When I look at Barack Obama, I see my children.
Like him, they’re biracial and have a black, African father and a white, North American mother. But more than that, in Barack Obama, I see excellence, achievement, perseverance and a world of possibilities for my girls. I see a “My child goes to Harvard” bumper sticker on the shopping cart that will be both my vehicle and home once I start paying for Harvard.
I also read too many self-help books and articles. It is a problem for which I blame my BFF, Oprah. So far, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to locate a twelve-step program for people who relentlessly research the ‘best practices’ for every mundane fact of life. There is no Researchers Anonymous. Trust me. I’ve researched it.
A child-rearing best practice (or so I’ve read – as evidenced by my ill-behaved children, I can claim no practical experience or expertise in this area) is to find learning moments in everyday life. When your child displays interest in something, jump on that interest, wrestle it to the ground and strangle it into a life lesson.
One day not too long ago, I was having a moment with my new BFF, Barack Obama (Oprah endorsed the relationship and is completely okay with sharing my affections. We’re all cool like that). I was watching the musical paean to him by Will.I.Am and a host of other trendy folk and getting all pumped up on “Yes We Can!”.
Attracted by the music, rather than the message (oh, Will.I.Am, you are crafty!) Miss Sophie came and sat in my lap and we you-tubed democratic p(r)opaganda together. In this moment, I heard the best practices, want-to-be-a-good-mommy voice in my head say “Yes You Can seize this learning moment! Yes You Can impart wisdom! Yes You Can inspire this child to aspire to Harvard!”
So I did. The life lesson was this: Sophie, you are just like Barack Obama. Like Barack Obama, no one can hold you back and you can be anyone or anything you want. You can be a mommy, a teacher, a doctor, a juggler, a firefighter…you just need to work hard and stay focused on your dreams. And go to Harvard.
Naturally, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I needed a little satisfaction, too, a pay-off for my good-mama efforts. I asked her: “Sophie, what do you think you might like to be when you grow up?” while visions of a masked, gowned surgical Sophie danced in my head.
My darling girl completely grasped the lesson: there are no limits to imagination. She replied, with great passion and enthusiasm:
“I want to be a mermaid with red hair and a green tail!”
My not-so-best practices, but silent, reaction was as follows:
- Yeah, should be a lot of openings in that.
- Effing Disney. Those simpering princesses are patriarchal wet dreams. Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Cinderella and Snow White are all motherless and/or mothered by an evil witch (as are my children). They flutter. They sing. They give up their voices to get their man (literally – that’s the plot of The Little Mermaid!). Little critters do their bidding, but not one of them aspire to do anything of substance beyond rodent-charming. Yet these befrocked and befluttered future fiancées capture the four year old imagination and trump visions of human excellence every time. President Obama, would you consider wearing a ruffled pink dress and sparkles in your hair? Pretty please?
- Sophie, darling, you can be any damn thing you’d like after you finish medical school.
But I have not given up. Thanks to the historic choice of millions of Americans one hundred days ago, my beloved Barack will be around to inspire life lessons and learning moments for at least another four years.
Let’s hope that during that time, President Barack Obama gives Princess Ariel a run for her money – or, even better, makes a movie with her. Now that he’s taken on the presidency, maybe he can take on Disney. Now THAT would change the world.
Update 1: now, when she grows up, the child wants to be Barack Obama’s wife. She and I are going to have a briefing on the tenets of feminism very soon.
Update 2: Disney has a new princess, Princess Tiana. She’s black and she has a mother! And that mother is Oprah Winfrey! I normally frown on the overuse of exclamation points but this occasion calls for it! Hallelujah.