Some days I have those moments as a parent where I feel like I’m making headway in providing a rich environment in which my kids will grow.
These are the days that I put aside the worries of having the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood because I know that their experience won’t include what I see as imperfections. [I’m reminded of this every day when Little A sits at the top of the steps and stares out the window, anxious to see if his “horsies are open” or if they have gone to sleep, if they are twirling in fun (STOP STOP HORSIES!) or if they are waiting, eagerly, for their Little A rider.]
Days like today I’m reminded that we chose to live in a diverse neighborhood, and that it wasn’t by mistake that they go to a school where kids’ families are made up of people who love them as their only constraint; where they teach who really founded American and that African people are descendants of kings and queens and start everyone morning recent “I am Somebody” to focus their day. That to see their principal receiving an award for helping eliminate racism in our community is no small thing. [Aside: It makes think back to my days as a young girl learning about women in science and being encouraged to think big, despite my gender, never knowing that it was revolutionary to teach girls such a thing – and because of this straightforward approach, I never doubted my abilities.] And I know that their experiences in this school, in this neighborhood, in this community, with these role models and support systems will give my children the gift of knowing that all ethnicities and cultures are learned from, respected, lifted-up without question. That every person is somebody just because they are alive. They’ll just know. And they will feel that way, too.
On some days I know that I’m choosing right when I step into “controversy” by letting Abbott pick out the pink shiny shoes at Goodwill and celebrate his happiness in wearing purple sparkly Dora glasses that make him look like a Cross between Elton John and Bono.
There are they days that I feel confident when we all talk about our piggy banks, and how mommy and daddy don’t have a never-ending stash of pennies in our pig because we don’t make much money at our jobs. And it’s because we chose these non-proft jobs – On purpose.
And I feel good when I think back to February and March [ok, and April and May] of this year where I dragged my kids down to the Capitol day in and day out to protest bad people doing bad things to the people of Wisconsin. They saw (and hopefully will remember) that you don’t turn your back when someone is being hurt – you get loud. You stand up. You get involved, you care.
Now before you start to worry that I’m all high on myself as a parent, I want to introduce to you the thing that has followed every single one of these situations.
Quite simply, I’m afraid my kids won’t understand, won’t contribute, and that I’m missing the opportunity to make them great. After all, Big H has already mastered nearly 6 years of his life and Little A is sneaking up on 3 himself. Gone are thousands of days.
And I don’t mean great from the perspective of big jobs and titles and big salaries. I mean Great because they feel their hearts in their chests on a daily basis and see themselves with that same heart in their hand, ready to cut it into little pieces to hand out to the world. Great because they get that everyone is somebody, and that being better and happier every day because the sun is shining or because they discovered a new combination of colors or saw a building that made their knees weak is a choice. Great because they know a grey day outside means a chance to slow down and that rain is fun for puddles and umbrella walks and because ultimately, it makes the flowers – and the watermelons – grow. Great because they met someone who inspired them or because they did something kind that inspired someone else. Great because instead of keeping all of their pennies to themselves they know that happily giving up their pennies because someone else needs them is even better, and will make sparkles shinier and the moon glow brighter.
When I see kids who get it enough to ask to start a lemonade stand to raise money for a Food pantry, I worry that the only thing my Big H has wanted to give up his pennies for so far was to buy a TV for a friend who didn’t have one (and let me tell you, he certainly didn’t understand why his friend’s parents would Choose to be so deprived). I worry that when given the choice, instead of painting his nails green and saying “Take That, Outraged People” he’ll jump on the Fox News bandwagon.
I have a genuine all-encompassing and unwaivering fear that they won’t get it. That I’m missing out on opportunities to teach them the way. That their lives will be clouded by a misunderstanding of wealth, a misunderstanding of the equality and love in the Grace of God, a misunderstanding of what it truly means to live every day. What if they never really get that life on earth ENDS someday. That This is it. That There isn’t time for wondering what others think – there is only time to Do, to Love, to Care, to Give, to sidle next to Wonder of the greatness of the World. When it’s done, it’s done, and you either took advantage of every dang second and did something good with it, or you wasted it. That you either loved and supported or you deprived someone of this gift that shouldn’t have really been an option to waste.
How can I guarantee that they’ll live this life that I would do anything for them to have? Sure, there are days that I’m not a perfect parent and Little A will find himself at the end of the day only having eaten graham crackers and the cookie I bribed him with while we were protesting downtown. There are days when I yell too loud at my kids or even say something that isn’t really nice and I should be ashamed to admit. I’m not out to be the perfect parent – it’s long since been passed up. But I care that I provide them with the tools that they need to really LIVE in this big wide world. And to spend their days and nights and seconds in between making change for good. I’m serious! What are you doing to raise kids who get it?