Barack Went Straight to College

Tomorrow morning I'll be attending my four year-old's Pre-K graduation. "T" is super excited about the ceremony, especially since he thinks college comes next. You see, although he really likes school, he positively loathes homework.

So why the excitement about college? Well, "T" somehow remembered that I told him that you don't get homework everyday at college. So he's decided he's going there next. Forget about K-12!

I tried to be rational with his stubborn, "artistic" temperament. "No, honey, next you go to kindergarten like all the other big boys."

His response? "Nooo! Barack Obama went to college when he was four, so I can too!"

"Uh, no, he didn't."

"Yes he did! He DID go to college when he was four!"

We went back-and-forth before we agreed to play paper-rock-scissors to settle the debate. Fortunately I've noticed that my son always puts the scissors first, so I put out the rock to break them. He was SO mad that he fell out in the floor and started having a fit! Whatever. I ignored him till he shook his fist in defiance.

"Fine then! But I'm still going to college like Barack Obama!"

"OK, that's good. Of course you're going to college."

Our little "argument" was over but it got me thinking about how, for my sons, these days, everything is about Barack Obama.

Do you think Barack Obama ever had pet silkworms?
Is Barack Obama an omnivore, carnivore or herbivore?
Does Barack Obama play with Legos?

Last night my eldest was checking himself out in the bathroom mirror. As I walked by, I heard him say to his reflection, "What do you command, President Obama?"

He was totally pretending he was Obama!

I don't know if all of us who are parents fully realize how potentially having a black President is going to impact our children. I don't think I ever saw even a TV black president as a child, but gosh, my kids might have the real thing. It matters to see a face that looks like theirs up there. It definitely does.

I know for every person that says that Obama can help instill a sense of confidence and pride in black children, there's someone that says that none of that matters if black folks as individuals don't get their acts together and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. I'd say people of all colors need to get themselves together and we can't do it in isolation. We need each other.

I don't think Obama's going to be an instant panacea for anything, and he shouldn't have to be. If he gets elected, America still has a tough road ahead as far as true racial unity, let alone gas prices, war, healthcare and education. But gosh, it does something special to my heart to see my sons admiring him and developing this whole superhero-like mythology about him. It's especially nice because most of the popular culture heroes that are put in front of them are not black males. Ironman, Batman, Indiana Jones, The Hulk --none of them look like my sons. They play with Batman action figures but I'll never see them look in the mirror and say, "Gee, I look just like Bruce Wayne!"

It's not just black kids either. Obama also does something for children of all colors. He challenges some of the subconscious, less overt stereotypes that our children, regardless of background, have learned about black men. His wife, Michelle Obama likewise challenges beliefs about who black women are and what we're about.

Tomorrow when my son walks across that stage to get his little Pre-K diploma, I know he's still going to be thinking that Obama went straight to college. And really, knowing I have a child who believes a black man can go from Pre-K to college is alright with me.

Comments

Jameil said…
"What do you command, President Obama?" THAT IS AWESOME!!! I LOVE THIS!! Congrats T!!
I agree with your post. He's not going to change the world but when I see him I think of my two nephews and how lucky they are to see him along with all the negative stuff that is out there.
thailandchani said…
I'm still amazed by the whole thing. Last weekend, I had a conversation about this with a black guy at an event I attended. He was saying that Lincoln was the first black president. Granted, I haven't spent much time studying American history. Do you know if that's true about Lincoln?

Either way, I am glad for your son because it is important to see that social change is possible and it's definitely time.
Anonymous said…
It's great that Obama is inspiring so many kids. I just hope that if and when he gets to be president, he'll continue to inspire them and won't let them all down by selling out to the usual wealth/business/military interests. Fingers crossed!
Jen said…
I think it won't only affect children of color here in the U.S., but also in other "Western" nations.

We could have an amazing moment in history.
Ian Lidster said…
I find that very funny. You tell such great stories and that one cracked me up almost as much as the laughter of the little guy who has been asked to say 'disestablishmentarianism' on the commercial.
I imagine Mr. Obama will be a great inspiration to a lot of black kids, and what a role model for them to have.
Brianna said…
that touches my heart.
Toni Campbell said…
I started tearing up when I read "What do you command, President Obama?". Powerful. Early, early on in the primaries (before I made my decision), a radio dj here in Atlanta said that as a parent of Black children, especially boys, he felt that he had no choice but to support Obama. How could he spend day after day empowering his children to believe that they could be whatever they wanted in this world and then turnaround and vote against a qualified Black candidate. I don't have children, but it was then that I saw clearly the importance of Obama in this race.
Anonymous said…
...you made me smile.
Anonymous said…
Seeing Barack and Michelle and the girls in the White House will provide a powerful symbolism for all, and yes we have a lot of work to do to get them there AND continue to make meaningful strides in this country and the world.

