Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Today you turned six, son of mine, and there’s a part of me that wants to believe The Hard Part is over. You were kept alive and thriving during the years of your least understanding, kept safe from your more self-destructive curiosities at playgrounds and state parks and busy intersections. Despite your often meager appetite, a quality I’ve observed is born from a desire to do things more interesting than refuel, you have continued to outgrow your clothing at a rapid rate. You became a beast at chess, the sort of young player who may not be able to plan your next 20 moves in advance but who recognizes when their opponent has made an error, and then makes them suffer for it. You maintained your interest in trains but transitioned your focus to marine biology in general, sharks in particular. You are more noticeably a singular and unique entity unlike any I have met before and who I cannot meet again, and for whom the limits of my love are unimaginable.
But I do know that The Hard Part wasn’t that, what we’ve just done in the eyeblink of six solar rotations. Rather: It was certainly A Hard Part, but it wasn’t The Hardest Part. The challenge now is that you can read and explore independently, which means that even when we can see you physically you are more free to wander in the spaces of psychology and behavior that will, little by little, carve you into the young adult you become. And the most troubling part of that milestone is that there are many, many other people who you will run into within those realms who I have not met before I met you, and who I have not met before you will meet them.
There will be people who tell you that you are inferior in some way, either due to the circumstances of your birth, due to a possession you lack, due to a physical characteristic you cannot control or one that you can control but for the moment choose not to in the way that others demand. They may tell you that you are unworthy of love, unworthy of happiness, unworthy of accomplishment, unworthy of life itself. They will act as if they know you intimately when they care nothing for who you are. And they will destroy you, if they wish, if I have not given you enough of the armor to shield you and the tools or weapons to fight back.
There will also be people who tell you that you are superior in ways that are not earned, again due to the circumstances of your birth, or a certain aesthetically arbitrary symmetry in your face and body. They will attempt to indoctrinate you into their piteous fantasies wherein their own excesses of selfishness and insecurity have transformed them into higher powers, ruling over dominions of the weak. They will tell you that you have the right to cause pain in order to grant yourself pleasure. And they, too, will destroy you, if I have not given you enough artistry, enough awareness, to craft the sort of identity unwilling to be poisoned by such ideas.
You are six, and my task now is to not let my wonderment at your emerging individuality sway me from my vigilance. When I was your age panic often took the form of unmarked vans and faceless monsters who would entice you with candy and then take you away to never be seen alive again. That terror remains, certainly, but throughout the past year, especially, I’ve become aware of the other vehicles, the other strains of monstrosity, the myriad of flavors that will be used to twist you into less than the person I know you can be.
I will not tell you that I fear for you. You must not see my fear. The world is full of such marvels that you should be encouraged to look at them closely, to absorb the names and textures of things and then report back with confidence when you learn that the skin of a shark is made entirely of teeth.
You are six, and we will be courageous together.
Love, and the sword at your side,