Every 4th of July my daughter asks me the same question, “Why don’t we celebrate?”
I explain to her that had we been alive July 4th, 1776 we would not have been afforded the same opportunities, freedom and liberty. I can’t celebrate a day that was not intended for all the people. I don’t do it so that she’ll be less patriotic but so that she will be aware. Even as a history major, it wasn’t until after I graduated, that I learned more factual history. I call it the hidden history because it’s there, the books, the records, the artifacts. I was only learning the story that academia was pushing. I still have a lot to unlearn. With me now being my daughter’s only teacher and having put in so much time developing a curriculum and lesson plans I want to provide her with the tools to think critically, question everything, and research.
Now, she’s actually questioning everything!! I don’t mind at all. While I was working for Atlanta Public Schools, one of the 5th grade teachers had his students write all of their questions around the room. Every week they would vote on three as a class and I would help them research the answers to their questions which they would then present back to the class. I call it ‘the Lowe.” Now, Jayla has a notebook and every question she asks me throughout the day I make her write them down. At the end of the day, if I don’t know the answer, we research. If I do know the answer I show her how to confirm if what I’m saying is fact. She also wants to correct everything I say if it’s not the literal meaning so I had to teacher her about figurative language and she stopped me and said, “Oh, oh, I know what it means but it’s just fun to correct you.” It’s annoying…and I can’t tell her to go to her own room and leave me alone.
Beyond the historically inaccurate deceit I have to correct I have to explain my answers to her questions in a child friendly way. The first conversation was when she told me about a little girl telling her they couldn’t be friends because her mom said, “Black people don’t bathe.” That was easy to refute and explain. Some people are ignorant. It’s harder to explain why some people don’t like others based on the color of their skin because I’ve taught my daughter her black, my black, our black is beautiful. I’ve taught her about melanin. I’ve told her our hair was meant to poof, kink, and roll. Our hair defies gravity and stretches out to the same sun that kisses our skin. But, my child, the one that loves to hug strangers still doesn’t understand. Which is fine. She doesn’t need to be able to understand ignorance, she just needs to be able to recognize it.
Those conversations are difficult because what parent wants to see their child hurt or shamed into thinking something is wrong with them? Yesterday was yet another difficult conversation. I finally felt like a real adult because I had purchased life insurance and I had just gotten off the phone with the representative to complete some follow up questions. My daughter looked so concerned when I got off the phone and I asked her what was bothering her. She asked me if I was going to die. And then she asked what would happen if I died while we were traveling. At that very moment I had to make a plan. We sat down and I went over, step-by-step, what she is to do if there is an emergency. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to go over that with her before now. She knows our host’s name but not her number. She knows our building number but not the street name. I mean, if something did happen, she has a phone full of relatives but they don’t have the information either. At the airport I let Jayla lead the way. I ask her, “Where do we get our tickets? What do we do going through TSA? What’s our gate number/boarding flight? Where are our seats?” Hell, she even knows the Metro station stops by heart now.
So, even though I get to teach her, I also get to learn from her.