Photo: Ursa Major during Halloween. My mother introduced him to Superman (more of an homage to Cam Newton than to the actual character) and, well, it stuck. So now it’s all Superman everything all the time. Anyway, this is my child, Superman, ready to save the day.
Ursa Major turns 6 on Sunday.
He was born in the time of Obama and now he will spend these impressionable years in the time of He Who Will Not Be Named.
In my heartbreak after the election, driving two little boys to school the next day, a thought shot through me that cut right through the despair: I’ve got the future in my van.
It was a powerful thought: Ours is the future. These two boys are the future. Their very existence is resistance: born of two parents who love them, who come from exact opposites of the political spectrum and the racial divide. They are, by walking, talking, breathing and being, living proof that we can figure it out. Not only can we figure it out, but we can create beautiful things when we do. Furthermore, they’ve got me as their mother, so they will be the antithesis and the answer to all of the shenanigans that we’re about to witness.
They are my solutions to all the world’s problems.
This is a thought that I have to hold on to tightly. They are the core of my resistance, they are the subjects of my curriculum for change, my faith and will to not simply survive, but thrive. They are the reasons why I have to keep other people around me engaged and inspired: we have to keep things stable, we have to keep things functional, we have to keep building a world that works because my boys are here and they are the future. The children can fix this. If we teach them.
Which means that we, all of us, have to reshuffle what it means to be “role model” and who will be the paragons of positive masculinity in an age when we certainly won’t find it in the most powerful office on Earth. And, as a mother of boys, I have to be even more particular about what and how I teach them about women, womanhood and manhood in relation to womanhood. I have to take even more seriously my most important role: teaching these two boys how to be in the world.
One of those lessons came this afternoon as soon as Major got off the school bus. We walked up the driveway and, with a sly smile, Major declared a race to our front door. “I know a short cut,” he yelled, “and I’m going to beat you!”
I didn’t feel like letting him win today. I didn’t go full speed, but I didn’t go slowly, either. The “shortcut” was, of course, some strange weaving route between the garden beds and the door, while I took something more direct. I beat him handily.
“Oh, I was just kidding!”He said. “There wasn’t a race. Nobody wins!”
Uh huh, ok. I was gonna let that slide. There would be other times to talk about being a sore loser.
“Nobody wins!” He said again as I opened the mudroom door and he approached the porch steps. I turned and gave him a quick raspberry, giggling as the door closed behind me.
“Mama!” the child screeched. “That was rude! You are rude!”
As I put my key in the front door, a loud thud came from storm door. There stood Major on the other side of it, giving me the death stare. “You are rude, Mama! That was rude!”
I scowled. “Did you kick my door, sir?”
He nodded, his stare unwavering from the other side of the storm door. “You spat at me!”
“Get in here,” I commanded. He obeyed. His stare was still there, though his steps were timid.
I bent down and leaned in, eye to eye with him. “Little sir, there are ways to be angry. You are allowed to be angry, but you don’t get to be destructive. You don’t get to kick my door. You don’t pay for it. You understand me?”
“There are ways to be in the world,” I continued. “Being destructive when we are angry is not one of those ways. You have the right to be angry, but you will not be destructive when you are angry. Nobody you know is that way. You don’t get to be that way. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” he said. He toddled into the house, took off his things, washed his hands with a tear in his eye.
I cannot punish my six-year-old for a presidency that he didn’t choose and he has no control over. But I can, by appropriate means, prevent him from turning into such a man so despicable as the one who took the oath today. It’s the lessons, big and small, between here and manhood that matter. We can, through careful, deliberate practice, raise a generation who will never, ever let this happen again. It starts with us and the lessons we teach. It’s about mothers getting down eye-level with their sons, giving them a preview of how they are expected to be in this world. Strong, and civil. Fierce, and kind. Intelligent, and humble. Sophisticated, and inclusive. These four years present an opportunity to create a strong, purposeful sort of motherhood. One with an understanding that ours is the future, and we can make it however we want it to be. One lesson at a time.
It all comes down to the communities we live in and the communities we run in. I recognize that there are many women in the lives of my boys and they will have their own lessons to teach them. There are men, too, and those men will be who my boys really look up to. I thank God for their father and the many “uncles” of their lives. There will be teachers, boy scout dads/leaders, church members… there will be many people who be part of the journey. It means, ultimately, we all have roles to play. This is a call to action. Protect, teach, serve… imagine the world that you want and work for it every single day. Ours is the future. It starts with us and what we teach these beautiful, beloved children.
On this chilly Friday, a day that will never be forgotten, I am wishing you the time to take care of yourself, Dear Reader. If your heart is heavy, lighten it with laughter. If you are feeling empty, fill yourself with words that strengthen and comfort. May I suggest The Book of Joy from the Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu? I was gifted it last weekend it is currently on my nightstand. There is also A Fighting Chance by my senior senator, another gift that I’ve been reading in the afternoon. Different reads for different tastes. Both seek to speak to some shared values and set framework for common goals. If you are weary, rest. The sun will rise tomorrow and the work will be there to be done. If you are feeling isolated, reach out to others. Ask if you need. Give if you have. I wish you the necessary things to warm your soul: good food that sits on the stomach and lulls you into good sleep (I was just talking to a friend about gumbo. You could also make jambalaya. See how I’m celebrating the great mixing of our country through food? Those two dishes would not exist if it wasn’t for the mixing and mashing of the American palette). I wish you a place of safety and sanctuary: be it a room or a building, or in the arms of a person who loves you unconditionally. Breathe. We are still here. We aren’t going anywhere.
I’ve been telling you this every Friday, and I will continue to do so, especially now: you are loved. You are worthy of the love that you are given. You are beautiful, powerful, and what you do matters. Tell yourself that at least once this weekend and mean it with full sincerity: you are here, you are loved, you are worthy of that love, and the love that you show to others has meaning. Make sure you share your love with others this weekend.
Until Monday, stay strong, stay safe, stay focused and take care.