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Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Parent in a Way That Feels Honest and Humane?

Stepping out today, I grabbed the only available umbrella: Ella's beloved Hello Kitty "brella." Candies and fruits! Gum drops and donuts! Swirled ice cream! French macarons! Looking up, into Hello Kitty's deceptively innocuous face, I felt the sheer, saccharine horror of "cuteness," at least as it's peddled to little girls these days--I felt the cuteness, and embraced it, as my life.

Ella's Hello Kitty Umbrella
Have you ever seen a Magiclip doll? Ella has thirty or more, and on any given evening, long after the wine's gone, I've been called to play the part of Prince Charming or Flynn Rider, to ask Ella's Cinderella or Rapunzel, "Will you marry me?"

Last week's shootings derailed me. I felt pointless and privileged; angry and sad. Mostly I felt anesthetized by a shame that stopped me in my tracks. "What can I do?" I asked myself, again and again.

Writing felt frivolous. I wanted to reach out to my black friends, to say, "I'm with you." But as Roxane Gay wrote in Marie Claire: "Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance."

I've been thinking about this. I've been thinking about Roxane's call for white people to "speak up when you hear people making racist jokes. Speak up when you see injustice in action." And of course, I think about how to talk to Ella about all this--how to teach her to "speak up", sincerely, without guilt or a sense of duty--to just do it. It might be too early for that conversation, but recently the sentiment has influenced our conversations.

How to parent in a way that feels honest and humane?

This challenge, like Roxane's, lifts me from my moping, demands something from me. And so I try to take Ella's world seriously. I try to play Magiclips with a sincerity of purpose that matches her own.

Playing, I hope to nurture her voice now, to give her the confidence, now and later, to "speak up" in her way. When called upon, years from now, what will Ella say?

I don't pretend to understand what is required of me as a person, a parent. What I do hope to teach my daughter, though, is to challenge the easy stereotypes, to fight the sort of thinking that denies the experience of difference, and yet, at the same time, to make her life a testament--a celebration--of difference.

Be whoever the fuck you want to be, I hope to teach her. And fight for the rights of others who do not have that privilege.

Originally posted on Facebook