“Simone, remember when you asked me if I cry?”
Because you are eight years old—and a silly, little weirdo— you peppered me with increasingly darker scenarios: “Would you cry if you broke your leg?” Would you cry if you got fired from your job? Would you cry if mommy died?”
“Sheesh, girl. Sweet Jesus. I cry!” I said. And you cracked up laughing.
But hours later, after putting you to bed for the third time, and sneaking you a tomato (that’s what you asked for, because you have weird cravings), you brought it up again: “Daddy?”
“Yes, baby girl?”
“I don’t believe you cry. I just can’t see it.”
I gave you a big hug and a kiss and tucked you into bed. I walked downstairs, put a blanket over your mother, who was inevitably asleep on the couch. I checked to make sure your brothers were asleep, too, and then I went to the deck and cried.
Between you and me, I do this all the time. I hide it. Because I’m a big weirdo—a stunted emotional mess, complete with all the cliché baggage that comes with being a Black man. You don’t see it because I don’t want you to see it. For better or worse, that’s how I’ve gotten through.
And lately, it’s gotten…harder. I find myself in tears more than ever. The blocks of time I’ve penciled in for personal pain bleed into moments where I’m supposed to be resolute.
Since I was 12—before hashtags and social media—I’ve kept a running list in the back of my head of dozens of Black men and women killed by the police. Amadou Diallo was the first name I remember. Sean Bell stuck with me. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, the list goes on and on.
I’ve weirdly tried to keep these names from you. I’ve dreaded every news report you might have overheard. I secretly believed that maybe if I just held out a little longer, things would be fixed. Or at least start trending upward, so you wouldn’t have to learn new names.
Now, you have your own list. Welcome to the world.
Before you, CJ, and Carter came along, I didn’t know I could love anything as much as I love you. I didn’t want to love anything that much, and it scares me. My love, my constant plotting, my hopes, my dreams for you—I fear it may not be enough to make things better. It terrifies me.
What gives me hope? You and your brothers. You are all smarter than me, more emotionally stable than me, kinder, better than me at puzzles, and even math. CJ, you are months (maybe days) away from beating me in basketball. Carter, nothing gets under your skin.
What gives me hope? Knowing you have each other. Knowing your aunties and uncles are crazy about you and realizing that despite how much you argue, bicker, and fight, you are crazy about each other. You’ll need all of that.
You also need to know that no one here on earth is going to give you a thing. You will have to take it, every time. It won’t stop. Every day you have to show up. Every day you have to learn, read, play, push, pull. Every day. People won’t stop giving you pennies and acting like it’s millions. Be skeptical of their half measures. Know that you deserve more.
And it still won’t be enough. You’ll have to help people. You’ll have to solve problems. You’ll have to make noise. There are so many things you’ll have to do to try to even the odds in this world. It is going to be exhausting. You'll probably cry a lot. Telling you anything else would be a lie. Just let yourself cry, and then get back to it, every day.
Know that I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll never give up trying to create the world you deserve. The fact is, they aren’t ready for you. Maybe they’ll never be. That’s their problem. You’ll be more, because you already are, and because you have to be. In a world of crap, you are the reason I can’t wait to see what comes next.
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