I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to be present in my current life and find some joy in this constant loop of chaos, uncertainty, and weird simultaneous unyielding routine. It’s been weird.
One of the places I’ve been finding joy has been spending time talking to my son. I’ve written about this before, but I still find it amazing that I can talk to my son about his life and feelings and thoughts and my life and feelings and thoughts and about events in the world in addition to shared media consumption and travel interests, and I find it amazing that my son WANTS to talk to me. I didn’t (and still for the most part don’t) have a relationship with either of my parents where I felt free to express myself and we still don’t know each other. So I’m grateful for this.
My son and I take walks together every day we can, which we talk to each other a lot while we’re on them, and he told me recently on one of them, “Walk Mom is my favorite Mom.” Which was gratifying, because sometimes I feel like maybe I’ve been getting a little preachy talking to him lately, relaying a bunch of lessons during our talks. We talk about US history and politics and racism and sexism and Pride and colonialism and media representation and personal responsibility and peer pressure and privilege and what it means to be a part of a community. We talk about censorship and how media, including fiction, subtly and subliminally (or sometimes blatantly) informs reality. We talk about books and why some are banned and why some get written and why it’s important to read them. We talk about how because he has so much privilege, it’s his duty to be the kid who says, ‘That’s not okay,’ when other kids with less privilege are being picked on or treated unfairly.
I mean, we also talk about 1990s grunge bands and which people we know remind us of which characters we watch in sitcoms on streaming services, so it’s not all heavy and serious stuff…but still. I was kind of worried that I was going to become ‘noise.’ That because we talk about a lot of important, some definitely not-so-fun things to talk about together, that walking and talking with me would become a chore. One he dreaded doing. That listening to me would become like slogging through a book he didn’t want to read for school. Or a bunch of them.
But he likes the walks and the talking we do on them. Walk Mom is his favorite Mom. One of these talks we had on walks included a lot of repetition about things J and I have talked to him about since he was literally in kindergarten. Some things we’ve talked to him about since before that. Lessons we want to impart to him about what it takes to be a good person. He did ask why I repeated these things to him so much. And I told him that repetition drills important lessons until they become nearly involuntary. I told him that when he was a little boy, we read books over and over again, and he said and wrote his letters over and over again, and he learned numbers and primary math facts by practicing them over and over again, and new songs on the piano and violin…you know. And now when he looks at a word, he automatically reads it; when he sees 8×8 he automatically thinks ’64;’ when he sees a string of notes on the C scale, he can hear the music in his head without really putting any effort into it…because of the repetition. And I told him that I knew a lot of grown ups that have forgotten lessons from preschool like, ‘Keep your hands to yourself’ <respect other people’s control over their own bodies> and ‘Share’ <make sure everyone who wants an opportunity gets it; make sure everyone has enough, especially when you have a lot> and ‘Listen without interrupting,’ and ‘Consider other people’s feelings’… and maybe the reason they forgot those lessons is that we stop repeating them before they become automatic. And I want those lessons about how to treat other people and be a part of a community to be as automatic as reading a word in his native language for my son.
“Mom? You and Dad do a really good job of teaching me how to be a good person. Seriously. I feel like I’m pretty strong in my beliefs about what it means to be a good person now. So much that like…I’m pretty sure I’d forget how to read before I’d forget how to be a good person.”
I’m really proud of my boy and how mature and thoughtful and kind he is. He brings me a lot of joy and I’m so gratified that he thinks I’m a good mom and J’s a good dad and he still wants to be around us and talk to us. And I’m glad he thinks we’ve done a good job with his most important set of lessons. But I’m probably still going to repeat them.