My son is Nine years old. He reads tons.
He writes beautifully. He has been for a while. So he has a vocabulary, and we have been working on being open and being able to accept who he is.
He is kind, compassionate; well-read, a writer, poet, the kid who befriends the ones who sit alone in recess, the child who gives me his piggy bank when I have no money while going through our test of time. But he also is a victim of our conventional definition of male and female.
It has been a struggle for him and me to keep the light that burns so bright inside him to stay lit.
I have framed and kept a letter he wrote to me when he was seven years old. It sits on the desk in my bedroom. Canvas boards are hanging above the same desk, which is filled with things both my children have given me that meant something to them. Once a while, both go and admire their work. And they ask me to tell the story of each of the items. It's one of our things.
The above said moments are precious to me. I am not a super mom. I am a half-ass mom, who juggled a full-time job that I love, passion for writing and art, and thinks my job as a mom is to raise two good human beings. I once a while tell them, "You know what, Mommy needs a time out. So, I am going to go and take a 10 minute time out so that I don't scream at you guys for nothing you have done."
They get a kick out of it.
My children are free to ask me anything.
They still don't because only 10-25% of their time is spent with me. The rest is out in the world, which is teaching them not to speak up. Not speak the truth. Not to talk about how you feel, what you want, what is okay with you, and what your boundaries are.
I am bringing this up because of a question my son asked me.
"Mom, is it okay to say that I am having a hard time?"
I was putting dinner on their plates.
I stopped, sat down on the coffee table facing both m children, looking straight at him.
In that instant, he leaned back, away from me, increasing the distance between us. Keeping eye contact, but ready to oppose anything I am about to say. My kids are way smarter than I am.
I took a deep breath. Then I said,
"Baby, I am having a hard time for a while.
I am supposed to be an adult.
You know, I have wondered many times in the last six days if I am allowed to say that I am having a hard time. I told myself that I am not allowed. But it came out anyway. In a way that cost me more damage than I would have said it out loud that I am having a hard time right now."
He leaned forward. "What happened, momma?"
I smiled and said, "You know, sometimes momma loses it?"
Him, "You mean the times you go overdrive?"
Me "Yea, that. It came out in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Me, "Sweetheart, my love, we are all supposed to have a hard time. But for some reason, the world says you are not allowed to talk about them, admit you have them. The funny thing is, it always comes out, sometimes as tears, as anger, as cruelty, we never know."
Him, "But momma, I feel when I say it, no one likes me anymore."
Me, "I know. I know that feeling. Do you trust me?"
Me, "How about us you, Ayesha, and me, always say how we feel? If we are having a hard time, we say it, what you think? I am your mom. It's built into me to love you. So, how about we practice here?"
Him, "Oh, like I learned to walk."
I smile. And he started eating his dinner. I did not ask him why or what.
As I got up, I just casually said, "It's not easy being you. We are not making it easy for you, are we?"
His eyes widened, "I love you, momma."
"I love you too, Zain."
Before he went to bed, he gave me his school notebook. Saying I need to finish that today. Its a letter for me. And I am supposed to write a reply to that. I have been trying for a good half hour. I ended up writing this after reading his few words a few times.
We think kids do not see what we do. But they do. If our next generation is messing up, then the people who are responsible are no one but us.
Let's pay attention to what our children are trying to tell us. Maybe, maybe we will learn a thing or two.
Let's teach our kids to challenge the conventions and be who they are. Afterall the world now needs more originals than ever.
Ps: I am sharing both our letters, as I am proud of him. Through his struggle, he is finding a way instead of giving up. I am so damn proud of him. And children like him.