funny that i had a completely different post in mind for this day. it was about an experience my father had in medical school dealing with the sort of insidious racism that has in many ways changed its face over the years, but still holds a firm grip on us. then tonight my children brought me this:
while cooking dinner a relatively routine sibling scuffle ensues. voices are raised and they come storming into the kitchen, daughter first followed by son with his arm raised as if to strike her.
me: absolutely not! we do not hit. we never hit. what's going on?
i will be honest that now i do not recall what the original argument was. i do know that i sent the girl away with a task in hand and asked the boy to please listen.
me: i need to tell you something very adult. men are often bigger and stronger than women, and sometimes they use their power to hurt them. it is very important that you never hit a woman. it is your job to take care of your sister, and it is her job to take care of you. no matter what, you two are never to hit each other. we never hit each other.
my son's beautiful face breaks, and suddenly he is sobbing. his twin sister puts her arm around him.
him: but they say such awful things. they say boys are terrible and we are all bad and i am the worst of all of them and it is so mean!
me: amzi said that?
him: they all say that.
it takes a little back and forth to discover that 'they all' is one girl; his perception is perhaps magnified as this child comes from a family of women who hold a fire around them as if it were har meged doon and the armies of the night an all-male revue.
me: yes, i've been worried about her. i'm sorry that her mother and grand-mom have said those things around me and i didn't speak up, that's my fault. can you imagine what it's like to hear such terrible things about men all the time? it's no wonder she believes boys are bad. they are hurt and we need to hold them in our hearts.
he wants to know what happened and who hurt them and i tell him i don't know, but that most of us get hurt at some point, so it's really important that we look after each other.
so here is where i think i'm expected to write something about how my head wanted to explode and how dare they and my sweet son and, and, and. the truth is i mostly feel badly that in trying to be polite i never shut it down when the grand-mom talked to me about her ex, her son-in-law, and about all men being stupid and ha ha ha. i feel for the young women who haven't known the imperfect beauty of a father like mine. dear lord, i feel for the one young man they are raising. i feel for my son having to figure out what it means to be a man without a decent example in front of him every day.
me: but we know lots of good men, don't we?
her: mr. joaqiun!
me: and true!
her: yeah, except true would drag everyone else into the swamps when we played candyland. that was kind of weird.
me: he did? that is weird. but he was fun.
i am too tired to work out the moral here, but that's really up to you to do for yourself anyway.
i will add that i had an amazing father who thrived in a time when that wasn't the easiest thing for a black man to do, broke social taboos, loved my mom for lots of years, and made a million mistakes just like everyone else. certainly some of his amazingness has trickled down to my son and will continue to do so.
happy father's day.