I’m raising my kids as activists because I’m petrified of raising children without gratitude…just…entitled little shits who expect gifts, holidays and rights without appreciation for the significance of, well…anything.
And I annoy myself when I feel my feet step onto my own insufferable
soap box to preach in response to my kids exhibiting selfishness:
“I don’t WANT to write thank you notes.”
“I don’t WANT to go see Papa walk in the Veteran’s Day
“I don’t WANT to do another march.”
“It’s gonna be boring.”
And you know what? I’d prefer binging Netflix and eating
Lucky Charms straight from the box instead of recognizing historic achievements
or trying to change the world, too.
So raising my kids as activists is integral to my parenting because it cultivates appreciation and gratitude.
If nothing more, it’ll help my kids be grateful for the days
I DON’T pull their lazy asses out of their routines and force them to stop and
think about the world beyond themselves.
In 2019 America, we live in a world of comfort and walk
paths of least resistance. Furthermore, my kids are white and middle class, giving
them all the more carefree existence.
We don’t come from a long line of money. Our ancestral tree includes two salesmen, three teachers, a labor attorney, three factory workers, a coal miner and several farmers.
Thanks to activism of the last hundred years leading to labor reform, a minimum wage, union protections and education (especially for women), my family is no longer one of subsistence farmers or coal miners. (With all due respect to this demographic, as well. Activism helps them, too!)
Not to mention the fact that I’m a gay father and decades of
activism made it possible for me to be a father.
“OMG, what friggin’ things to I need to pack in my bag to
keep them tolerable?”
“They’re going to complain the entire time.”
“My shoulders are going to be killing me with these extra
“How big a flask should I bring?”
“Is it wrong for me to make a march a drinking moment?”
“KIDS! YOU MUST POOP, NOW! THERE’LL BE NO PLACE TO POOP ON
(That’s a way to sell your kids on activism.)
I began raising my kids as activists by dragging them to the Women’s March in 2017. I knew they would NOT be thrilled. But I prepped their expectations, and went through a familiar refrain: “This is not going to be the most fun day. It might be a bit boring. But this is an important experience in which you’re going to learn. And it’s important you understand we are here because bad things are happening to other people. In this case: women.”
As for the march, most of the time I was the only one suffering.
Them: “Daddy? When will this be over?”
Me: “You think Gandhi whined about twenty four days it took to march to the sea?”
Them: “Daddy? I’m thirsty.”
Me: “Welp, lucky for you, I have an extra water bottle and tons of snacks. No, wait. Not that water bottle. That’s a flask. Gimme that.”
Them: “Daddy? My feet are tired.”
Me: “Isn’t that too bad? Kids marched on Selma without a stroller.”
My kids are so lucky – to have been born with money, light skin, to an educated family and in the United States. I will gather them to march for injustice and force-feed their gratitude for not having been born in 1910, or slums in developing nations, or with a skin color making them the target of deplorable, institutional, societal bigotry.
Without activism, powerful, rich white men get all the comforts of life and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves because the man will always keep the people down; the needs of the rich will always come before the needs of the rest of us and this all needs to change.
So I will raise my kids as activists who understand gratitude – from sacrifices made by veterans giving us national holidays to birthday thank you notes.
I will raise children who maintain their sense of justice – because fairness is a concept children understand better than most adults…and mine will maintain that concept.
I will raise my kids as activists because this world needs more gratitude and the fight for justice goes on and on.
And their temporary discomfort just might help them appreciate those lazy mornings with Netflix and
Lucky Charms just a bit more.
I’ve written a variation on this theme, before, but it’s the greatest hope I have for my kids.
“Daddy? You be ‘Anna’ and I’m going to run away from you with my cape and you say, ‘No, Elsa! Don’t go!’ Ok?”
Even Colton, who’s words are limited to “pee-pee” and “nana” gets into it. When he sees anything Frozen, he shouts “Anna!”
As already discussed, our household is ruled by Frozen. (Actually, Thomas the Train still rules, but there’s a lot of Disney princessifying going on.)
Frozen thrills Ellison. He plays all the rolls: Kristoff,
Sven and (especially) the sisters. I’ve gotten good at fashioning
dresses out of old swaddlers (blankets, not Pampers.)
The other day I figured, “Eh, he hasn’t watched it in two weeks. Why
not?” As we waited for the movie to load on my computer, Ellison jumped
on the bed shouting, “Hooray! Hooray! I’m so excited to watch Frozen!”
He shouts “hooray” sans irony. I mean, who talks like that? It’s so…earnest, so…“Barney” dialogue.
After a recent snowstorm, we built “Olafs” in our backyard with some play-date friends, a boy (age 5) and his sister (age 3).
When Ellison started singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” the boy said, “I hate Frozen. It’s all about love. And I hate love.”
“Wow. That’s…specific,” I sputtered.
