Monday, January 17, 2011

Dream Coming True

As parents, we often worry about how our children will be affected by learning about bad things. It begins with the decision of when to explain about "stranger danger." As children grow older, they, of course, hear things on the news and ask about them. NPR in the car is replaced with the Wiggles, not just to entertain, but to protect. But as much as we would like to shelter our children, the reality is that they must learn, take in the new, process it, and apply it to their world.

During the Inauguration last year, my three girls kept asking, "Mommy, why are you crying?" Of course, I could explain these were happy tears, but to explain the enormity of our nation's first black president would be to explain the decades of injustice and evil done by some of our own countrymen. Besides, to the girls, Obama just was - he wasn't black or brown or whatever. They loved him because Mommy and Daddy said he would do good things to help people, and because he had two little girls.

So now, Queen Bee is in second grade. Late one night, when emptying her backpack, I found her weekly reader. This week it was on Martin Luther King, Jr., his life and the challenges that the nation was facing at that time. It was, in fact, a very thorough summary of slavery, "whites only" signs, Rosa Parks, burning buses, and protesting students. All things that I hadn't talked to her about, not wanting to scare her. But here we are.

The next morning in the car, I mention that I had read her reader - it had some pretty bad and scary things, didn't it? She agreed and started to talk about MLK. Her sisters, who, of course, have had none of this exposure yet, chime in, wanting to know what we are talking about. So I launch into a slightly glossed over version: that in the past (not wanting to go in the present just yet), people thought if your skin was a different color, you weren't as good or didn't have as many rights. "Civil Rights," says QueenBee, "I learned that!" Then we talked about MLK and that he was shot. "Why?" "Because some people don't like change, didn't believe what he was saying, and were scared.

I told the girls about his most famous speech, that he spoke about a dream he had that children of all colors could play together and that black children and white children would be -- QueenBee interrupted, "would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Yes, that is right child - that is exactly what he said.

The rest of the way to school, with a few tears on my cheeks, I felt proud. Not just that QueenBee had clearly been moved by this amazing speech - so much so that she memorized part of it. But proud of our country. As hard as things are right now, MLK's dream is there. Child by child, it is coming true.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tears on Christmas

"Don't you remember, mom, I had a bad Christmas?" Said LittleBug

As an only child with 3 girls, I often ruminate on the sibling experience. What fascinates me is how siblings, even twins, growing up in the same family, same parents, vacations, schools, etc., can have wildly different memories and feelings about experiences in their childhoods. This can occur even when parents try to keep things even or fair.

And then you can just blatantly give your children different experiences to really rock their world, right? Here is the back story:

My husband and I spent a lot of time thinking about what Santa should bring the girls. Well, to be fair, we spent a lot of time thinking about what Santa should bring LittleBug. LadyBug very clearly stated that she wanted another dolly, even though she had dollies, because she loved dollies. QueenBee just kept repeating, more books, more books, more books. LittleBug didn't ever say what she wanted. She would pick out things here and there, in catalogues or at a store, but nothing seemed to stick. We didn't want to just buy her some crap toy that never gets played with. Then we had it - knee-high dark brown leather boots! Nice boots (nicer than mine, to be honest) that she could wear every day. This is our child whose favorite colors are black, brown and purple. Pink is just not her thing.

So we are all set - spent the same amount of $ on each. Fast forward to Christmas Eve. We open all the presents from relatives and friends on Christmas Eve. Take about toy-poluzza! Fun, fun, fun! Later, after the girls are sleeping, we get out the Santa present. As we look at the gifts: a box of 8 books, a new doll with a wardrobe & clothes, and the brown boots, I made the crack - so, which child do we love the most? Even though the gifts all cost the same, the brown boots were not looking so keen next to the wardrobe and doll. Hmmm.....and now I realize something else. As much as she will love the boots, you can't play with them. Hmmm.....

So Christmas morning, there is lots of excitement and fun with the stockings and then it is time to open Santa's presents. QueenBee is totally content with her books. LadyBug is over the moon with her doll and clothes, etc. And LittleBug, who clearly likes the boots, starts looking around, "Is there more?" Not in a snotty, I want more toys way, but in a genuinely puzzled way. Oh dear...

Then it is time for presents from each other. And I start to realize that there are no toys from us - I tend to buy clothes or other things since they get toys on Christmas Eve and Oops.

Seeming to sense LittleBug's mood, her sisters say, "Open the present from us!" She does, and to her delight it is a toy - a cute remote control doggy! That doesn't work. I kid you not, 4 adults and many batteries later, we pronounced it DOA. LittleBug doesn't whine or throw a fit, but she sits there, sucking her thumb, holding blankie, with big tears rolling down her cheeks. Heartbreaking.

So, the next day Daddy took her with her Christmas money to the toy store where, after getting a dog that works, she managed to get some things to play with. And seemed happy. Until when tucking her in and commenting about our nice Christmas weekend, she said, "Don't you remember Mom, I had a bad Christmas?"

P.S. She has worn the new boots everyday.