“Know Thyself to be wise, the unexamined life is not worth living.”
To understand and know yourself is a completely ongoing process for me but seems for my Jack he seems to understand himself and the world around him more clearly than most adults and it makes me wonder; is his gift of self-awareness a gift or a curse?
As a parent you go through so many emotions on a daily basis in no particular order and on random repeat: joy, sadness, doubt, angst, frustration, anger, loneliness, dread, fear and astonishment. Jack has the talent of taking his observations and distilling them down to profound little glib quips that make me breathless. The most soul shaking was when he was about 3 maybe 4 and he looked up at me and said, “I waited a long time for you to be my Mommy.” This left me dumbfounded. Had this little imp been waiting for me or have I been waiting for him?
He exasperates me daily and many times he is the most incessant being either in constant motion or constant speech. My Dad a kind, soft and profound little Irishman, said to me one day after spending an afternoon with my young son and his namesake Jack, “You know it is a wonder that he just doesn’t collapse after all his talking.”
So when my husband took Jack for a father/son bike ride then a movie, I was more than happy to welcome the silence, solitude and time to catch up on the 15 tons of laundry my family has managed to accumulate this week. Somewhere between the 3rd load of towels and a first pass through Mount filthy whites my men returned. I asked my little man Jack how was the film; he gave me a thumbs up and ran off to play in his homemade Tardis and Dalek in the basement. (Doctor Who references) My husband came in and I asked him how he survived the day. He was happy and thought that Rio was one of the best-animated features he had seen. He then went on to explain a bit about the movie how many of the featured cartoons were grounded in little love stories about the animated animals. He then explained how after the film he had asked Jack how he liked the movie. Apparently Jack had a lump in his throat and said it was an okay movie but asked rhetorically why all the characters in love in the film had to be straight? Upon retelling this, my husband’s head hung low and was a bit overcome with emotion. As I type this, I too am filled with mixed emotions and some sorrow about isolation for my Jack. I get that Disney or Pixar is not ready nor is society willing to introduce openly gay cartoon characters so my kid can relate but… even with my sense of adult understanding about the media’s need to feed the masses entertainment that is accepted by most of society, I am saddened that my little boy will not see anything he can relate to about falling in love or give him a film he can watch over and over and fall in love just as the characters did. I cannot tell you how many times I watched, Cinderella, Ice Castles and Ladyhawke and imagined myself in the roles of the leading ladies with the handsome men swooping me away. This kind of breaks my heart a bit. I know things are changing and with Glee and Modern Family. There is hope and Jack watches these and feels connected. So there is some bright light at the end of the tunnel for him.
It just makes me wonder about his sense of self, intelligence, confidence and courage to be Jack. Although his self-understanding is a wondrous thing it can come at a high cost to his happiness. When I was a little girl the concept of self-perception and societal judgment was never a worry for me. I could see me reflected positively in society in the bedtime stories, movies and books I read. These children were like me and I know I felt comfort in being part of the club. Jack is not in this club, he often tells me how he feels alone and no one is like him and he is worried he will never find another person like himself ever. He is sure he is the only openly gay little boy in our town and already even before junior high school is isolated. Even though I have surrounded him by many of my friends and family who are homosexual and tell Jack things are better the older you get, I worry about his isolation. His intelligence is a gift; his self-awareness is a gift and he is my gift.