Look in the mirror, what do you see?
The pitter patter of little feet echo across the floor as my son walks over to our full-length mirror and smears his hands across it. A smile as bright as noontime sunshine appears on his face.
“I see Elijah!” He shouts excitedly.
“You are so beautiful, Elijah. Why are you so perfect?” I ask him.
“I don’t know mama” he says while shrugging his shoulders. He smiles again and then walks toward the couch where a pile of trains lay scattered.
Jelly remnants from his morning muffin have formed a beard-like blob on his chin. His hair, unbrushed and untamed, stands facing every direction on top of his head.
And yet, throughout our exchange there was no mention of appearance. No concern for needing to change anything about himself.
Instead, he walked away from the mirror as quickly as he walked over to it, picked up two trains from the pile and began playing with them.
I sat across from him drinking my morning coffee and waiting for the caffeine to kick in, thinking about everything I had to do before we could leave the house: take a shower, do my hair, put makeup on and figure out what to wear.
As I watched him, a thought crossed my mind- when did I stop being content as I was?
Never once has my son stood in front of the mirror unsatisfied with what he sees. His entire perspective thus far has been shaped entirely by the love and acceptance he receives from myself, his father and our families.
I don’t want my son to grow up.
Not because I want him to be little forever, but because I am scared for him.
Don’t get me wrong, this phase of his life is beautiful and I try to bottle up every moment I can. But truthfully, as a mother to a three-year-old, life can be overwhelming at times. We are finally getting to the point where we can do errands like go grocery shopping or pick up our laundry without much hassle. And I know as he continues to get older, things will continue to get easier.
But maybe not emotionally.
Because my son will be tossed into a society of people who look in the mirror everyday and are unhappy with what they see. He will be living amongst people who take their insecurities and reflect them onto others, distorting their recipients perspectives of themselves too.
I am scared for my son to grow up. I am scared for him to be turned out into a world where a presidential nominee can position hate at the forefront of his campaign, and seek to ban entire groups of people based on their religious affiliations or country of origin.
I am scared for my son to grow up because I don’t want my son to see a human being losing his or her life because of the color of his or her skin. I don’t want my son to see a human being discriminated against based on gender or sexual preference.
As a parent, I know it is my responsibility to give my son unconditional love and acceptance, and I do. I also know it is my responsibility to teach him how to unconditionally love and accept others. It is my responsibility to guide him into living a kind life full of understanding and empathy.
But I have to wonder, what happens when that isn’t enough? What happens when outside insecurities creep in through the cracks at night and tear away at the foundation I am building with him?
I cannot be a coward.
I cannot continue to live in fear because I know one day he will grow up.
And when he grows up he needs to be ready for this world.
But first, the world has to be ready for him and all of the other children here and not yet born who will write the future of this planet and all of the societies living within it.
It’s up to all of us to get the world ready.
We have to start by looking in the mirror right now and identifying what we don’t like about ourselves and why. And perhaps we will find, those things we don’t like about ourselves were actually never about us, but about our perceptions of what and who we think we should be and how we think we should look, think and act.
And then we have to make changes. We have to be more loving, more accepting, more understanding, more peaceful, more empathetic.
We must remind ourselves that we are not spectators of this world watching a high-definition movie on the big screen. We are this world. We are the people. And this isn’t a movie at all. It’s real life.
Those pitter patters of little feet will one day be replaced by the strong and hopefully confident steps of our future generations.
But for now, they are our echoes of hope. Our reminders that we need to start making changes now so that when our children grow up to be adults they will live in a cohesive, harmonious and peaceful world.