Yesterday, I cried watching you and your brother play.
Not “boo hoo” cry, so don’t worry about your old mom. I just shed a few tears that I was sure to wipe before anyone could see. It was an 80-degree day in April. You’d just gotten home from school and were adamant about playing right away. Before snack. Before homework. So you didn’t miss the sun.
Usually, I’d push back, but that day I relented, allowing myself to smile at the big grin that spread across your face as you pulled you and your brother’s bikes from the garage and took off into the street, your feet peddling so fast I thought you might take flight.
Suddenly, I couldn’t believe how long your legs had grown. I remembered those same legs chubby, taking your first wobbly steps around our old apartment in New York.
Now you say things like, “I can walk to school on my own now, Mom” and “Don’t worry about me.” And I laugh at that one because from the moment you left my womb, eyes wide in the delivery room, worry punctuated each and every one of my heartbeats.
And I don’t want to burden you with why mommies worry. Why mommies like me worry. But since I promised to always tell you the truth, sometimes the worry is overwhelming.
“I want so deeply to trust the world will help me protect your boyhood and see your humanity.”
You’re so charming and full of plans. Like your plan to take your little brothers for pizza when you’re old enough to drive. Daddy and I are not invited, you say, because you want to eat as much as you want without us warning you about tummy aches. You’re going to drive with the windows down and play the “Trolls” soundtrack, hanging your free arm out the window “like a cool guy.” You are filled with so much excitement when you tell me your plans, and it takes everything in me not to plead with you not to go.
Imagining you go, I can only picture your little faces, just big enough to be seen over the dashboard, driving out of my sight and reach. My sweet babies, in grown-up clothes. And when I imagine summoning the strength to kiss you goodbye, I can’t help but think of the last kiss mommies like me gave boys like you before they were taken too soon.
Jordan’s mommy. Tamir’s. Did they say “see you later” with a quick kiss on the cheek? Or did their gazes linger as they watched their sons walk away? Did they close their eyes and make that desperate plea that is familiar to moms like me, for boys like you?
A plea to the universe that their boys would be protected. That they would make it to their destination. That if they were pulled over, they would encounter only well-trained cops. That if they stopped for coffee, they would be welcomed, and not leave in handcuffs, convicted with trepidation and baseless fear. That if they spoke truth, they would be believed.
I want so deeply to trust the world will help me protect your boyhood and see your humanity. Your innocence is so precious to me, and sometimes I feel like Daddy and I are the only ones protecting it.
Just know that I see it, and I believe the good ones do too. I know the stories will be hard to hear. I know they may break your heart, but promise me they will never break your spirit.
The only expectations that matter are your own. Not the teacher who you realized didn’t like boys like you, the stranger at the store who looked fearful of you when you played too close, the mommies who leave the playground when we arrive, or anything you read that predicts scary things for the man you will grow to be.
They don’t matter, and they have never been worthy of your light. I’m convinced it just burns so bright, it blinds their weak eyes. But the strong ones see it. I see it. Your kindness. Your sweetness. Your intellect. Your future.
A future where you are free to explore the complexities of your beautiful humanity, surpassing the predictions of who they think you’ll be. A future where you never feel pulled to shrink or apologize for all of the power that dwells inside of you.
Rather, you rise in it because you are here, that’s never been an accident, and you have every right to be. You have a right to walk with your head held high, as high as it was raised that day in April, when you created the breeze.