His little sister said, “Yeah. I don’t like it, either.”
“Oh,” Ellison said; then (matter-of-factly) added, “I like it!”
It was as if they’d said “my name begins with R” and he said “Oh. Well, my name begins with E.”
And in that moment, I felt a desperate need to stop time, grab Ellison, and say, “Buddy, you go ahead and LOVE Frozen with all your heart, just as you do, now. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”
Their mother rolled their eyes saying, “Whatever. They were both dancing around in Frozen dresses, this morning. Peer pressure. It’s no longer cool for him to like the movie. And his sister’s just following.”
“Already?” I thought. “At five years old social acceptance looms?”
I hate that.
I’ve spouted lessons for my son in this blog. But above all, I wish
most for him to hold on forever to that innocence where he loves what he
loves. If he’s thrilled with Frozen or football or fungi, I’ll be elated to talk about it.
How I wish he could live divorced from anyone else’s opinion.
Watching his captivated face as he’s engrossed/scared/delighted watching
Frozen warms my heart.
Eventually, I know he’ll follow crowds.
I know he’ll say to me, “Daddy, don’t hug me so much,”
or “Daddy, it’s not cool to sing,”
or “Daddy? Can you drop me off at the corner? I can walk the rest of the way myself.”
But I wish it wouldn’t happen soon.
Son, just hold on to whatever makes you feel joy and free and light
and inspired. And if whatever inflames your passion is something that
isn’t cool for the outside world, I promise you: it’s safe in our house.
So act out Frozen or play football or become bizarrely obsessed with fungi.
Your passion and interests are always safe with me.
I know you’ll be influenced by others far too soon.
What is it with Frozen? I know people with 4 -6 year-olds
went through this last year, but my 3-year-old is quickly catching up.
He is obsessed with Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and that insidious song.
I mean, do any adults think the movie is amazing? How on earth did they craft something so addictive for kids?
Is it immediacy?…that we can conjure the song on phones and parents couldn’t have done that with The Little Mermaid? Would we have gone ape-shit over Aladdin if we could YouTube “Never Had a Friend” while on a ski lift or in line at the grocery store?
Obviously Disney creates magic, but I wonder if they don’t have a
“Department of Nefarious Arts” in a turret of Sleeping Beauty’s castle
where they plot to seduce impressionable minds with
scientifically-chosen colors and committee-crafted plot points?
Ellison is learning a lot about families, behavior and body parts with his preoccupation with Frozen. Last
Tuesday he asked me 16 times why Elsa stays in the room hiding from
Anna. I explained twelve times (and ignored the other four), “Because
Elsa has magical powers in her hands, but she doesn’t know how to
control them. So she hides from Anna to keep Anna safe.”
“But Elsa loves Anna. They’re sisters.”
“That’s right, buddy. Sometimes you have to protect people you love by hiding from them.”
How on earth is that a concept he can understand? But maybe Frozen is expanding his brain capacity?
Yesterday, Ellison pulled a blue yoga mat around his chest and said,
“Look! I’m Elsa. My purple cape flew away. Now I’m in the blue dress.”
He does this with blankets, towels and, once, a paper towel.
It’s hilarious how he taps into the role-play. (I bet this woman would have something to say about it.)
As we walked to school, the other day, he asked this non-sequitur: “Do Elsa and Anna have penises?”
“Um, no buddy.”
“Oh. What do they have in front of their hinies?”
I took a deep breath to quell my guffaw. “They have vaginas, buddy.” (We’ve discussed anatomy, before.)
He responded, “Olaf doesn’t have a penis.”
“Oh,” I said, newly enlightened. I refrained from saying, How do you
know he isn’t just suffering from shrinkage? He’s a snowman!
Another non-sequitur: while playing trains, Ellison stood, stomped
his feet and informed me, “When Elsa stomps her foot on the stairs, she
makes snowflakes. She runs up stairs but she doesn’t fall. I don’t run
on stairs. I could fall.”
Bless his preschool and their staircase vigilance.
And the song. Seriously? Is it really that good? Even Idina Menzel,
herself, has declared the song “too damn high.” (I can’t find the
citation, now, but I swear I read it.)
And the ending? “Cold never bothered me, anyway.” Isn’t that some
kind of dangling grammatical deviant? It’s so clipped…like the writers
jumped off the horse mid-stream.
But maybe this is the Disney psychological warfare? Adults are musically unsatisfied, the kids don’t seem to care.
And the writers and Disney are laughing at my novice criticism all the way to the bank.
Yesterday I needed to wake Ellison from a nap (he could nap for hours
in the afternoon, but then he’d never sleep at night. So I wake him at
45 minutes…resulting in crabbiness.) I brought him from the brink of
tears by pulling up “Let it Go” on my phone. Breathlessly, he whispered,
“What’s that song, Daddy? It’s…it’s…it’s ‘Wet it D’oh.’”