You’re sitting next to me right now, and I’ve caved and given you my phone. I wasn’t going to – you’ve been getting such a surplus of screen time these days that you’ve come to expect someone to give you their phone so you can watch songs on YouTube or play one of the quasi-educational games we’ve bought for you. We want to break you of that habit, but we’re still in the midst of some level of stay-at-home orders and there’s only so much else we can do for you, especially when it’s been a rainy afternoon. You’ll be going to school soon, a decision we had to really think about, considering everything that’s going on. Ultimately, we decided you need to be away from us sometimes, so you can start learning and growing apart from us. We love you dearly, but when you’re bored and two years old, like you are now, you are kind of A Lot.
I’ve just gotten home from work. I’m at a level of Burn-Out so severe I feel like I’m a second away from quitting my job every time I go in. And yet, I actually signed up to work more hours than I’m working now. We don’t know how much longer my un(der)employment will last and with how limited hours are becoming, if I don’t pick up more now, I might not have any left to choose from. Because we’ll be paying your tuition and will soon have a car payment for the first time in many, many years, not having work isn’t an option. Trying to get back into the swing of things in a non-essential, yet somehow now sort of essential, customer service job in the midst of a pandemic is kind of A Lot.
I spent my break at work away from you listening to recorded messages from a group of women I’ve found to do anti-racist work with. I’m doing this in hopes you won’t have to. You are clever and kind and curious and right now, I don’t think you have the capacity to be racist. But you’re a little white girl with white-blonde curls and blue-grey eyes, and just by that metric alone, you were born into a world of immense privilege. Your father and I are doing our best to raise you better than we were raised. Your grandparents, across the board, did their varying best, although Mama was raised out West, and Papa was raised down South. Maybe, in a perfect world, you won’t understand why that made such a difference in the way your grandparents saw the world, and how Mama and Papa were taught to see the world. We’ve spent a lot of our adult lives unlearning – we are continuing to unlearn every single day, because it’s important to us to be the best allies we can be, to be fighting the good fight on the right side of history. We want you to be even better than us. That might sound like a lot of pressure, but we promise it’s not. It’s the least we can do. Maybe, if your Mama and Papa and more of the people our age and younger do the work now, rather than not do the work at all, you won’t live in a world quite so segregated and unjust as the world we’re living in now. Maybe if there is such a thing as ‘post-racism’, it’ll be your future. I really hope so, although my pessimism is telling me that we’ve had hundreds of years to get our act together, and still haven’t managed to do it. Ten, fifteen, twenty years down the line, you might still be fighting this righteous fight as an ally. As long as you are an ally, as long as you’re doing your best to unlearn and unpack your privilege, and stand for people who are systematically silenced and ostracized and demonized, your Papa and I will feel like we did something right in raising you. This work I’m doing right now to unlearn is heavy and depressing, particularly when I consider that I really thought I was better than a lot of what I’m facing down. It is kind of A Lot.
When things feel like this much of A Lot, it’s easy for your mama to get down on herself. It’s easy for me to think I’m doing everything wrong for you, for your Papa, for myself, and moreover, for everyone around us. I hope that isn’t something I pass onto you – one more way I hope you’re better than I am. Mama thinks too hard and stays up too late and tries to control things she has no hope of controlling. I guess that makes me A Lot, too, sometimes.
But at the end of the day, no matter the day, no matter how much Mama has rambled on and obsessed over little things and tried to do better, I’ll still look at you and have a lot of hope that I’m doing something right (maybe minus giving you my phone to entertain yourself). You’re temperamental and silly and brave and A Lot – but you are the best kind of A Lot your Papa and I could have hoped for.
I hope you know that. I hope you feel that. And I hope you change the world. Because the world is always going to be A Lot.
The fine humans of the Illuminate Writing group have also written epistolary themed blogs on their sites – you can find them at:
A Letter to Who I Used to Be by Mia Sutton | To My Son by Sarah Hartley | To the Man Who’ll Carve My Headstone by Liz Russell | An Open Letter to People of Color by Amy Clark | pen pals. by Eunice Brownlee | The Lost Art of Letter Writing by Amy Rich | Returned Letters by Jenny Surgenor | A Letter to You by Mala Kennedy | When I Remember This Summer by Ashleigh Bowling