Letter to my Eight Year Old American White Male

Dear Zander,

Think very hard, my dear

Think very hard, my dear

Very soon Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I know you’ve heard us talk about how we don’t like this man. We’ve told you we don’t agree with many of the things he’d like to do as president. But one thing you can’t possibly fathom at your age is how the 2016 election feels so horrible to me inside, not just as a woman and a mother, but as a human being. Because Donald Trump is mean. And the more he doesn’t like something, the meaner he gets. Even though he will be our president, I don’t want you to follow his example. What I want you to do is to think hard about how you are going to be in this world. Because even though your choices may seem few at this point, now is the time to start making some important ones about who you are.

You’re at an age now where you don’t identify with any particular group. Sure, you’re a boy, but that doesn’t yet define you. You’re a kid, going to school, playing with kids from different grades and different families. I don’t know yet if you’ll be straight or gay, democrat or republican, rich or poor. But people are going to expect you to categorize yourself eventually and I want to challenge you not to. I don’t want you to think of yourself as a white male in America. I want you to identify first and foremost as an ethical citizen of the world, an empathetic person and someone who is a walking orb of kindness.

Keep those arms wide open

Keep those arms wide open

You know I’ve told you that the best solution to any problem is one we can both feel good about, where we each get to air our concerns, but since I’ve had more experience on this earth you might want to give my opinion a little more consideration. Sometimes I try to lighten the mood, like the time I told you if you kept asking me for screen time my head was going to pop off and it was going to be a bloody mess so just save yourself the cleanup and and stop asking already. No matter how we come about a solution, I hope you feel heard, I hope you feel I’ve acknowledge your desires, even if I don’t agree that more chocolate and video games are going to make you happy.

What I hope you feel is respected, even as a child. Because, you see, respecting and wanting the best for people is such a deeply held value of mine. It’s what burns in my core, like the molten fires of a volcano. It’s treating others the way you want to be treated - the Golden Rule. It’s saying, yes, I see that you’re different than I am but that doesn’t make you any less. It is being curious, not closed. You may decide you don’t like Mexican food (god forbid), or learning French (I could never do it; English is hard enough), but I ask you not to look at differences as bad. How people act upon their differences reveals the truth of their character.

What happened with this past election is that half the voters seem to be saying that manners don’t matter, respect doesn’t matter and that intolerance is ok. I disagree. In fact, I disagree so strongly that it makes me want to scream. But as soon as you start screaming, people stop listening to you. Or they start screaming themselves and then no one gets heard. So think about this; always try to get your point across in a way that says, ‘This is my truth, and that doesn’t mean your truth isn’t valid, only that I see things from a different perspective.’ When you shout at someone that their truth is bad or worthless or that other people wouldn’t agree with them, you are cutting them down. You are saying they don’t matter. As soon as you respect the truth of another person, you are exuding dignity. You are allowing them their own dignity and you are proving yourself to be someone who has grace and a golden core.

I love being your reading companion

I love being your reading companion

There are many ways you can build up your golden core. First, be kind. Kindness can defeat fear, both yours and other people’s. Smile. Say hello. Shake a hand. Ask someone how they are feeling. Sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it to make the effort, but as soon as you do, I guarantee you will be met with gratitude and kindness in return. And that creates a fusion of energy powerful enough to pick you up from the depths of your gloominess. And if you’re not feeling gloomy, that power will shoot moonbeams from your eyeballs and you’ll move across the earth casting light, not shadows. You will walk through this world undaunted. When you give kindness and grace to someone, they often give it back and you will both leave stronger than you arrived. And your golden core will grow.

Some people might criticise you for acting too kind or showing off your exuberance or even just expressing an opinion. They won’t like the way you walk or talk or hug them. And if they cut you down, you’ve got to resist the urge to fight back. It will happen; you’ll want to hurt someone’s feelings back by using harsh words or writing hateful emails or Tweets. Don’t do it. If you practice getting back at people or sending nastygrams, you’re going to turn into a well oiled hate machine, one that manufactures stinky, rotten word garbage.

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At eight years old you have almost limitless time and imagination ahead of you. I see your light  looking out into the world and seeking direction. There will be many examples to follow; our new president will be one. But before you decide on your own path define who you are in your core; will you be a seeker of truth, a spreader of love, and a force for good? Will you value and judge all people equally, not just people who look like you? Will you take care of those weaker than yourself, help those more frightened and comfort those more angry? It’s your choice as a person, not a category or a demographic. As a human being. And whatever kind of person you become, remember that I will love who you are, regardless of who you are, now and for all our uncertain days ahead.

Love, Mom