Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Mom, Dad," Katie said, glancing back and forth at us while we sat at the dinner table. "I want to be like Martin Luther King when I grow up."
I didn't feel it would be appropriate to pout, "Hey, yesterday you said you wanted me to retire when you grow up so you can have my job!" since, you know, she's aspiring to be an even more inspirational figure than her mother. I admit, I'm a pretty decent librarian, but I don't have the public speaking skills of Dr. King. That's like saying I'm not quite as compassionate as The Dalai Lama. I'm not quite as forgiving as Jesus. You know. I expect my kid will find heroes among many inspirational figures and not just me.
"In what way do you want to be like Martin Luther King?" I asked. Assassinated, I hope not.
"I want to change the world," she said, her face bright and earnest and open.
I squeezed her shoulders with my arm as we sat side-by-side in the booth. I kissed the side of her face and mumbled, my mouth full of her hair which smelled like chocolate and dirt in a good way, "Oh I love this girl!"
She beamed and took a bite of the black olive she was wearing on her pinkie as a ring.
"What brought this up? Were you guys talking about Dr. King in school today?" I asked, wondering if it was some special day I'd forgotten about. It's not his birthday. It's not the anniversary of his death. It's not the anniversary of the March on Washington. Where was she getting the information to trigger her sudden interest in King?
"No. One of the books in my Book Box is about his life. I read it today during Book Box time," she explained.
"What's Book Box time?" I asked, looking over at Will with my eye-brow raised. Sometimes she tells him stuff she doesn't tell me, but he shrugged his shoulders back at me like he was saying, "I don't know what this Book Box thing is either."
I sometimes feel sorry for children I see at Katie's school or at the grocery store. Too often their parents treat them like they are an ankle bracelet the Universe is requiring them to wear as punishment for that one stupid night of unprotected sex. They walk around with their kids like they're not quite in jail, but they're not free do do as they please. They act like they feel like they're missing out on a life of their own. They ignore them until the kid practically starts a fire under their feet to get some attention. Katie, on the other hand, has two parents competing to see who's more involved in her life. We escorted her to her school skating party on our ninth wedding anniversary, for goodness' sake! Sure, Will and I enjoyed a nice, romantic lunch earlier in the day while Katie was in school, but who spends their anniversary skating around a roller rink with a bunch of five to twelve year olds?
Will and I do. We freaking love kids. Kids are so awesome if you pay attention. Kids don't feel bogged down by life yet. They still have dreams of one day being like Martin Luther King. I'd rather hang out with an idealist kid than a Debbie Downer adult. I used to stay up late drinking and partying with my friends. And I still do from time to time. But mostly I'd rather drink an Icee with my kid, my awesome kid-friendly husband, and our kid's closest 200 friends at the skating rink than go to a bar.
Katie broke my self-congratulatory stream-of-consciousness thoughts about parenting by answering my question. "We each get a box and we can pick three books off the bookshelf and put them into our Book Box and we keep it on top of our cubby. Then when it's Book Box time, we get out our Book Boxes and we sit at our desks and read quietly to ourselves for fifteen minutes," Katie explained.
"Oh, that must be heavenly, all that quiet," I exclaimed. Katie nodded her head wildly in agreement. An introvert who craves quiet reading time too, this girl understands what I mean.
"So you read about Dr. King during Book Box time?" I asked.
"Yes. I read about his life. About when he was a boy. About when he grew up and gave great speeches and lead people peacefully. About when he was a man who changed the world." Katie's voice changed like she was reading from the book, her eyes looking past me like she was looking at the pages inside her head.
"We should watch his 'I Have a Dream' speech on YouTube when we get home," I suggested.
"I've already seen it," Katie surprised me again.
"You did? When?" I asked.
"Last year in first grade."
Man, kids today.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My little white girl wants to be like this grown up black man. Hallelujah!
When we got home Katie and I looked up the book on our library's catalog and requested it so she can read it over and over again. It's called Martin Luther King, Jr: A Man Who Changed Things by Carole Greene, if you think your kid would like to read it too.