You turned two last week.
I still can’t believe it- just a minute ago you were this tiny, wrinkled, alien baby (who I thought was perfect), squawking about the indignity of being born. And now here you are, two years old. With wild curly hair that matches your vibrant personality, so much to say (and so many opinions), and a solid streak of hilarity.
First, I want to tell you that you sparkle. I never really understood what people meant when they said, “you light up my life”, but I understand it with you. When I see you, my heart does this insane combination of aching and exploding, at the same time. Watching you get bigger and learn and challenge yourself has been the biggest honor of my life.
When I think about what I want for you, as you grow older, there are so many things. I think every parent probably feels that way. I want you to be kind and empathetic, to never choose the side of the bully. I want you to be inquisitive, intellectually curious. I want you to know passion and love. And it breaks my heart, already, to know that there will be things that hurt you. That will make you feel sad, or lonely, or misunderstood.
But, almost more than anything, I want you to be part of the fight to make things better. And I don’t want you to forget or turn away from that fight because it is easier. Because you were born with the kind of privilege that very few people have in this world. You will walk through this life with a kind of ease that many others can only imagine.
And, even though my heart aches when I think of you being hurt, I know that I also get to walk fairly easily through this life as your mama. I don’t have to worry that you will be shot because of the color of your skin, or sent away because of where you were born. I don’t have to worry about you being separated from me for hours in an airport when you are five years old, because of the religion our family practices.
And because of that privilege, you have an obligation to resist the forces that oppress other people. People of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants- those whose voice is often silenced, instead of heard.
I vow to you that I will do my best to teach you this lesson, without shaming you. I will take you with me to meetings and marches, I will talk to you about what is going on in the world in a way that you can understand, I will read you books and take you to movies that are demonstrative of the world, and not just a select few.
In return, I ask that you become an activist. That you work from a place of compassion and love, yes, but that you also stand up when it’s needed, and sit down when it’s not. Because in this world, this fight is not an option; it is an obligation.
As my sweet friend Cameron said in a letter to her own sons, “I expect you to be good, kind, and open-minded. I hope for you to be a model to other white males about how to function in this world respectfully. I dream that you will make a difference… and when you have children of your own, you can be proud that you have helped to make this world a better place.”
I love you so much, more than you’ll ever know.
If you have interest in learning more about how to teach these things to your kiddos, here is a blog I did last year with some awesome guest writers, and here is a link to an amazing site on raising race conscious children.
Ariel M. Shumaker-Hammond, MPH, MSW, LCSW is a therapist specializing in infertility and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.