As many of you know from my Staycation Report, my family recently spent a memorable afternoon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I failed to mention, however, that right before heading home, I saw something etched onto the blacktop of a school playground, something glaring, scribbled in stark white chalk:
Thursday, April 23, 2009
"I am the most sadust won of all."
My heart sank. What causes a child to write that? Does she have a mommy? Does someone tuck her in at night and scare the monsters away? Or has someone punctured her optimism and hope? I wanted to show this child a glorious afternoon (in part to alleviate my own guilt). To explore shapes and colors in the museum. To point to pigeons in the park. To hold her and tell her that there is no one else in the world just like her, that God doesn't make carbon copies.
Things are not always as they seem. The Upper West Side is known as a wealthy section of Manhattan. People have money. Nanny money. Memberships to the museum money. Bugaboo stroller money. It's not my place to assume or judge what this child does or does not have; that's irrelevant. She is sad. Clearly, something is missing.
That day, I was overcome with a range of emotions: joy, discomfort, awe, serenity, confusion. But when I passed that playground, I felt a sense of loss, the same loss that I felt when I noticed many children accompanied by nannies in the museum. I felt for all those children who are missing a connection with someone, anyone. And I felt for all of those parents who aren't present to witness their child's curiosity, amazement, and imaginative play at work.
Me? I felt lucky. Damn lucky. As I pushed my sensible stroller down the block, my cup runneth over with gratitude, for the opportunity to be a mom and the opportunity to witness the boundless joy and wonder radiating from my child.
This experience didn't ruin my day; it was a reality check and a call to acknowledge the millions of children around the world who are craving love and affection. And so, that night, as I tucked my daughter into bed, I hugged her just a little bit tighter, an extra squeeze for the "sadust won."