A Letter to My Daughter
Dear sweet little Celine,
I decided to write this to you, hoping that one day, when you are able to have a better understanding of the way the world and society works you would read this. I pray that as you read this today, the world you live in is a healed, superlative, and most importantly, just place for all. I hope that everything I explain within this letter is now just part of history and a chapter in your school's history books.
Today, you are an outspoken, inquisitive, bright, and cheerful 2 years and 8 months old toddler. Most of your day is spent playing imaginatively on your own with your toys, going upstairs to check on grandma and all your amazing uncles, singing and dancing to your favorite songs (Trolls World Tour soundtrack at the moment), and getting a tad bit annoyed by all of my creative ways to keep you learning everyday. Although many of the times, you enjoy the little things I come up with for us to do together, if it were up to you, you would spend all day outside free playing, watering the flowers with grandma, or watching all of your favorite Disney movies and shows on the television.
It's been nearly 3 months since the world as we all knew it was flipped upside down. To start, our country mandated a "shelter-in-place" order to try to minimize the spread of a new virus that had already been spreading around other parts of the world. I can vividly remember, the silence in the hallways as I walked into the school building where I worked, on that very last day before schools were shut down. It was as if everyone knew that would be our last day together in that building. There was an awkward silence and look on everyone's faces from students to even teachers. I remember picking you up from daycare that Friday afternoon, and thinking to myself, "what will Monday be like?". Little did I know that before Monday arrived, we would be in a mandated "stay-at-home" order and our nation would be combating the most intense battle most of us had ever seen, with a global pandemic.
Since schools were closed, I was home with no work to do (I was working as a substitute teacher at the time). Although your daycare had not shut-down, your dad and I decided we would play it safe and keep you home with me. As the days turned into weeks and now into months, there have been numerous times where I can see that you seem to know that something has changed. No matter how much your father and I have tried to make your days here at home the best they can possibly be, there have been days where you have cried to see your cousin, KJ. There have been mornings when you would wake up and the first thing you would ask me is to take you to school to see your teacher, Miss Asia. There have been days in which you have little episodes of tantrums and I know it's because the daily routine you once knew has gone entirely out the window!
(You were always so happy to finally get to spend time with your cousin, KJ. The love you two share since birth, brings tears to our eyes, every time. This was the only other child you had interactions with in months!)
As I write this today, our nation is thankfully starting to open back up and taking cautious steps to bring back some of the things we used to have before the "shelter-in-place" occurred. Gradually, our society is constructing a new "normalcy" in which we could live our daily lives again, as we continue to fight this pandemic. Yet another, equally as important and tough issue has finally come to the attention of our nation. Although, it has caused an upheaval among our society, it's something that needed to happen. It was literally like a ticking time bomb. You see, people of color, specifically Blacks, have been fighting the maltreatment and injustice of their people in our country for many, many years. More recently, within the last 30 years, there has been numerous incidents of police brutality against Blacks and people of color around the nation. Since this year (2020) began, it's been incident after incident of innocent, young, Black lives being killed at the hands of police all across our country. It was only a matter of time before the people would have had enough of watching the injustice continue to take place, without any reform or promise of a better, just, nation for all to live in by our government. Millions of people, even in other countries have set out to finally make a change by protesting every single day and starting a nationwide movement.
The entire world has been hit with what one would call "the perfect storm", with so many things happening from the start of this year. I have been out of work (me and millions of others around the world) for the past 3 months. On the other hand, your father has been working non-stop since all of this began, which is like a double edged sword. We are fortunate that he’s able to still have his job during this time but, it’s also risky having him out there every single day thinking he could possibly bring the virus home. People’s lives, not just ours, have changed completely. Many have sadly, lost their loved ones. Many have lost their jobs permanently. Many have had to shut down their businesses for good. Students have had to get through school at home, online and abruptly end their time at school without warning. Graduates have missed their prom, senior trips, and commencement ceremonies. Your aunt Carla and cousin Kaitlyn, graduated from their universities during this time yet, they missed out on the final semester of their "college life". Concerts and shows have been cancelled, sports across the board have been cancelled, amusement parks have been closed, and international flights have been closed off. Many have been stuck in hospitals for weeks and weeks fighting the virus. Thank the lord, we only had one case within our family and she's completely healthy now. The elderly have been kept away from the outside, in homes and facilities, with family members only able to see them through glass windows and doors.
