“This part got too dark and now I can’t see what I’m coloring,” my three year old exclaimed, “How can we erase it??”
I set down the bag of groceries in my hands and said, “We can’t erase a marker. If you want to keep working on that picture, you’ll have to find a way to let the dark part inform what you draw next.” He looked back at me blankly (fair enough, I realize), so I went on, “Sometimes, when you’re coloring, you might change your mind or make a mistake, and you can’t always erase it. All you can do is find a way to make the mistake a part of your picture.”
“Do you ever do that?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. “Things don’t always turn out how I planned and I have to say, ‘Hmm…this wasn’t what I expected, but it happened and I can’t change it. How do I work with this and move forward?'”
And then I realized I wasn’t really talking about drawing anymore.
I was talking about everything.
The past two weeks, since Donald Trump’s election, have been overwhelming. They have been disappointing and heartbreaking and scary.
And even though there are moments when I am able to lose myself in the vortex of motherhood and forget about the world beyond these two tiny people, I know that isn’t the solution. This country just became a harder place to raise a compassionate child and that is not something that I can, in good conscience, pretend has not happened.
Simply moving on from this election isn’t enough. I have to let it inform the way I move forward.
I have to be better and love harder. I have to be kinder and more patient.
I don’t have to explain to them the ugliness of the battles we are fighting. Not yet.
But I have to ensure, starting with myself and then with the village that we choose to draw near us, that my children are so used to seeing people treated with respect and dignity, that they recognize, immediately, when someone is not. It should feel foreign and it should feel wrong. Because it is. And when they see that, I want them to stand up and call it out because they’ve seen me do the same.
In the midst of all this, my mind keeps going back to the week that Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police in Tulsa.
I was beside myself, desperately asking what more I could be doing as a mother. We know and love families whose beliefs and traditions are different than ours. We read books with protagonists whose appearances and stories don’t mirror our own. We talk about our feelings and the feelings of others, how our actions impact them, and how it’s ok to disagree. We look for ways that we can help both friends and strangers. But in times like that – times like these – it never feels like enough.
With those worries weighing on me, I sat on the floor in our public library, watching the kids play. While Babygirl builds towers and tries to pull books off of shelves before I can stop her, the Bug loves sorting the animals into categories. On this particular afternoon, he was left with a few animals that didn’t quite match up. He picked each one up, looking at the groups he had created, trying to see if there were others like them. He looked at the bin where he had found them, perhaps considering tossing back the ones that didn’t fit. But then he gathered them all up and looked over at me with a smile.
“These ones are different, but that’s ok. They can still be friends!” he said and lined them up with the others.
“Yeah, they can,” I said, smiling back and resting, if only for a moment, in the reminder that I don’t have to teach my children to love and accept others. I only need to teach them not to stop.
And the world will do its best to teach them to hate. To judge. To exclude. But I will be right there to say, “Yes, it’s dark. Where can you be light?”