Last Monday, when I picked my kids up from school, my son was brimming with excitement.
“MOM,” he said, breathlessly. “I had the BEST DAY. We went to the LIBRARY and I got to take out a BOOK for the WHOLE WEEK!”
His excitement made me excited, and so that night the four of us cuddled up in his bed and Belle read his special, new (loaner) book about the very best Halloween every or something along those lines.
We read it several more times over the course of the week and, as a way to allay the Sunday night/Monday morning blues, I reminded him that, “BEAU! You have LIBRARY again! You can return your BOOK and take out a NEW BOOK for the WHOLE WEEK!”
We placed the Halloween book securely in his backpack and I (perhaps weirdly) looked forward to pick-up, so that I would once again get to see light shining from his little face.
He was barely buckled into his booster when I asked, “How was library? What book did you get, today?”
His face fell.
“I didn’t get a book, today.”
Apparently, there was some confusion, and he did not return the Halloween book from his backpack, so when his class went to the library he was able to pick a new book but could not bring it home until he returned the other.
“Don’t worry, buddy,” I tried to keep my own disappointment at bay. “You get to keep your book for a whole extra night! That’s so special! And I am sure there were other kids who didn’t have books today, either.”
He turned his face towards his lap, staring down at his own little hands, and he shook his head.
“No. I was the only one. I picked out a Berenstain Bears book.”
My insides shattered.
I realize that this was a disproportionate reaction. My son, who has access to tons of books (and many other things!), had to miss out on one instance of checking out a Berenstain Bears book that I probably have at my mom’s house, anyway.
I could not shake the sadness. I kept picturing how happy he had been last Monday. I then pictured him in the library with his classmates, excitingly holding his new book and then, how he must have felt when he was told he could not take it with him. I pictured the little 4 and 5 year olds walking back to their lovely, loving classroom, each holding a book, and Beau with empty hands.
It made my heart hurt.
Today, I still can’t write about it (or talk about it, or even think about it) without getting a pit in my stomach.
I suspect this is about more than one day and one book. This week, more than most, has gotten me thinking about what it means to raise a girl in this world and what it means to raise a boy in this world. How I want to protect them from pain, and how, no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to; at least not all the time.
Every single day I do my best to model good behavior for my kids. I do not yell. I have compassion and empathy. I talk about things like “integrity” and “honesty” and “respect for others” and “tolerance” and we’ve had many talks this week about consent, without using the word. I do plenty of things wrong, but this I have done well; at least I have done my best.
This past week I saw and read and witnessed many things that impacted me, profoundly.
I saw a woman, on the television, with indescribable courage. I saw a man telling lies.
I saw a brother and a sister snuggled up in bed, reading about the best Halloween ever. I saw Beau when he was glowing with happiness; I saw him crestfallen.
Tonight, I am sad about many things, but the easiest thing to focus on is the library book. It is sitting there, waiting for him to go back and get it. I hope that by getting an extra trip to the library he will feel special. I hope that we can take the pain from this experience and turn it around. That we can learn from this. That the Berenstain Bears come home with him tomorrow. That justice is served. You know what I mean.
I have a daughter. I have a son. They are both vulnerable to things that I cannot control.
I could list them, but they are too hard to name.
It makes my heart hurt.