Raising children is complex and challenging. While it is rewarding, it takes everything you’ve got. All day. Every day. And this crazy, mixed up world doesn’t make it any easier.
My kids, like all kids, ask questions. a lot of questions. When I became a mother, I made a commitment to myself to answer those questions as honestly as possible in the most age appropriate way. How else would they learn about life and the world around them?
Well, my kids are a bit older now and the questions span the spectrum.
Yesterday, my daughter ran in front of me to open a door for me. Usually my little guy does it, but this time she was faster. It was just me with the kids, stroller, diaper bag, etc. Suddenly, not one, not two, not even three but four adult men proceeded to walk between me, my kiddos, and the LITTLE GIRL holding the door and go right inside without as much as a thank you or excuse me. There was very little room, so it required effort for them to make the squeeze. I was very upset needless to say. But I said nothing. I thanked my daughter for holding the door and said let’s go. Then came the question.
“Mommy? Why did those men think it’s ok to do that?”
I couldn’t tell him that. Not now. Not at four. Why make our history his burden? Or was it already?
I got low so that I could look him in his eyes. I said “I wish I could answer that for you. I wish I could offer you a reasonable explanation but there may not be one. What I can tell you is this: One day you. will. be. a. good. man. One that is worthy of respect. One that honors the women in his life and those around him. A man that is worthy of respect because he shows that other people have value and restores dignity to those he encounters just like Jesus did.
One day son, you will be a good man.” I assumed that most of my soliloquy slash rant went over his head. And was somewhat satisfied that at least it served cathartic purposes for me.
Then something happened that changed me and changed the way I see him.
He looked back at me and said “Yes ma’am, I already am.” and drank his juice box.
It reminded me of a photo we took on Mother Son date night at a museum. It read “I am a man.” That statement is so meaningful, and powerful. It is as relevant today as it was then. Yes it refers to the struggle for equality for both Native and African Americans, but today for me, it refers to the kind of man America needs to see more of. One who defies the pressure of culture instead of going with the flow. The kind of man who will be a leader in his home, his workplace and his community. The kind of man who lives his life knowing that what he represents is far greater than any one individual and that if the world is going to be a better place, it has to begin with him.