“Resist much, obey little.”― Walt Whitman
It’s really not the advice I thought I would pass to my daughters when I imagined them before they were born. Even so, as I walked the streets of Brooklyn tonight, a grown adult, wife and mother of two, I felt Whitman’s words as wisdom reverberating as truth.
I think about how I am alone on this sidewalk and how being in my thirties doesn’t change the fact that sometimes I’m afraid to walk down a street—because words, because eyes, because force. Because, what if . . .
Brave? More now that I know that I can trust myself.
Obedient? Not always.
I think daughters and sons need to know that there are moments when it’s okay to disobey.
Tomorrow I’ll be home again and I hope my life and actions teach my children there is a field to rebel (even against things we have taught you—that your auntie or uncle or family friend is safe, that your situation is good, that you should always keep the door locked and stay behind it. No, there may be a day when you will want to and need to disobey. And, there may be a time when you’ll need to rise up from something difficult too. If . . . when that day comes.
“I want to be there for you.”
I pick up the writing of this post after a morning run. The app on my phone was telling me when to speed, up, when to slow down, when to be finished. It felt good to run past bridges and people, cultures, and clusters. Forty feet before my return to the hotel, I hit a crack in the sidewalk. I fell. Gravity. Shattered phone screen. Embarrassment. Skinned fingers and ripped pants. The app said to “continue to route”. My heart said, It’s okay to be finished for today.
The rules don’t know when you cry.
The rules don’t know when someone else breaks them to hurt you.
The rules don’t know when you’re stuck and without a voice.
But people are able to know all of these things, they are able to listen even if we are feeble and fickle and not so good at it, we can listen and do everything within us to try to understand.
When it comes to considering who is given permission to shape all that I am, I’m learning to resist much. I’ve learned to resist definitions and pressure. Resist pursuit. I know when it’s right to obey or to conform because there isn’t confusion in my gut. And when it comes to who is allowed to look at, talk about, and touch my physical body—that is reserved for nurture, love, care that comes from those I trust—it’s reciprocal intimacy that is safe and valued.
I am suggesting that we give our children fields or space to rebel—in order to preserve the precious and created person they are, in order to protect them, in order to give them a voice, in order for them to practice what it’s like to decide what is good for them and what is not.
I have to give my kids space to fail, to make judgments, to practice doubt so that they will more deeply own their truth.
I sit safely in my hotel room again.
Writing, door double deadbolt. Check.
Writing, from a vulnerable #metoo place.
Realizing that no matter how thick this door is the words I type are an entry point into the public.
My mind shifts back into memories and finds a ten-year-old girl who learned that sometimes after locking the door you realize the things you are protecting yourself from are in the room with you.
Give kids permission to break the rules.
Tell them clearly.
Listen. Obey. Love. Respect.
But if there is a moment where you feel within harms reach.