Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Have A Dream, Too

As we celebrate the life, mourn the death, and honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, I've been thinking about what his words meant to a nation divided by racial tensions, by fundamental beliefs about equality, and by political differences. Have we come very far since 1963? If he were alive today, what would he say? I mean, I think things have gotten significantly better, but have they? Are the improvements merely on the surface? Schools are desegregated, but I can count on one hand the number of non-white, non-Christian kids in my daughters' classrooms. Living in California, and later, Florida, my students represented many ethnic, racial, and religious groups. Living in the Midwest? The South? Not so much.

No easy answers here. While racism, age-ism, ethnicism, sexism, and many other "isms" are surely - and unfortunately - alive and well, I wasn't around in 1963, so I can't really speak to the progress made in the last 40+ years. I think things are better - kids today are appalled by the idea of slavery, segregation, and racial bias - but I can't be sure. My dad says things are better, but he's nearing 80; is he really in touch with the feelings, the perceptions, the attitudes, the realities of today's youth?

I don't know what the answers are, and I'm no expert in this area. While I wish I could answer that question definitively, intelligently, and effectively, I can't. But I can tell you that Dr. King's speech stands as one of the most influential in our country's collective memory. And because of that, school children across the nation are encouraged to share their hopes, their dreams, their wishes for our country's future. In the spirit of celebrating the work of Dr. King, I, too, have some hopes and dreams for our country. I, too, wish to see positive changes in our society's collective consciousness. However, in the vein of "write what you know," my dreams fall along the lines of motherhood.

So, for what it's worth (and don't get excited and tell me that I'm no MLK and I shouldn't flatter myself that anyone really cares what I think; no duh. As if!), here it is - and, in true Slacker Mom style, it's a day late.

I have a dream. I have a dream that, one day, the "Us vs. Them" mentality of motherhood will end. That there will be no more "Breast vs. Bottle," no more "Working vs. Staying Home," no more "Immunize vs. Don't." That women will finally realize that cooperation trumps competition every time.

I have a dream that one day, mothers will work together, support each other, realize that the work of raising children is so much easier when you have other women on your side. That we belong to a special, wonderful group called MOTHERS, and that we share a sisterhood born of love and devotion to our kids. That no matter how we arrived at motherhood - adoption, foster parenting, or biology - we are all in this together. It's not a race; it's a journey to be savored and experienced fully.

I have a dream that one day, we will teach our sons and daughters basic respect for all human beings, that we will insist on certain values and behaviors from them: personal responsibility, hard work, respect, kindness, and empathy. That we will teach our sons to honor women, our daughters to treat each other like sisters, and that we will set a good example by refusing to gossip and judge. That we will teach by example, treating our fellow human beings with compassion and generosity rather than scorn and ridicule.

I have a dream that we will live by the tenets our grandparents taught: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" and "Think before you speak." That mothers will teach the concept I first saw posted on a principal's office wall: Before you say it out loud, think, "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" Wouldn't the world be a happier place if everyone followed that rule?

I have a dream that mothers will realize what truly matters: raising self-sufficient, socially-conscious, happy, healthy (physically AND emotionally) kids who are ready to leave the nest and fly on their own. Roots and wings, my mother called it - kids who know where they come from, with a good foundation, who have the skills necessary to form healthy relationships and be successful at their chosen careers.

Slacker Mom Says... think about what matters to you and your family. Putting down others doesn't build us up; it cuts us down. Happiness has nothing to do with others and everything to do with ourselves. Like Lincoln said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Choose happiness. It's easier than unhappiness. Choose the life you love. Choose to raise kids to be the kind of adult you wish you were. Be the kind of adult you wish you were. I have a dream: that mothers will embrace this crazy, messy, unpredictable time of life, and enjoy the ride. It's a short one, but it's the best ride we'll ever take.

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