Dinner time. It has been a hell of a week and we have had no time to spend with some of the most precious beings in our lives, our son and our dogs. But, it’s dinner time and we are making dinner conversation. Our son is telling us about an exercise they did in advisory today, the one with the cultural iceberg and he explains that he was supposed to tell everyone about himself – the seen and the unseen. Exciting!
My partner and I are big on personal stories, honoring individual cultures and backgrounds so we dive into the conversation by asking our son what the iceberg holds under the water in his case. What makes him the person he is, what lies at the core of his being, what shapes him into the human that he is today. No, we didn’t use these words … we simply asked what he placed on the bottom side of the iceberg. And we were hopeful for words such as: our family, my school, love, my grandma and cousins I just spent a wonderful summer with.
He becomes silent. We push. He keeps looking at us like there is something he doesn’t want to say, when my partner has an epiphany: you put down the fact that your uncle is a celebrity, again, didn’t you? His answer: see, this is why I don’t tell you, I knew you were going to be upset!
My heart broke in a million pieces. And one piece said, our son can’t see the beauty in our difference, he is ashamed of us; and another piece said, our son can’t see the struggle we go through daily to offer ourselves and him this amazing life; and another one said, our son is afraid to tell us his truth; and another one said, our son has no idea he is special and what makes him that way. It HURT!
Later in the evening, as I was washing the day’s burden off of my body and mind, a whisper tiptoed into my broken heart: hey, I am your thirteen year old self. I didn’t really care about what mom and dad told me is important either, I cared about my friends, my music and my diaries. And in that instant I realized it was all fine. It was our son’s iceberg, not ours. It was about what is important to him now, not what is important to us. And, yes, it is rather disturbing to see that things we wish mattered to him don’t in a way that would prompt him to put them on display (or maybe it just isn’t cool) but … he gets to live his own life, just as we got to live ours. And he gets to be the young and silly thirteen year old, not caring much about our beautiful home, our principles and values, our relationship with him and our teachings, caring about hip hop, computer games and his cool sunglasses.
And I started to see everything as the blessing that it was, that, in a world where millions of children go to bed hungry, are beaten and abused by their own parents, work to support their families or suffer from indescribable illnesses, we are blessed with a beautiful teenager who is healthy, light hearted and goofy.
And I can only hope that when he is in his forties or fifties, sitting at the table with his child, talking about what is important to them, and getting his heart broken into a million pieces, I will be alive and able to hug him tight and tell him the story of how he deemed it quite essential to his personality that one of our today’s hip hop singers happens to be his uncle.
Photo by Ramin Talebi, on Unsplash