Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Beauty of My Silence

Late Sunday night, I decided to check Boy 3's homework. In his folder was an assignment that consisted of a simple and direct two part question. The question read:  If you could ask anyone one question, who would you ask and what? 
Boy 3's answer was also simple and direct:  If I could ask anyone one question, I would ask my Dad what he thinks of me. I would ask him this because he is not present with me and I want to know if he is proud of me.

So, my boy wants to know if his Dad is proud of him. It's been a few years now since his Dad's death. I, of course, can see the ridiculous smile that would take over his father's entire face when any of boys made him proud. However, Boy 3 is too young to bring forth those visual memories like I can. Heck, I'm not even sure how many visual memories he has of his father. It's a hard pill to swallow, but Boy 3 has no earthly way of knowing if he Dad is proud of him. Or so I thought. 

I posted his homework question and homework answer as my Facebook status. I didn't add any additional thoughts or commentary. I just copied the question and Boy 3's answer. My post was meet with a flood of comments directed to my Boy 3.  

Some from those who knew his father loosely:
    - among a slew of other things, that question alone would make him proud...
    - Tell Boy 3 that I only briefly met his dad, but I know as a father myself his dad would be proud of him for having the sense of presence to ask such a profound question.

Some from those who didn't know his father at all:
   - No doubt he is proud of you honey! Look at you Boy 3! Look at your family! You are awesome! So many people are proud of you and some of them don't even know you! That alone says a whole lot!!!!!
   - He is very proud of all of you!

Some from those who knew his father extremely well:
  - OMG, he is so proud of all the boys... Tell him not only his dad but many of your family and friends are so proud of him, I know I am!
  - From people who knew his dad tell him his dad would be more than proud. He would be walking tall because of those boys.
  - As one who knew his dad well enough to admit him to college, let them all know he is indeed proud, more than proud, as are we all who invest one generation and are humbled to see that faith manifest in the next. Awesome.

Some of the responses were not about his Dad at all. There were expressions of wonder, shared common loss, and words of support.
  - Children have such a beautiful mixture of innocence and wisdom... wow
 - Having lost my mom at an early age I have often wanted to ask that question also. Please tell your boys that dad is truly proud of them and that all the angels gang up to make sure we are always protected. Not just one angel looking out for us but all of them.
 - The conversations we have with those that have past are perhaps the most profound and telling of our true character.... I ask my father a similar question everyday.

See, sometimes, no matter what I say or do, I am just Ma/Mommy/Mom/Mama. No matter how much truth I try to speak about their Dad's love for the boys or the passion in which I express it, I get caught in an abyss of motherhood, which reduces anything I say to my children as an obligatory expression of supportive rhetoric..."Mommy-talk". As far as the boys are concerned, I have to say good things. I have to paint a rose-colored picture.  My authenticity is diminished by virtue of being their mother. 

Hearing others speak of his father's pride added a perspective that I could never provide. Boy 3 wanted to know how each person knew his Dad. When did they meet? Had they ever seen Boy 3 with his Dad? He wanted to see pictures of the people who said they knew his Dad. The pictures of their faces gave life to his Dad for few minutes. For Boy 3, he could see that his Dad had friends and that the person looking back at him on a computer screen off of their Facebook page was evidence of such. He needed see the people behind the comments to make sure they were real. He found comfort in knowing that I hadn't asked for their thoughts or commentary. They simply had expressions that they wanted to share with him. This wasn't something Mommy made happen for his sake. People responded because people wanted to respond. Words said in a voice other than my own is what my child needed. 

Please understand, I was formally taught Leadership, Resiliency and Social Change theory that is deeply rooted in the belief that you never let anyone else speak for you or tell your story. Yes, that is a political ideology, but the personal is political where I come from. I was taught by some of the most brilliant theorist the power behind claiming your own voice. Sharing your personal and political story is a revolutionary stance that we each owe ourselves and the world. Surely, no one else could show my children how much they are loved by their father but me. We created those boys and I am all that is left of we. This was my story to tell and convey to my son. 

My Boy 3 and all those who responded taught me the beauty of my silence. By saying nothing, I unknowingly opened a door for others to fill my Boy's void.  By saying nothing, my son heard everything he needed to hear.  

Thank you to all of you who replied to my status. I am much obliged.