This morning at the bus stop I’m chatting with a neighbor who tells me that already his seventh-grade daughter is planning what her future apartment will look like, even college. We laugh about how she’s a bit ahead of herself, but really actually it makes me feel good to hear yet another story about a child making plans. About a child doing all of this wondering and dreaming about the future.
I watched all those images yesterday of kids across the country walking out of their schools, making speeches and giving signs. In districts that sanctioned it and even in those where they were promised severe punishments if they did, our children stood up. They took a stand. God I’m so humbled by their bravery. But as mom, I’m feeling something entirely different. I’m feeling encouraged.
As mothers, we obsess about teaching them all the stuff. How to sit on a toilet, zipper their coat, make eye contact, order a sandwich, hold a pencil, sit at the table, use a Kleenex, solve fractions. I don’t know, just all of this logistical stuff that is totally part of our job. But there is this whole other non-quantifiable side of parenthood, this softer side. The stuff we want them to know, to feel, but recognize it isn’t really a teachable thing. We want them to be kind, to be generous, and fearless. We want them to feel loved. And most importantly we want them to dream big. But there is no concrete way to pass along this general feeling of the space we want them to take up in this world, or of the space we want the world to take up in their young, brave hearts.
So, we try to show it. We hold on a few minutes longer in the hug before they leave. We read them stories about fellow fearless travelers and hope it will inspire them. At night when they put their heads on the pillow, we whisper in their ears that we want them to never stop dreaming the way our parents whispered it to us. But we say it sort of with a tiny asterisk at the end. At least I said it that way. Like, I want you to never stop dreaming because that is what a parent is supposed to say and that is what my parents told me. I don’t know. It’s not like I don’t think change is possible. I guess somehow along the way mostly without even realizing it I became the Norma and Dan version of the Wonder Years than the Karen model. All of that dreaming I guess seemed sweet, sort of quaint. But not necessarily actionable.
But yesterday when I turned on the news and saw those babies everywhere saying enough, listening to them say they will not back down. That they will march, and vote and work until they became the change they wish to see and, in that moment, I saw that all that time you all have been listening. This generation is made up of dreamers and doers. They inspire me as a woman, and as a mother that dreams are meant for more than things we whisper in each other’s ears at night. That our children have it right when they speak them out loud for everyone to hear. That giving a clear voice to what we wish is the first step in building a path to the future they want to create.
Anyway, later that night I’m cruising Twitter with my kid as one will do. We read the only thing on Twitter that matters which is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feed. He tweets out this gem:
Good night. Rest up. Dream ludicrous things. Go anywhere you like.
D and I both agree it’s the perfect way to end the night. I retweet. I repeat. And I turn and say out loud to him and me, keep on dreaming kid.
Keep on inspiring us parents everywhere.