We are all wearing a little thin on this,The National Day of Service. The kids have attended school only a handful of days since the beginning of December. They just called another Snow/Ice Day for tomorrow. We do math problems at the dinner table and I assign people for them to study: Assata, Sojourner, Malcom, Huey. I think that this is what we should try to do every weekend. I put Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama on my list. I hope that they will teach me more than I will teach them. They'll pack food bags later and I beg them as a gift to me and this day, to just be kind to each other. Please.
I read about what Mrs. Obama might attempt to do when she becomes a private citizen. "Open a window on her own without permission" is at the top of the list. I am grateful for what she put herself through the last 9 or more years. I realize that she will continue to pay for the privilege of her husband's office for many more years. I aspire to be as strong and committed as she is to her family and to her work. I cannot imagine the responsibility. I also struggle to come up with a plan for dinner. So, it seems like I have a long row to hoe.
I am grumpy and frustrated with the carelessness that the boys carry through the house. They drop things they're finished with at their feet and step over them to go into the next room. They leave cheese on the table, pee in the toilet, and lights on in empty rooms. One says "I hate you" and the other responds quickly with the same. I wonder how those words come out of their mouths so easily. I know that I'm not good enough or kind enough in any of these moments. I am better at my sewing machine or in front the computer or scrubbing the toilet, or really– anywhere else– but right in the middle of doing this.
I cleaned out our bookshelves and sorted through all of the many, many children's books we own. I pulled out everything. I separated the books into stacks: white protagonists, non-white protagonists, non-human protagonists. Then I pulled and sorted until the stacks looked more equal. They were still lop-sided, but better. Representation matters. (I am reminded that Augie's whale/stingray/turtle phase was really long.)
Next to the Kadir Nelson favourites and our growing Christian Robinson collection, I stack up: Chicken Sunday, Patricia Pollaco; Everybody Cooks Rice, Norah Dooley; Harlem's Little Blackbird, Renee Watson; Spin a Soft Black Song, Nikki Giovanni; Ron's Big Mission, Rose Blue; Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor… There are lots more. There are the board books about loving big hair and Princess Truly (!!) who has happily upset Pinkalicious.They sit next to the books I should have already read as an adult and the Young Adult fiction I'm trying to force my Middle Schoolers into. I see that I need more books from other countries and that there are important perspectives I'm still missing. I hope they come back to these shelves when they are grown and pull out their favourites to take home to their people. That they one day have a home and people is the hope on a day like today. To be honest, that is the hope of every single one of my days.
What books do you love from the places you're from? What books opened your eyes to the places you do not claim?
I am often told that the boys are kind and sweet to their friends and classmates. People tell me that they look after each other when they are out in the world and that they are always so polite. They like to be helpful. We go over the rules before we go into Target– "no running, no hands in your pockets, no picking things up and carrying them around". The little one asks why and one of his brothers explains. There will be school on Wednesday. I will send them off with an affirmation… "I am loved, I am wise, I am kind" and hope that they carry the best of what they have out into the world with them.