Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Bigger Stuff

Can't stop thinking about the Amish school shooting. And I think my first 2 reactions here maybe make it sound like I'm all pro-girl.

I am.

But I'm also pro-boy. I love boys. I love boys of all ages and for all reasons. I love that they're pig-headed. I love the contradictions of them. I love some of their warts maybe more than I should. But I do. I love The Athlete and MusicBaby. I love the boys in their school uniforms that walk in twos and threes and fours to school while I'm on my way to work. I even love the ridiculously out of control boy on the bus last night. I can't wait to see them grow up and I'm terrified of it all at once.

It's a balancing act. It's like....god, what is it like, it's like playing the piano where you have the right hand generally playing a lot of notes, carrying the melody and the left hand working the chords, usually going a bit slower, fewer notes, more ponderous. When girls are so obviously threatened like this they're the right hand. I concentrate on them because the message, the demeaning lesson is so immediate, it's damage piercing. And, for this sort of thing, certainly not all the time, boys are the left hand, the wound is more like second hand smoke, it's doing the same job just a hell of a lot slower. Because these girls were killed by a man, a man who used to be a boy and whatever made him do this took a very long time, a long time where nobody was watching.

We have to keep dancing as fast as we can to teach girls that they are important, that they're worthy of whatever they want or require and that security is high on that list. We have to teach them that they are loved no matter what.

We have to teach boys that they are capable of being strong and kind both. That being open and honest are human traits not feminine ones. We have to teach them that they are loved no matter what.

Some days I feel like we're doing OK, we're holding and maybe even gaining the tiniest bit of grounds.

Other days I feel like we are failing in a way so spectacular and intense that we seem to have gone so far round the bend that it's beginning to look as though we're succeeding.

This week the days have been largely of the latter type.

It's widely known that I don't get the people who simply must have a child of their own flesh and blood. On those days when I feel the failure I am only more certain of my position. How exactly is it right to bring a whole new person into the world when there are so many kids here already that I'm doing such a miserable job of helping? If we can only help kids one at a time then I should bring a new one in? What about all the ones left here already who aren't helped yet? Where is the logic?

The boys, wow, I think a lot of the time that I understand them better than the girls. But that understanding doesn't seem to help me figure out how to help them, how to teach them the lessons I know are so important.

There's a boy here in my building, about 13 years old. He lives in an environment where the models of cool are not exactly model citizens. He, however, is. He holds the door for people. He is pleasantly outgoing, very charming without being intrusive. He takes charge of the younger kids and keeps them to a code of etiquette when he's around. And pretty much every time I see him I have the urge to grab him by the shoulders and tell him, "You're doing well, so well! Remember that. Know that I notice, and I'm sure other people do. You're a good person, truly stellar, you have my admiration and respect. Do you hear me?" So far I've not given in. Which I'm thinking is pretty good since can you imagine the crazy dog lady in your neighborhood suddenly getting up in your face and telling you what a good person you are? At the very least unsettling and at the worst grounds for a restraining order. Is it enough that I try to infuse every interaction I have with him with that sentiment? Is it enough that I hold myself to a higher code of conduct and etiquette when I interact with him - setting a good example, positive reinforcement, all that?

I think about The Athelete a lot. I want so much to teach him how to take all the shitty emotional things that have happened to him and to learn to feel them but to also move past them, to allow himself to grow beyond them, not let them define him and, above all, not let them diminish him. The problem is I don't have the foggiest notion how to do that since I haven't learned myself. For a few years I selfishly hoped that he would learn these lessons on his own, perhaps by instinct, and I could learn from him. Now we're both in the same boat and I'm not sure we're speaking the same language which makes it tough to hoist a sail.

We need to teach the children that are here. We need to love them and to make them understand that we do. Nothing will be solved without them.

The part I have trouble reconciling is that the pace of success in these lessons is evolutionary. The results won't be in in time for me to see what I've done. I won't have the luxury of assessment to help me re-work my lesson plans and try again. I know that all I can do is keep trying. All I can do is continue to talk to these kids and to listen, to refuse to stop saying "I love you" even when they're "too old" for that.

Because I do. It's little enough but it's all I've got.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful post, Kizz. You've hit on so much that's so desperately important, and done it an a way that's eloquent and urgent and *right*.

    I think you should find out where your 13 year old gentleman lives and write a letter. Better yet, write two - one to him and one to his parent(s). You don't have to sign it, but you know as well as I do that there's little that's more gratifying than having someone notice when you're doing something RIGHT.

    Thank you for working through this stuff with me. We're all in this together - parents, teachers, friends, strangers - and we really need to start stepping up and taking responsibility for the care and keeping of one another.