Before having a kid, I had all sorts of ideas and goals about how I was going to indoctrinate a human. I felt very confident in my ability to socialize a person, and believed my influence could guide my child’s essence to develop into my ultimate Nietzschean ubermensch. In my fantasy she was going to be a counter-culture anti-corporate non-conforming anarchist revolutionary that would be really into Avant-garde art, only listen to obscure neurofunk tracks, watch exclusively Dutch films part of the digressionism cannon, and of course be an intellectual prodigy. So far things haven’t worked out exactly as planned. The Munch did in fact go through a 3 year My Little Pony phase, is not as interested as I would have thought in my anti-capitalist rants about the Amero or the federal reserve, and genuinely enjoys such TV programs as Full House – but at least she likes Pink Floyd so, that’s something.
I guess another aim I had was to install a deep sense of empathy in my kid – especially if she’s not going to shave fractals into her hair and write gnomic poetry about the absurdity of existence – sigh. It’s hard to say if The Munch’s empathetic nature is a result of my flawless parenting or more an innate impulse that would have existed regardless, but she is one of the most moral and thoughtful people I know. She is genuinely happy for her friends when good things happen to them, she feels authentic sadness if she causes someone distress, and she’s hyper-aware of how others are feeling. It’s almost uncanny at times how compassionate she can be, and for a while I thought this was a good thing.
But is it?
The other day we were driving to my dance studio in Vermont and there was a homeless lady on the corner. We were stopped at a red light so The Munch had time to read her sign asking for money saying “any help is appreciated.”
The Munch: Mom, the lady’s sign says she needs some money.
Toni: Ummm… here is $2 – roll down your window and hand it to her.
The Munch complied and the lady said thank you and we drove into the parking lot to go grocery shopping before I had to teach my class.
The Munch: Why did that lady need money?
Toni: Because she’s homeless.
The Munch: How do people become homeless?
Toni: There are so many reasons. Sometimes they have mental illness. Sometimes they have addiction problems. Sometimes they lost their jobs and can’t find another one and don’t have friends or family to help. Sometimes they are coming out of prison and can’t find work and have nowhere to go. I mean in truth it’s is a crime against humanity that there is homelessness, especially here where there is the national income to support homeless people – we just make the choice not to. There are solutions, but it’s just not the priority of the government or I guess any of us.
The Munch: So, they need other people to help them and give them money to survive?
The Munch: So why did you only give her $2?
The Munch: Why did you only give her 2$?
Toni: Well, it’s more than $1…
The Munch: But you have a $20 bill in your wallet. I saw it.
Toni: Oh. Well… ummm…uhhhhh… you don’t really give homeless people $20???
The Munch: WHY NOT!? THEY ARE HOMELESS!? MOM SHE DOESN’T HAVE A HOME AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GIVE HER $20?!
Toni: Well, it’s complicated. I don’t know what she’s going to spend it on….
The Munch: MOM WHY DOES THAT MATTER!? DID YOU NOT HEAR THE PART ABOUT HER BEING HOMELESS!?
Munch took my wallet, grabbed my last $20, and went to find the woman to give it to her. And that’s how I began a relationship with a homeless woman where every time The Munch and I see her Munch gives her all the money in my wallet.
Here she is making sure that I’m giving all my cash away.