I say all of this to explain that the entire world, globally has been through a whirlwind of emotional distress and displacement in some way. The world as you know it today I'm sure, is completely different from what it is as I write this letter. Although you are only two, I know you can feel all the different energy that is flowing around us. I know that you can feel the changes, that you can feel the uncertainty in the atmosphere, no matter how much your father and I try to disguise it. I want you to know that we understand that you as well are being affected and deprived of things because of all that is currently occurring. What I aim to do as your caretaker at this time, is to use all I have learned from these events, to help you become a better individual within the society of your generation.
This is how I will do my part:
I will continue to teach you to have love and faith in God. By keeping God's presence in our daily lives, reading the bible to you, and praying with you (and taking you to church with me once we are able to attend again), I hope to instill in you the love and appreciation for all things created by God. I hope to teach you how to live a life that follows the morals and ethics of our Lord. I hope to teach you to be forgiving, sympathetic, empathetic, and to see people way beyond what's visually on the surface. Most importantly, I hope to teach you the true value of life and love.
I will break the cycle of wrong teachings that were unconsciously and unintentionally passed down to me by my parents and other family members. It's up to me to start the change in the future generations within my own family. It is my job and responsibility to make sure that I educate you on matters that I was never taught or wrongfully taught. I want you to continue to be that free-spirited little girl that you are now, unafraid of what others may think or say. I wish that you become a person with your own perspectives untainted by anyone else's personal judgments and beliefs.
I will make sure to incorporate and educate you on our Hispanic culture. It's my duty to teach you about the history of your grandparents' native country, the Dominican Republic. By doing so, I will contribute to helping you become an individual who is proud of her roots and all that it represents. Most importantly, to teach you how the people of the Dominican Republic have played a role and continue to contribute to the stability of the country we now live in, The United States of America.
I will make sure you understand and are knowledgeable on the true history of this nation, that which is not taught within the four walls of a classroom. I will teach you to be socially aware of the things that go on around you and why things happen the way they do. Most importantly, I wish for you to be a socially responsible and well informed citizen.
The other day, as we were walking with Bentley (our family dog) back into the house from our usual walk around the block, I suddenly was overcome with a feeling of joy and pride. I stopped to watch, as you held his leash, safely holding him close to your tiny body, talking to him in your sweet and cheerful manner, and petting him in your gentile and friendly way. I can assure you that in that moment, my grin was as wide as it could ever be. In that moment, I was sure that I had done something good with how I was raising you. As a child my father, although he always mentioned (0ver and over again) how much he loved and appreciated animals, he never allowed my sisters and I to have any pets. He also unconsciously put negative ideas into our head about owning pets. I know that impacted the way my sisters and I perceived people who owned pets in some way. Not to mention, the fear my sisters and I grew up with of pretty much all dogs, no matter how small in size they were. Don't get me wrong your Papa, has a profound love for animals but, in his own unique way. (Til this day he still feeds his Brooklyn neighborhood pigeons from the balcony of his apartment!) He just has his own beliefs about domesticating and keeping animals outside of their natural habitats, which is a pretty good argument in some cases. Anyways, I was so overfilled with joy to see that because of my decision to allow you to live among a family pet (that I myself brought into the family long before you were born), I allowed the cycle of wrongful teachings end with me. You are fearless and loving of all dogs no matter how big or frightening (to me) they are. Whenever we walk by a dog, your immediate response is, "Aww, so cute". As opposed to me as a child, if I saw a dog coming down the sidewalk I was walking on, I would cross to the other side of the street in fear. Now, you are free to make your own decision on whether or not you will own your own pets, based on your very own free will. Most importantly to me, you will have no reason to judge anyone or form your own perceptions of people because of the mere fact that they own pets. I know this may sound like something so small or insignificant but, to me, the concept is so much bigger than what you imagine.