I’ve been feeling a lot of tension lately between two opposing desires: for the next four years to go quickly and for you and your brothers to not grow up too fast. It’s true that every year of your life seems to have gone faster than the one before it, and that makes me ache, but I also want to get through this difficult time for our nation. Just this morning, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. She is a multi-million dollar donor to the Trump campaign with no degree in education, no experience as a teacher, and no time spent as a student or parent of a student in public schools. She has spent her career working toward the goal of stripping public schools of resources and funneling them toward private schools.
You went to preschool at a local private secular school that also offers k-6 education. It’s a wonderful school, and your dad and I struggled with the decision of whether to send you to our neighborhood public school or to cough up the funds to keep you in the private one. Our neighborhood school faces challenges: many of the kids enrolled are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and I was worried that such an environment might have a negative effect on you. Would the teachers spend all their time and resources supporting the kids who need extra help and not be able to give you attention? I could hardly blame them—it’s a big job to provide not only academic support but also all the other kinds of support teachers give their students, especially those who have higher needs. You tend toward the tender and sensitive side. Would bigger, tougher kids pick on you?
We decided to go the public school route, partly for financial reasons and partly because we both believe in the public school system. I’m sure you would have had a great experience at the private school, and I’m glad it’s there for kids for whom it’s the right fit. But our neighborhood school has been a mostly great environment for you. My nervousness about “tough kids” was pretty dumb. Almost to an individual, the kids I’ve met when I hang out at your school have been very sweet. Nearly all your teachers have done a great job balancing their resources and helping you and your classmates in a way that’s sensitive and appropriate.
I wish I could promise that it will always be that way. The future is uncertain for the public school system. In separate-but-related issues, arts programs are being defunded at the state and possibly national level. Artists-in-the-schools events are some of the only times a lot of these kids get to see cultural events. And even people who find the arts superfluous (I don’t understand these people, but I recognize that they exist) should be deeply concerned about the impact of Ms. DeVos and those with whom her ideals align. You’ll still have piano lessons and after-school enrichment classes and a choir to sing in, but my heart breaks for the kids who are going to get the shaft. They’re our nation’s future too.
Sometimes the pessimism overwhelms me. I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a hard time. We have no beach vacation on the horizon (though I’ve wrestled your dad into a commitment to the Keys in 2018), which is the greatest therapy I have, and some days it just seems like we have to will the days to go by until we can make some electoral change.
Sorry, this is seeming more like a journal entry than a letter to you. Here’s how you fit in. We sang along at a rally last weekend opposing the Muslim ban. You learned some good chants, like “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.” I felt a little conflicted bringing you, because I personally find it distasteful to impose one’s political views on children. I want you to learn and grow and make your own informed decisions, rather than just accepting what I foist on you. I make a concerted effort not to badmouth Republicans, because there are good-hearted Republicans in your life, and I don’t want you to think in generalizations. I know for a fact that some of them are also horrified by the direction this administration is going, and I applaud them for thinking outside the prescribed platforms. Still, this is more than a political party issue. This is a moral issue. I want you to look back on my life, decades down the line, and remember that I took a stand and invited you to stand with me.
You’re a great kid. We have your parent-teacher conferences next month, and I genuinely look forward to them, because your teachers always have such great things to say about you. What parent doesn’t want to hear that her kid is kind, creative, and smart? I also am prepared to hear that your desk is a mess and that you can be disorganized. I was the exact same way. I don’t have a desk anymore, but the Arm’s Reach that Callum hasn’t slept in since he was a month old is piled high with clothes and personal electronics. I’m not perfect; you’re not perfect. Tidy people are a mystery to me anyway.
You seem to have made some good friends this year and deepened existing friendships. You can be wonderful with your brothers, but you also need to watch your tone sometimes when you talk to them. I know little brothers can be pesty, but Callum and Tobin love and idolize you so much, and it hurts me when you get rude and sarcastic with them (mostly Tobin, who is a smart cookie and knows exactly how to irritate you).
You never want to get a haircut. You still sleep in jeans almost every night. You will actually dry off from an evening shower and put a fresh pair of jeans on for sleeping, despite having access to plenty of pairs of sweatpants and pajamas. You’ve made some good advancements in your ice skating, and I think we’re going to go again this weekend.
Your current favorites: rotini with tomato sauce; the Prodigy computer game, the song “Stitches;” the book The Greenglass House, which your dad is reading to you and Tobin at bedtime; coming up with ideas for future Halloween costumes; and the Harry Potter Wii game you got for your birthday.
Keep up the solid work, my beautiful first-born boy. You’re what make the days and years bearable. You’ll brighten the future for us all.