I love that DQ commercial. I wrote to the company to tell them to keep up the good work. Not praise for doing the right thing, but for recognizing the buying power and meeting it with adequate representation. When we see positive images of people of color we need to be just as vocal as we would be in protest.
Liz Dwyer said…
Jameil,
Thanks for the congrats! Whew! The graduation was great and I came home with a VERY sugared up child to entertain. That boy...he's gonna be president of something one of these days!

NYC/CR,
There is SO much negativity and it's a total relief to have something different, even though the media insists on calling Michelle Obama Barack's Baby Moma. Sigh!

Chani,
I've read that Lincoln, Jefferson, Harding, Coolidge and Jackson all had black ancestry. It could be true. There are lots of "white" folks who actually have black ancestry and they either don't know or don't want to admit it because you lose some of your status/privilege in our culture if you become black.

Nick,
I think about that as well. I have so little faith in the possibilities of political systems but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Jen,
Probably children around the world. How cool for our entire planet it would be.

Ian,
My kids are definitely a never-ending source of joy for me. They make me laugh my ass off and they have such a depth to them that they constantly surprise and inspire me. It's nice to see the world changing for them. I hope it keeps it up!

Brianna,
Me too!

Jessalyn,
It makes me love being a mom even more than I do already. It's times like this that I feel really lucky.

Toni,
I knew a couple of months ago when we were at Barnes and Noble and my eldest asked to buy a little elementary-school level biography of Obama that something special was happening as far as how my kids perceived him. I catch him reading it sometimes, looking at the pictures -- and it means a whole lot because I know he's not always felt like his brown skin is alright. But here's this man who's brown like him and he might be the president. It's very cool.

Michael,
I have a big smile on my face too.
Liz Dwyer said…
Heartsandflowers,
I haven't seen the DQ commercial. Gosh, I don't even know if we have DQ's in LA! I think it's nice though that you let the company know they're on the right track with it though. So often they only hear negative feedback instead of the "do more of this" sort of feedback.
Unknown said…
I love this post. He is soooo cute. Finally an era where our young black sons can dream about being President. Barack is tryly an inspiration.

And bring your kleenex....congrats to your son on his graduation day. The first of many more.
Anonymous said…
This is really beautiful. :)

Amanda
brotherkomrade said…
My daughter wants to be President as well. I thought it was Hilary, but she told me it was Obama who makes her want to be President "'cuz he's mixed like me", she said.
Anonymous said…
As a mother of two boys this one moved me to tears. I'll never tire of hearing my boys discuss Barack Obama and when will he *finally* be our President. Never could I have imagined what this candidacy truly means to our children, but I'm so thankful to be alive during this incredible moment of history.
Anonymous said…
What a beautiful post --- and you are right about the inspiration the prospect of a Black president gives us all.
Liz Dwyer said…
Bklynaka,
Thank goodness I did take the kleenex because I totally got the sniffles. And now he's really on a post-graduation roll. We ran into a friend yesterday afternoon and she asked him, "Are you ready for kindergarten now, T?"

He looked at her, dead serious, and says, "I'm not going to kindergarten."

She was all, "You're not? Why not?"

"Because I'm going to Harvard like Barack Obama."

AND then got mad when she laughed!

Amanda,
T makes my heart smile, that's for sure.

Brotherkomrade,
Good for your daughter! What are we going to do with all these kids that want to be President? :)

Yolanda,
I'm grateful too. My eldest is so annoyed that we have to wait till November for the election. He actually went to the calendar and counted out the number of days till election day. I keep telling them that there's no guarantee that Obama's going to win and they just look at me like, "Duh, of course he is!" I guess we'll have to see what happens!

Phoenix,
It is very inspiring for sure. I get seriously excited about all the possibilities!
Unknown said…
this post is making me cry.
Liz Dwyer said…
IANSJ,
I cry a little bit too over these things but it mostly makes me smile because it gives me so much hope.
Anonymous said…
Hi! This is the first time I'm reading your blog, but I just had to comment about ur wonderful son and his 'What do you command, President Obama?' It's brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. I live in the UK but am following this race very closely. We don't appreciate how important Obama getting as far as he has is to our children.
They are watching. I sincerely hope they are not disappointed. There's that word 'hope' again.

Cheers!

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