Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Moment of True Character

We were on the way to school yesterday, when I received a surprise phone call from a friend asking if I wanted to go that morning to see Barack Obama's appearance in Grand Junction, an hour from us. She was asking because the evening before we had visited and were talking about his visit, and how fascinated Matthew was with the process of electing a President. I know, it is a bit unusual to have a 9 year old interested in such things, especially to the degree he is, but that's Matt who is also our history buff. I spent many of our long drives last winter on Saturdays alone with him discussing the various candidates, expressing opinions, talking about the economy and the war, explaining what a "platform" was, and talking about how historic it was that a man of color...ANY color...was running as well as a woman. Matthew and Kenny both watched the convention speeches by Barack and Sarah Palin, and sadly we missed McCain's but we explained what was accomplished at the conventions. Our town also has a way for children to vote while their parents are voting and then the votes are tabulated just like the adults are, so they can begin to develop a habit of participation in the process.

We heard Friday that Barack was coming to Grand Junction, the first time in 60 years that any presidential Candidate has come our way and that alone is a bit historic! Hahahah! Matthew has been fascinated with the history making aspects of Barack's potential presidency and I am not sure if that has been somewhat internalized because he knows no one of color...like himself...has ever made it to the White House, or if it is a more general interest. I know he has discussed a few times how he and his brothers can never be President because of not being born in America...and that too has been talked about in light of both McCain and Obama's birth circumstances that are a bit unusual...yea, I know, he's only 9...tell that to him! I have a hard time keeping up with him sometimes. He is also very interested in McCain's past as a POW and his military service, finding that to be truly honorable as do most Americans.

So I had considered taking Matthew from school to go see Barack. After all, I too had never seen a Presidential Candidate in my lifetime either and might never again have one so close to us, so it would be a really educational experience...plus a nice "Mommy and Matthew" date. I am not such an incredible stickler for school attendance that I don't think there are moments that are worth being pulled out for the day.

During the call from my friend she told me she had just heard they had opened it up to the public and we wouldn't need a ticket after all, and so she was going to go up and would I like to go and bring Matthew too? I told her I would get right back with her and hung up. I turn to Matthew and explain what is going on, and ask if he would like to go with me. His face lit up and said "Mom, that would be SO cool to see one of them in person! Are you serious, we can go?" and I explained what had had been announced and that we could go with our friend. I look in the rear view mirror and see Kenny's grin from ear to ear as he is getting excited as well and I explain to Kenny that I will not be able to take him, as sadly he is going to be missing far too much school this year anyway with surgery and dental appointments, etc. and that there were times that he had that were special alone with me, and times that Matthew and Joshie both needed as well. The grin quickly changed to a contained frown...and then the tears slowly eeked out. It wasn't that he didn't understand what I was saying, it was that he was disappointed and hurt not to be included. Joshie of course was fine as none of this meant anything to him at all. Kenny's tears continued as I tried to make him feel better, explaining if it weren't for his need to be gone so much from school this year I would take him, but we had already had a long discussion recently about how much he needed to catch up, etc. And yea, all the while I am feeling badly as I see his heartbroken face staring back at me, wondering if perhaps I should have never mentioned it but also realizing that each of my kids has different interests and needs, and they can not all always do everything just because the other one is doing it. It was a tough call, and frankly, I hadn't expected Kenny to get that upset as he has not been that interested in the process, but has watched it on TV with us.

It was then that I hear softly from beside me "Mommy, if it is going to make Kenny sad and feel left out, I won't go.". What? This is something that was really important to Matthew, something he could witness that we have spent months engaged in discussion and debate about, something that he might never see again...and he will give it up because Kenny is crying about it. Kenny overhears this, and then quickly tries to wipe away his tears and tells Matthew "No Matt, Mommy is right, I be ok, you go...you really want to go...you go...don't worry about me.". We spend the next few minutes in silence, Kenny quiet in the back seat as he is pulling himself together, Matthew in the front seat with a thoughtful look on his face.

We pull up at the school and the boys gather their things for the drop off and Kenny says "Matthew...go! It's ok, I'm ok, you go have fun with Mom and have your Special Day, I get mine later." I then ask Matthew "Are you sure you don't want to go? I know how much this would mean to you." and he looks back at me, gives me a bit of a sad grin and says "No Mom, I'll stay...it's the right thing to do..." then throws me a quick "I love you" as he walks away from the car alone, his head hanging, his back straight and tall...and me with tears in my eyes that refused to stay put.

"It's the right thing to do.", what a simple powerful statement that speaks volumes out of a 9 year old boy.

As I drove back home to meet my friend, I found myself sobbing in gratitude for these children of mine, these wonderful sons whose thought and care for one another truly blows me away much of the time. Matthew and his willingness to put aside his own desires so his brother's feelings are not hurt, and Kenny as well who was able to pull himself out of his disappointment the moment he realized it was affecting his brother and strongly encourage him to do what meant so much to him...suddenly, his own feelings were not important at all.

I met my friend who asked "Where's Matthew? I thought he was coming!" and I explained what had transpired, and then SHE started crying! She said "I'm not really surprised, you have such kind boys!"

I don't know what we ever did to deserve these little guys in our lives, these blessings from God who are bigger blessings every single day. I can tell you, Dominick and I are not THAT kind or thoughtful, so it is not learned by example! In fact, it is often I who learn from their example.

Now if we can only get our elected officials to follow the example of a 9 year old little boy and just say "It's the right thing to do"...and then do it. How would our world be changed?


wilisons said...

Wow, you boys are truly amazing human beings! I only hope my girls can learn to care as deeply and sacrifice as generously as your boys do for one another.

Just a side note, our kids can become president. Although not American born, they were adopted by US citizens. There was a bill a while back that made them eligible for the presidency as if they were born in the US. So cheer up Matt, you COULD be president one day!

Best wishes,
Shanna mom to 2 from Kaz

Christina said...

Oh how sweet.. it would have taken everything in me not to go pull him out of school 10 min later :)

Anonymous said...

WOW! That is soo powerful! Another example of true family love and respect. Good job! Joan