When I found out I was being blessed with your precious life I envisioned so much more for you. I reminisced of my childhood growing up blissfully unaware of influences of “the real world”. I pictured you riding your bike in the street, playing board games on the kitchen table, and excelling in a school that nurtured and encouraged your abilities. I pictured vacations and adventures as a family. I imagined you having friends of every color and backgrounds at your birthday parties. I dreamed you would work hard for everything you had but never struggle.
My dear son I apologize that this is not the America I dreamed for you.
You are all too aware of the “real world” because technology blasts you with it every moment of your day. The topic of conversation at the dinner table is far too advanced for your developing mind, yet it’s happening. Discussion of race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, money and marriage are all too familiar. Kids in your school have been exposed to more in their short 10 years of life than most of us had been when we were 20. And they are all talking. You are being asked to have opinions on subjects that are too complicated for you to fully grasp just yet. TV offers sexual enuendos every commercial break and curse words and commercials for erectile dysfunction and KY Jelly are a dime a dozen. Politicians say phrases like “grab em by the Pussy” and are then sworn into office. Murders are covered up by our leaders and then buried by their lies. While my biggest worry as a kid was whether or not I did my homework, yours has become how the decisions made by people beyond your reach will trickle down and affect your daily life. My parents were busy explaining the art of selling Girl Scout cookies, while I’m left explaining why someone would shoot gay people in a nightclub.
I let you ride your bike in the street but only if I can see you from my chair out the window because I live in constant fear that someone will take you from me when I’m not looking. I am waiting in the wings to coddle you if you fall and scrape your knee because my life revolves around you. I worry that one of “those kids” will be a bad influence on you because their parents don’t share the same values and parenting skills as I do. I am concerned that their lack of discipline in their home will influence you into thinking that’s how I should be. My theory of running a tight ship will benefit you one day son. You just don’t know it yet. But don’t ride past that mailbox dear. Because I can’t let you go that far yet.
Those board games I bought in a futile effort to spend quality time with you are collecting dust in the closet now. They have been replaced with video games, iPods, iPads, wireless headphones and television. My “microwave immediate reward childhood” has paved the way into your desire for instantaneous and constant entertainment. Never a dull moment or a break if it were up to you. The status quo of talking about what screen your stared at all weekend when you return to school. How many electronics can you have? You and your peers never looking up from the sputtering lights to see your life passing around you. We are so accepting that we as parents have the same vice. Sitting in the same room double chinned over looking at the lives of others actually living their lives. Hands grasped around a tiny device hoping our battery life doesn’t drop into the red zone. Hey let’s download that board game app…..
We moved specifically to a school district of my choosing based on my desire for you to get the best free education possible from this small town. And while the teachers are fantastic for the most part, their resources are limited and their pay is comparable to that of someone who didn’t spend thousands of dollars on their own education. Teachers who are limited by state mandated rules and regulations put there by people who don’t know the first thing about educating. Expectations put on them to “teach the test” and “leave no child behind” however there are no longer enough books in schools for them to study. Backpacks don’t come home heavy with assignments and textbooks. Instead they don’t want to “burden” you with homework and books are left in classrooms while the school spends thousands making copies of their pages year after year. Teaching methods that worked for decades have been “reformatted” through common core requiring 20 steps to solve s simple problem that “in the old days” took us 4. Lunches served from plastic wrappers, frozen bags and dented cans. I’m forced to pay for food you don’t eat because you are forced to take items you don’t like so the school can claim you’re eating it and they are following the healthy food guidelines. Fundraisers every other week to raise money that I don’t see being used to improve your education.
Our vacations, while important and bonding are not what I pictured. Because it’s just us. Divorce has taken “the family” out of our family vacations. What was unheard of in my childhood has become your reality and the reality of over half of the kids in this country. Gone are the days of working through tough times and promises of forever. It’s all too easy to walk away instead of sticking it out. I hope that doesn’t rub off on you. But, oh the times we have had and will have on our adventures. Some of our best memories have been made on those trips. Those very expensive and stressful trips. Gone are the days of road trips, hiking trails and sightseeing. You know, the quality time, affordable vacations. It’s now about staying at the best hotel, going and doing until your feet are sore and your eyes are heavy, cramming days of activities into hours and minutes. For the pictures, the selfies, the check ins, the live video feeds and the bragging rights.
I love that you have never seen color in your friends or mine. I am thankful that you have lived in diverse cities and always made friends with people based on their personality and kindness, unaware of their background and beliefs. But you could be the minority. Figuratively and literally. Soon you will be outnumbered by a “brown” America. A true melting pot of races and religions that by looking, can no longer be placed an a box. I look forward to that day, because that America will rise united. But that is not your America yet. While kids may not see color unless they are taught to see it, their parents still live in a world where sometimes we are defined by it. That also goes for sexual orientation, religion and political opinion. Being a white woman living in Kentucky means there will always be a question if I’m “one of them”. “Them”…. the racist, closed minded, hate inciting backwoods hillbillys who think they are Americans. “Them” Because that’s what society has told everyone “we” are. When those people are exactly the opposite of what being an American even stands for. I’m not, and you will never be.
I will always encourage you to work hard and be appreciative of what you have. But I fear that your America has instilled in you a sense of entitlement. That all of these participation trophies you have been given will cloud your ability to accept failure and strive harder to succeed the next time. I am afraid that my generation’s dream of you having a better life than we did, and giving you everything you could ever want, will make you think life will always give you what you want without you having to work for it. I’m afraid you won’t be able to fight through the struggle. You were not born with a silver spoon. Your middle class American life I have built for us will be your launching pad to whatever greatness you are inspired to achieve. But it won’t be easy, it won’t happen overnight. There will be failure and success. And how you react to those things will be a byproduct of your life experiences. So there will be no participation trophies in your life given by me. I will be there to support you when you fall, but I won’t pick you up. You’ll have to do that yourself. One day you will see why I had to do it.
So dear son, I’m sorry that this is your America. I am a realist not a pessimist though I’m sure this letter to you may seem that way. I don’t like to sugarcoat things, I’m simply telling the truth about the America I dreamed for you versus the America you have been given.
The world is not bad son. People are not evil. Things can change and things will change. They always do. The great thing about America is that while it may take us years to realize what we have done wrong, there will always be people who fight to fix what is broken.
And so now my dream is that you become one of those people. Fight for the America that people like me, people of my generation, people of America used to hope for. Have your own dreams for your own children one day. And maybe your letter to them will be vastly different than mine is do you.
And maybe one day, I will amend this letter to you again. Because maybe one day there will be a different America.
Your hopeful and fearful American Mother