A Tale of Two Nine Year Olds

On Thursday my nine-year-old came home from school and excitedly asked me, “Did you know there were gunshots in front of D’s house last night.” I did know and I told him that it was all under control, a drug deal from Chicago, a few blocks over had gone bad. Some of the people shooting were hurt, but none of his friends or their neighbors.

We left for the airport to go to D.C. for his cousin’s bar mitzvah. When we got to the airport my husband checked his phone and was greeted by a headline that in Chicago nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee had been lured in to an alley and executed.

Usually when we travel there’s a lot of conversation about sleeping arrangements. My 11 year old likes to sleep by herself. The nine year old likes to sleep as close to another human being as possible and my husband and I naturally like to sleep together. Sometimes we wind up with my daughter and me in one bed and my son and husband in another. Sometimes we start off kids in one bed, adults in another and my son makes his way to our bed during the night. Sometimes we make a bed on the floor for one of the kids, sometimes for my husband.

This trip there was no debate. The room had a king size bed and a pull out couch. The eleven year old got the couch and my husband and I gladly put our nine year old in bed in between us, grateful for his squirminess, grateful for the small arms and legs thrown carelessly over our bodies, grateful for his safety.

On Friday we were D.C. tourists and my son got over tired and overwhelmed as he sometimes does. My husband took our daughter and her cousin ahead and my son and I sat and shared a Coke at the World War II Memorial. We talked about our favorite presidents (Carter for me, Teddy Roosevelt for him) and he informed me that he’d be voting for Bernie Sanders because he cared about poor people. He looked around and saw the Lincoln Memorial, “Wait, is that where Martin Luther King gave his speech?” he asked. I told him it was and he was ready to keep moving on.

We got to the top of the steps and he proudly said, “I could be standing right where Martin Luther King once stood.” On the long walk back to the Metra he repeatedly asked when we would be able to find a Nationals Hat and could he also get a Capitals shirt?

My husband and I worry so much about my son. We worry about his temper, about his new found refusal to eat any vegetables that aren’t cucumbers. We worry about his eczema and his asthma. We worry that the interest in Martin Luther King and justice is so quickly replaced by the interest in what he can have. We worry that he is bored in school. We worry that we are not good enough parents. We have the worries that every parent of every child should have.

We have never once worried that he would be executed in an alley on his way home from school.


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