I started my birthday this year in the best possible way I can imagine: speaking to a group of preschoolers about my book Chicken Boy. Those tiny faces were adorable as we talked about how we are different and not to ‘point at’, ‘make fun of’, or fear someone…simply because they are different. I carry that message to every school I attend. Because I see how people stare at my godson when we are in public and he does something that others may feel is ‘not normal’.
My birthday lunch was spent with that godson and his family and the 4th grader was enjoying feeding me my birthday dessert (as he doesn't like chocolate sauce and it was covered in it). Spending so much time with kids made this old guy feel very young at heart that day.
And then the terrible afternoon happened in Boston at the marathon: during a joyous event that carries so many messages of endurance, personal victories, and remembrance of tragedies past.
My mind went back to the children I had been with in that morning. How parents find themselves talking to their kids about these heinous events that occur in our world. How they continue to make them feel safe. And how they talk about the word ‘fear’ that I had just mentioned in the morning.
Every generation has had to deal with some huge event that has placed a dark stamp on history, but here in the US, this generation seems to be dealing with so much more. Parents are constantly finding themselves talking to their kids about awful events and one can only imagine how it is shaping their tiny worlds…can only imagine what they are thinking in their heads. I salute the people who raise children in today’s society. I admire their courage and strength as they tuck in their little ones with encouraging words that everything will be ‘ok’.
So, this one birthday went from an overwhelming feeling of joy to incredible sadness. But I used it as a time (as so many of us do) to evaluate where I am in my life and what is important. For me: it’s important that kids get to be kids. I loved my childhood and I hate to think that those growing up today will one day spend their birthday thinking about how they grew up in a world they feared.