Children are wonderful philosophers. There’s rarely a day that goes by when F doesn’t have some interesting (or mind-boggling) thought to perplex me entirely. I’ve often wished my mind worked as his does, though perhaps that’s the cost of growing up: while we gain perspective and experience, we lose the ability to get lost in our thoughts and dare to question.
Most mornings (and evenings and just about any other time I’m standing at our kitchen sink), F sits across the counter from me with one of his many books. He reads to me, fills me in on cool things he’s learned (he’s a history buff in the making!), and often asks for clarity or definitions of words he’s unfamiliar with. I love it. Sometimes, he asks tough questions, like Why did the Nazis hate Jewish people? or How come women weren’t allowed to do X, Y, or Z? Explaining that the world isn’t always fair and that people sometimes do terrible things we can’t understand is hard.
But every now and again, my little historian puts on his philosopher’s hat and throws a doozy in my direction. As we were discussing the way things change over time and through hard work by great people, like the laws and social norms that govern us as communities and countries, F looked at me and said Kind of like how we change when we grow up? It was a great analogy, and I agreed. But then he hit me with it:
Mama, what if you could change one thing about you?
I stood staring at him. What would I change? Would I go back in time and finish that degree? Or would I go back further and ignore all the people who groomed me for an education in the arts and take the science classes instead?
I’d want to have hair as blonde as yours is, F said after a moment or two. Then I’d look more like you, like I did when I was a little boy – remember that?
I tapped into my insecurities: Would I get rid of the extra skin and the stretch marks on my stomach, the ones I often hide? The ones I earned as F’s mother? Could I skip the trip to the tattoo parlour that day, or not walk down the aisle? Would I make myself taller and thinner?
Could I change one thing about myself without changing everything else? Maybe I could be less anxious, more confident, and not so easily distracted. Maybe my fuse would be shorter and my patience longer.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’d leave well enough alone and let change come to me as I’ve earned it.