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Melissa Hurley – San Francisco, California

            I sat with my son, Colton, who just turned one, in Holly Park Playground. It was a spectacularly beautiful, cloudless day. I chatted with Michael, father of one-and-a half year old Ned.

            As Michael and I discussed our children’s sleep habits, Ned sidled up to Colton and tried to pry his current favorite toy, a purple rubber car, from his hand. Colton successfully defended his car, but Ned persisted. After a few tries, Ned had car in hand and strode happily away. Colton considered crying, then proceeded to play with the sand that surrounded him.

            Ned’s father seemed not to have noticed the exchange. My first reaction was also to act like nothing had happened. After all, Ned was Michael’s child, not mine, so how uncool of me would it be to say something like, “Be nice, Ned,” or “We don’t grab things from other people,” as I would surely have said to Colton if the roles had been reversed.

            But, although we continued to talk casually, my mind reeled.

            My unspoken philosophy has been each to his own, live and let live. I have prided myself on seeing the world in shades of gray. Delve deep enough into the mind of anyone, I have always thought, and you can understand, even sympathize with, their actions.

            Yet this apparent egalitarianism might just be a cover for laziness. Sympathize enough with someone, and you’ll never have to confront them. Look deeply enough, and you may never have to decide what’s right. The truth is, if I ask myself what behavior I want to model for my son, things get black and white pretty fast.  And how can I ask Colton to act certain ways, I wondered, if I ignore the behavior of other children (or adults, for that matter)?

            Colton and I spent an hour or so, that afternoon, in the playground. I pushed him in the swing until he stopped giggling. I supervised him as he climbed up and down the cement stairs. And I retrieved his purple car from where it had been discarded, underneath the slide.

            As we were about to leave, a five or six-year-old boy grabbed a little girl’s Barbie Big Wheel and rode it in circles around the playground. The girl chased after him, in tears, screaming, “Mine! Mine!”

            As the boy passed, I said quietly, “Maybe you should give the bike back.” He smiled and shook his head no, but a minute later, he stopped and got off.

            Believe it or not, I was stunned. I have been an adult for about twenty years, yet have rarely, if ever, consciously embraced the power that comes with adulthood. If making a statement could have such an impact here, today, I wondered, what kind of impact has never making a statement had on the world?

            I realized that I’m no longer just me anymore, I’m an adult and a parent. If only for Colton’s sake, it’s my job to speak up for what I think is right, no matter how silly or uncool it may seem.

            And I was struck again by how each day spent with Colton is as much an education for me as for him.

2 Responses to “Melissa Hurley – San Francisco, California”

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