The Little Prince’s report card came home with him yesterday. After we went over it and I hugged him, he happily buzzed away to do whatever it is a ten-year-old boy does to usher in the freedom of Winter Break. (I.e., he headed for his video games as fast as his legs could carry him.)
Me? I sat at the table and cried.
I could hear all those voices from my childhood, screaming in the dark, cobwebbed halls I don’t often visit. The ones I only open up long enough to verify yep, still nasty, still horrible and let a bit of the steam leak out so they don’t explode.
*An A? Just an A? Why isn’t it an A+?
*You’re lazy, you’ll never amount to anything.
*You’re supposed to be a lawyer/doctor! I couldn’t be one, so you have to! Don’t disappoint me!
*That artsy shit will never put food on the table.
*Head in the clouds. You’re lazy and worthless. What are you good for?
*You’ll never make it out in the real world. And you’re not pretty enough to marry.
*Artist? Ha. You can’t even wash dishes right.
Anything that even vaguely smacked of art, or of pleasure, or of culture, or even of happiness, was frowned upon, if not actively beaten into the ground. My love of books was ridiculed, and the books themselves were torn in half, taken away, spat on. My journals were read (except the ones I hid at school, thank you, Madame P, you saved my life) and I was punished for what I dared to write. No grade was ever good enough. Nothing was ever perfect enough.
On my son’s report card: “*Little Prince’s name* has become quite a writer! He often chooses to write during his daily free time. He has three stories he is actively working on, and many more inside his head. It’s great to see him loving writing and reading so much!”
The Princess draws anime and manga characters. She’s not quite the voracious reader I was at her age, but she’s actively writing stories and books (including one massive multigenerational could-be-a-huge-ass-manga-series tome that I suspect outweighs War and Peace by now); art supplies are her fondest wish this Yule. “I might not make a living at it,” she says, “but anything’s possible. Hard work can do things! Also, I could be an astronomer.”
They are not afraid to dream, to breathe, to do, to be.
I cried for the child I was, and I cried for joy that my children do not know the suffocation of having their voices stifled. Neither of them can imagine a book being torn, slaps and kicks, being belittled or silenced at home. I am glad beyond words that it’s unthinkable for them. It doesn’t change what I endured, nothing can.
But it gives me hope and strength beyond measure.
If you are reading this, no matter who you are, I have something to tell you: you do not have to be silent. You have a voice, your own voice, and what you can say with it is something nobody else can ever say. It is unique, it is marvelous, and it is all yours. It makes the world a richer place. It can lead you out of darkness and stop the cycle of abuse; it can help you share the happiest life and upbringing as well. You don’t have to write with it–paint, sing, dance, make papier-mache molds of priapic elephants, specialize in Belgian pastries, whatever wonderful thing that makes joy bubble all through you.
During the Winter Solstice when the bright half of the year is reborn, when the planet starts its tilt back toward summer and the nights become a little shorter, when the dreidel spins or the Mars Rover grants us more data about our amazing universe, it never hurts to remind you that even if things are bad now, you will sooner or later have a chance to let your voice free. Keep believing, keep it safe and close inside you if you have to, a coal of resistance.
If you need permission, if you need encouragement, if you need someone to tell you it’s okay, well, consider yourself told, consider permission given, consider this encouragement from the very floor of my being. It is never too late to begin unloosing your marvelous voice, in whatever fashion. You have something to give the world. Write it. Play it. Dance it. Sing it. Keep doing it. Keep writing, keep going, keep doing.
One day it may save someone. And that someone might not be you.
Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are giveaways, sneak peeks, and tons of fun. Check us out!