My son and I are talking about social issues more and more. Part of me wants to shield him from the world, and keep him from worrying, but I also know that we have responsibilities, and he shouldn’t have to learn about them all on his own. It’s difficult, I’m in uncharted waters for most of it, and there’s always this voice in my mind saying I’m forcing him to be what I want, not what he wants. (I could write a great deal on whose voice that is, but I’ll save that for another day.)
I know who my son is. At the age of 5 he told me he wanted to grow up and find a way to stop the pollution from hurting the planet. When he was 9 he told me he wanted to work in the jungle, to try to keep it from dying. At 12 he told me if he had a time machine, the first thing he’d use it for is going back to the 1600’s and stopping slavery. Last week, he asked when the next Black Lives Matter rally is, because he wants to march. All of these were completely his own idea, brought about because under that shoulder-shrugging, Call of Duty playing, sulky teen exterior, is a sweet boy who cares. Who loves. Who is scared and angry with the way the world is turning out.
So we talk.
However, my son is also growing. Up until about 5 months ago, he was pretty small for his age. He’s since grown about 6 inches, and doesn’t seem to be stopping. This requires a lot of naps, and they tend to happen as soon as he is calm and relaxed. So…. when we start talking. Part of me wants to wake him up, because hey, bedtime schedules, and also I was in the middle of saying something. But that part of me that wishes I could still pick him up and carry him around, that plays with his hair whenever he lets me, that part lets him sleep.
While he does, I read about the other babies. The boys who don’t have it as easy as my white, blue-eyed kiddo. I read about the sons that didn’t get to grow up and change the world, because someone else decided to end their stories early. The mamas who don’t just worry about too much screen time and fast food, they worry about their kids walking in parks and going to the convenience store. The fathers who are torn from their children for having busted tail lights, then blamed posthumously as if a minor crime committed years before justifies them no longer existing. The aunties that are fine one moment, dead the next, and nobody looks into it. The kids who just want to walk down the street wearing a hoodie. The stories go on and on. There are no shortage of them, and they rip me open, every time. Because we did this. We brought the world to this, and then we turned away and ignored it. Pretended it wasn’t happening, told the victims they brought it on themselves.
Sometimes, I let him sleep, just a little longer. I play with his blonde hair that doesn’t get a second glance by a police officer, and I pretend for a moment that if he’s asleep, he’s safe.
But he’s already safe. I know this. We can’t ignore it. We can’t sleep through it.
Time to get woke.