Privilege has been making headlines lately.
Who has it? Who does not? Why and why not?
I’ve intentionally raised M* and K* as children of certain privilege intended to give them the best fuel and platform to launch:
- We lived “close to the bone” for many years. I found research jobs and grant work that allowed me to work from home. This doesn’t make me supermum, I just wanted to offer them the privilege of knowing someone was home when they returned from school – someone with whom to engage and remind them to clean the cat box. This worked until I unexpectedly needed to find a job that would support the three of us and provide insurance.
- For most of their at-home years, we had neither cable nor internet access as they needed the privilege of adventure and dealing with their own boredom
- We were frequent fliers at the library and read books together; we rode bikes and roller skated all over the K-State campus – even rolling through Hale Library once to get to the bathrooms (I probably should feel sheepish about this…)
- Their dad and I worked museums, plays, and adventure into the budget because some experiences (privileges) are more important than “things” and – selfishly – we need time with them as much as research says they need time with us
- Their dad taught them how to build a garage from the ground up and taught them how to fish and sing on key
- M* and K* were encouraged to get muddy and goobered up outside, build forts in the bushes, and play in the sprinkler as often as possible
- They were not banished to a “kids’ table” or away from conversations unless their development and the privacy of others were at issue
- They shared the housework and when M* took master-control of the kitchen to make bagels and fling flour, K* and I cleaned it up
- We laughed a lot
- They saw me cry a few times and we would work together to solve issues that affected our family; I was honest with them while trying to balance their capacity and development with our living
- Though talking to me through the bathroom door was reserved for those times that they were on fire or bleeding, they had my attention most any other occasion (again…imperfectly)
- When I made mistakes (and they were legion), I learned to ask their forgiveness
I operate(d) on the premise that the greatest privilege I can offer anyone is a full-on messy authentic love where we all grow up a bit.
I love M* and K* so very very much and so very very imperfectly and there are still moments – when remembered – make me cry in regret or joy/awe.
I love them and value the people they bring to our widening table.
And though they are not the center of my universe, they certainly dwell infinitely close to the center.
In all of the privileges that I can arguably bestow upon these kids…my family, I believe that unconditional love – often expressed in unfettered time – is the most important.
I can give kids piles of crap, trips, endless things (books even) to occupy their time and completely miss the most important thing: love, time, vision, and good company.
I can support them and focus on their lives as they need it and then allow them to reach, overreach, fail, and try again.
I can refuse to gloss over my foolishness and failures (again…legion.)
I can treat them with the same respect and patience that I demand they treat one another.
And in those moments when my decision-making is less than sub-par, I can ask them for help, ideas, and accountability.
I will not argue about privilege of race, economy, or uber-scheduling.
I only hope to launch M* and K* with the privilege of the one thing which statistically makes the greatest difference in their inner and observable life: the knowledge that they are deeply loved, respected, and expected to act responsibly (self-governance).
Because folks, if you don’t have that, you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to make up for that privilege.
Still searching for the North Star.