDAY, IN FACT, THAT A BLACK MAN (OR A WHITE WOMAN) COULD BECOME PRESIDENT.
What progress. We go as far as we can ourselves and then we move our kids forward from that point. I have such hope for our country when I look at you, and when I see other kids and their parents who all, if anything is right with the world, want our children’s lives to be better than our own. And we have written and marched and sang and registered voters and phone-banked and caucased. Because that is how much we love you, our cherished children.
Please think of Senator Obama, who I hope will be our president til you are 12, and then I hope whoever he trusts to extend his work as his VP will be your president til you are 20. Please know that it is possible to be an honorable man, one who is aboveboard and tries to discern the right thing and then do it. Please know that you can fight ferociously hard for what is right and fight fair at the same time. You have an example of someone who is smart, principled, and extremely able who is a nice guy. Who can win. Who will keep winning, if all of us do our part. You’ve seen him speak. You know that he exists.
Dearest child, last night America did us proud. This country is a wonderful one, when we live up to what we say we are. Even if we achieve only half of what we set out to do, our efforts make us noble. This is the America I want you to see. And this is the America I want you to live in. It’s the single biggest thing I could do for you and for everyone else’s kids. Because I want to do you proud.