Today is the first day of school here in Boston. For me, the unintentional unschooler (it’s a thing, look it up), this means I spend the day a) panicking over the realization that it’s officially the school year and since I’ve done zero planning all summer I will once again be utilizing the plan-as-we-go method; and b) goggling over all of the pictures of my friends’ children as they get ready to start the first day of their new school year. And, of course, it wouldn’t be the first day of school without some complaints about BPS, of which there are plenty. Even homeschoolers don’t get to escape this parental rite of passage.
I’m not sure why I like the first day of school so much, other than it’s one of the many things that make me feel connected to my community. I suppose that sounds strange considering I don’t even send my kid to school, but I think, in its way, it symbolizes one of the many rituals we Bostonians use to measure time. We know Marathon Monday announces the arrival of spring, we know the first snowfall will have us breaking out our shovels and cursing, and we know September will begin with our streets being taken over by U-Haul trucks, soon to be followed by school buses. It’s simple, really, but I love knowing this about Boston.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this place we call home. With the divorce comes a great amount of uncertainty. There’s so much to figure out, so much unknown. I’ve had to make decisions I didn’t want to make and consider things I had never imagined. It has forced me to think about what really matters, what I hope remains after the fallout, and without a doubt, what I want is to stay in our home, in this quirky neighborhood that I have come to love so much.
Recently I wrote about my concerns on diversity, or lack thereof, in education. I mentioned how middle-class liberals surround us and I wonder what effect that has on Simi’s worldview. Here’s a confession, though: I am so grateful to be living in this bubble of left-leaning folks. I grew up in conservative Texas, with a not-church-going activist mother. It was hard enough not being white, but my mom was a tree-hugging, social justice seeking, hardcore feminist. You know how everyone carries groceries home in tote bags now? My mom was doing that in the late 80’s. When it came to what she believed in, she walked the walk. She was well loved, but really, we were practically the village freaks.
I have traded in my hometown in Texas for a neighborhood that seems to be its polar opposite. I’m really happy here, but just as I worry about the lack of diversity in my child’s life, I sometimes worry about it in my own. What does it mean that I am always surrounded by like-minded people? For one, it means that I don’t engage with “the other side.” I think of how social media magnifies our divisiveness, and how it’s a terrible platform for trying to engage in dialogue with those who think differently from me. I realize that if I really want to understand where someone else is coming from, I have to have real exchanges with them, not just Facebook arguments. I worry about what seems to be our country’s growing inability to even see one another and I wonder if living in this little bubble is doing more harm than good overall.
On the other hand, I love the feeling of safety that this community gives me. I love that my daughter thinks it’s totally OK that her friend’s brother wears dresses. I love that she has known families with two moms since she was a baby, never once questioning its normalcy. I love that she has become a tiny feminist; she has some kind of radar that can detect even the subtlest sexism. She lives somewhere where she can comfortably and openly talk about this stuff; it is so unlike my own upbringing that I feel liberated on her behalf.
I don’t know what the right answer is, and maybe it doesn’t even matter because I’m not leaving anyway. I wish, though, that I knew the magic formula for allowing our society to progress without all the vitriol. I wish I knew the secret for being able to communicate sincerely with one another. I wish I knew how to make us listen to each other. I can’t imagine what we will be like by the time my child is grown. I hope somehow I can teach her to be tolerant and respectful to whomever she encounters in her life. I hope she learns that it is OK to leave this bubble, and moreover I want her to have genuine and meaningful relationships with all kinds of people. Who knows, maybe she’ll even grow up to be a Republican.