I haven’t typed out a blog post since April . . . but I’ve written so many since then in my mind. I know I have mentioned it before, but it was easier to share my writing publicly when I was sick. With wellness, comes self-consciousness, an awakened awareness, a resurgence of that voice that kept me from sharing my writing before cancer, “why would anyone care what you have to say?”
When I was sick, that voice fell silent. I had bigger fish to fry. And as I started my journey back to health it was tiny like a fruit fly circling my wine class – I could easily flick it and drink on. But know it’s like a threatening yellow jacket. If I try to kill it, I could be stung. So I freeze, or runaway, or do all of writing in my head and never take the time to let my fingers find their way on this keyboard.
But . . . I promised myself that I wouldn’t let this happen. Writing brings me joy, and sharing my writing makes me feel somehow more connected to this infinitely big universe. So . . . here I go . . .
Alex figured out that Joel and I put the presents under the tree . . . and that it is not Santa. He asked Alexa how many children there were in the world and then did the math about how many presents he would have to deliver in a span of 24 hours. When he presented the facts to me, I couldn’t keep up the story anymore . . .
“So mom, Santa isn’t real . . .right?”
“What do you think?”
He said based on his math work with Alexa, it was impossible. I said, “you are right, but do you still believe in the magic of Christmas?” He said he did. I said he could help me keep that alive for his little brother Andy.
He seemed sad. I did, too.
Just like that his belief in something that brought him so much joy and excitement was gone. He saw the puppet strings.
Growing up is hard. There are so many moments like this. We can all think back to the times when we realized that not all people were good, not all places were safe, not everyone wanted to help, that bad things happened to good people, and not every story has a happy ending.
Last week Alex was upset because he watched a hawk get a mouse. He came in the house telling me about how sad he was for the mouse . . . it was “crying” and trying to get away.
Joel told him that was the circle of life. He seemed satisfied with that answer and when back outside to play with this nerf gun.
And then when he heard me telling Joel about a 7-week old baby that was in car crash and in critical condition . . . he asked me, “Mom, is that the circle of life, too?”
Where is the parenting guidebook for that question?
We really don’t watch the news in our house. And I turn off NPR when it starts to let too much of the scary stuff seep into our comfortable air-conditioned car. I struggle with how much of this world I want my kids to see. And for the most part- I have control over that. I can decide as a parent what political, environmental, and racial crises I want my kids to know about.
And this is privilege.
If I am a mom in Flint Michigan, I don’t have a choice but to tell them they have been drinking unsafe water.
If my boys were brown or black I would have to tell them why it is unsafe to play with their toy guns at the park, or why they would most likely be followed while they shop, or that because of our society’s implicit bias . . . they might always have to deal with presumed guilt.
If one of my boys identifies as gay, I will have to tell them that they may be called a sinner, or a freak, or not be given the opportunity to marry the person they love.
And if I was a mother from another country who was willing to risk everything to give my children a better life, I might have to listen to their sobs as they are ripped from my arms.
I read an article once that said it isn’t the best strategy to protect your kids from the outside chaos. You might be able to preserve their innocence, but they might miss the opportunity to see the injustices that need to be addressed.
And honestly, I don’t know the right answer. I don’t want my kids to worry about being shot at school. I want them to believe that people are good, that the world is kind, and that justice is real. And they are, and it is, and sometimes it can be.
BUT. I also want them to know that as white boys/men born in America they have an unmistakable privilege that they did not earn. They just got lucky. And they have to use this privilege for good.
So Alex knows that Santa isn’t real. But he also knows that this Christmas he gets to be our helper as we keep the magic alive for his brother. And there is magic in that, too.
There is magic and goodness in the helping. In the believing that with knowledge and privilege comes great responsibility. There is a big, cruel world out there. But there is also a big, beautiful world out there. There is both.
I want my kiddos to see the beauty, to let it wash over them, to touch the trees with their toes while they swing, to play in the mountain snow, to marvel at the cloud shapes in the sky. To ride rollercoasters, and walk in the sand. To believe in things they cannot see, or prove.
And I want them to see racism, injustice, hunger, poverty, corruption, discrimination, and hate.
And then I want them to know they can do their little bit of good, and that it matters. And that doing for others, that acknowledging suffering and doing what they can to alleviate it- is empowering . . . and magical.
Not everything can fit in pretty box with a pretty bow . . . but with the right perspective, everything that happens can be an opportunity for growth, and goodness. It just takes a flicker of flame to light a dark room. We don’t always need the sun, sometimes we just need a tiny flash of light to remember why we are here.
After watching a cartoon on vacation, the news popped on and Andy, my seven-year-old, caught a flash of a clip showing immigrant children being detained.
He has asked me about every single day since then. I honestly didn’t know what to tell him. I have purposely not read about it, or watched it because I didn’t think my soul could handle it. He wanted to know if he could be separated from me.
“No,” I told him. “You are safe. No one can take you from me and your dad. But we do have to care that this is happening because it is not right.”
So we are going to have a lemonade stand this week with his friends to raise money for the International Institute in St. Louis to help immigrants and refugees in our area.
Sometimes I do nothing because I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I say nothing because I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I do nothing because what I can do seems so small, so insignificant. But something, is always better than nothing.
Fear comes when we feel powerless.
Hope comes when we feel empowered to help.
And there is magic in the helping.