I wrote this a while back and though we've since moved outta town, it's still relevant. And, i ought to think about it in terms of where we live now which would bring up an entirely different and interesting point of view altogether. But we'll see. Here it is:
Sometimes I get jealous of Julian for having been born and thus far raised in such a cool town. He is 100% Brooklyn. The streets are his home. He knows nothing else. There are goods and bads of everyplace and right now I'm choosing to look at some goods. Here's one benefit of living here.
Sometimes I think about the things I would/could/should teach Julian. Sometimes I visualize it happening, sometimes it just happens on its own. I step outside myself and say "Ha! So this is what that looks like." Some things are "bigger" than others. Some are big, broad, and happen from the very beginning. Like to be kind. Who are we kind to? Everyone. But everyone? Yes everyone. Always, kind. But one thing I feel like I would never really have to teach him is to treat someone the same even though they look different. Because guess what? Here, everyone looks different. There are all shapes, sizes, hues, people with missing parts, etc. And maybe one day he'll notice something more and have questions but right now it just seems pointless to me. These differences don't register with him because we ALL have them. I'm different from that person. That person is different from the next, and so on. That person is in a wheelchair and that person has blue hair. This person is this race and speaks that language, that one that. People's "differences" aren't differences, they're just another quality one might use to describe them. You know?
He identifies ways people are different but there's no fear or feeling of discomfort. It's not really about being different from him, but from each other, from one individual to the next. The man in the wheelchair who wheels in a particular intersection and window-handles for money-- "Watch out for the wheelchair guy!" Because you know what? That guy in the wheelchair is hard to see! And that's it. Sure, we could make up our own sort of set of parameters as to what's unusual or not. "Well, that is unusual from ME, but there are lots of people like that."
I feel like if i were to try to teach him a lesson on treating specific people with specific "differences" with kindness and respect, it would sort of backfire. It would introduce to him the idea, as never before did it even cross his mind, that one might treat someone differently because of it.
Recently a friend wrote an article titled Boys Can Be Pretty, Too about gender roles and whether or not to encourage a child's interest in things (colors, activities) that are typically categorized as "girl things." I thought about it for a while and sort of came up to the conclusion that yeah, there might be potential for teasing. But a) there are no set lines around here how a person ought to present him/herself. As far as physical appearance. I see lots of little kids with nail polish, boys and girls. Heck, i bought pink pajamas with butterflies for Julian because i liked them better than the sports stuff and the options were low. I gave him red sandals because who doesn't like red?? even though lots of people thought he was a girl because of it. Who cares? Though, he was a baby. If he were older and being teased I may be singing a different tune. But also, B) There might be potential for teasing but that's always going to be the case. At some point we'll probably be teased about something or other. Because guess what, kids are kids. When we're small, we tease. We try not to, and we learn at different rates than others, but that's sort of what kids do. So if it's not about nail polish or pink shoes, it's about this or that. And guess what else? It's not just kids who tease. Look around, it's still happening as adults. In your face, everybody! You smell bad, too! Yeah, that's right!
Not that i want to say, whatever, send your kid into the world in whatever and if he gets teased, then fine! It's life! Because that's sad. I remember when my squirt of a nephew, now 22, was small and had some issue with his foot and needed to wear socks with his sandals and got teased. First of all, socks with sandals is completely fine! From a style standpoint. Then again, i've sort of always marched to the beat of a different fashion drum. (see blog post about wearing warm-up pants and slippers to school. I'd post a link but i can't find it. I've looked everywhere) But secondly, I got mad--real mad, when i found out he was being teased. Wanted to punch those kids' lights out mad. So I don't promote being teased in order to experience real life lessons. But my heart also breaks at the thought of stifling oneself out of fear.
When I was on the basketball team in 9th grade (street cred), for some kind of end-of-year banquet the captain and maybe co-captain wrote up certificates or awards for everyone. They thought of clever names or nicknames or who knows what. I remember mine-- it was "twinkle toes," because apparently they were amused by the way i ran, which i guess is sort of on my toes. I wasn't really sure. Because i wasn't even aware of it. I've since realized that I do kind of run on my toes. I was just practicing running with a friend a few weeks ago to exhibit my toe-to-heel running and how heel-to-toe running feels so impossibly awkward, i could never do it. If that is, indeed, the correct way to run (dubious). She then explained that she runs (she's an actual runner) more flat on her feet. Anyway, we practiced a bit in the street and I remembered this "award" and how it took me kind of a long time to realize that they probably had been making fun of me about it and I had no idea-- ha ha. Oh man, isn't ignorance bliss? But when I realized that, i was hurt for about .2 seconds, and then no more because again: who cares. And I'm proud of my run. Real proud.
Other than that, I had it easy I guess, as far as being teased goes. Because i know it can be a hellish experience for kids growing up. But I'm such a promoter of being who you are and loving it, forget others, that i can't quite give up that fight. But again, maybe if i'd grown up being teased I'd be singing a different tune. I would hope to one day change my tune and it's the tune i currently sing (whistle?) but, yeah.
This same friend who practiced running with me said something I love and will think about often. I paraphrase, but it was something like "I live under the delusion that nobody is saying anything bad about me, ever." What a great way to live! Even if it's happening, wouldn't that be so freeing to just pretend it isn't? Because you won't be affected by it if it is and you won't garner assumptions that ill-affect the way you view others. If you assume someone thinks bad things about you, doesn't that affect the way you behave toward them? It's an interesting question, but a school of thought I absolutely sign up for. Take everything at face value. Allow people to start over, even if there's nothing to start over from. Give ample benefit of the doubt. Prove your worth by your actions and real life interactions, exhibiting things that really matter.
I've gotten off track here (what? On Jen's Log?? Nooo. ) but that's fine. I like the turn its taken.