Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dear little shit: conversations with my daughter

Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.
Dr. Haim Ginott

After working at the CDC and after teaching 3rd graders "literacy" as well as a few other things (like gangs are bad), the idea of parenting and the importance of being a role model burrowed into my mind and took shelter there far away from the potential terrible parents in the world. Children are so observant of things we would never realize because we're not as impressionable as they are... adults are more fully formed. Like wet cement, we have been exposed and solidified into the forms that our environments have created for us. (We can try as much as we can to recreate ourselves in ways but unless we go beyond our existing boundaries to find new experiences and new meanings, most of who we are is dictated by the life and surroundings we choose for ourselves). Children are like that wet cement; every groove on the bottom of your soles can make an impact on who they will become. Maybe hard grooves can be smoothed over if they're taught the proper ways to cope with them and they can learn to smooth out those rough surfaces; or maybe they will carry with them ingrained patterns and rougher textures for the rest of their lives.

One generation of adults helps to form the next generation of adults. We have to focus on who we are and then think about the type of people we want that next generation to be. Who they become will be a reflection of who we are now.

I have definitely developed patterns I learned from my parents. And I missed out on some of the tools in life that could have really helped me along the way cause I wasn't exposed to them. Little moments will happen in my life--say an argument with a friend, a dispute with a neighbor or stranger, a disagreement with Clint--and I wonder how my kids would be influenced if they were here to witness these. So I have been focusing a lot on how I want to settle disputes and how to be fair. I've been thinking about how I can better cope with problems so my kids will have great coping strategies. You can tell them all you want how they should be but they're like monkeys--they will learn to live their lives based on how you lives yours. So don't fuck up.

I've started to think about the types of conversations I want to have with my daughter...

(-or son. 'daughter' just sounds catchier. And no, I'm not pregnant.) well as focus on how I can internalize these conversations now so maybe I'll never even need these conversations; she or he will learn these from the actions Clint and I take in life.
I've decided some of my blogs will be focused on these future conversations. And one of the things I want to work on I discussed in an earlier blog: 'Be fair-judge less'.

So... here goes.

Dear little shit;

I grew up watching a lot of my friends judge people based on his or her differences. It felt wrong but I went along with it sometimes. But I hope you will grow up understanding that people are just shells. Our skin, our freckles, our moles, our hair color... these are all things people cannot control about themselves and shouldn't be ostracized for. We're all just shells; the things we put on our shells and the ideas we fill our shells with are all different though and we can learn from these differences.

I'm working on being more fair, looking past preconceived notions and prejudices and understanding what makes each person different--and then being sympathetic to those differences. It's a step above the basics of avoiding judgment based on our shells but any higher level of tolerance I can achieve, the better. Hopefully this will rub off on you as you grow up, meet new (strange) people, and experience (odd, eccentric, fantastic) scenarios in life.

I think one of the reasons this particular lesson affects me is because since moving to England I've faced more racism than anywhere else in this timespan. (OK Spain was rather racist but in an almost endearing way; they called us "La Chinetas". No one was mean or cruel, we just happened to be a little more exotic than what the townspeople of Burgos were used to.) It would be really easy for me to turn this around and say something about England or the British... but that wouldn't be fair. And it wouldn't change the cycle of racism but instead perhaps perpetuate it. Being with Clint (if you noticed, your dad is white) I wonder what kinds of intolerance our kids will face since they will be mutts. It's hard enough being a pure-bred but will mutts have it more or less difficult?

If we can instill in you a habit of tolerance early, I think many other doors will open easily for him or her. You'll learn more about different cultures and different schools of thought. You'll have a positive outlook on the world. You'll learn to accept people of all different backgrounds and expand her understanding of the world! Hmm, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself... and ahead of our future child. But I have hig hopes and big dreams and I hope you're ready for them all!

(Again, no I'm not pregnant.)

1 comment:

  1. Margaret, you and Clint are going to have beautiful, charming, accepting, well-behaved, intellgent kids!!! I know what you mean, though...I actually started a "letter to Kyle" shortly after he was born, and I didn't get far. All I could think about was all the bad news he would face as he grows up, and I got discouraged.