All children are deserving — not just the sweet-tempered ones

To: His Highness Who Simply Can’t be Bothered with US

I so wish I could genuinely say that I hope that you and your family had a good Christmas, that you enjoyed one another’s company and had fun teasing each other about silly old family stories featuring one or another of you doing something goofy. But you know, I’m so over trying to hew to the high road with you. I’m not going to wish you a shitty Christmas or anything that extreme, but I honestly have no good will towards you and so will envision you holed up alone in a tastelessly decorated cave flipping through your phone and the TV channels looking for something, anything to sooth your pathetic ego.

I know that sounds rather bleak, but I actually don’t think that would be an especially shitty Christmas for you given how likely it is that you’d seize on bunches of things that you’d interpret as pro-you.

Since you didn’t ask, we’ve had a nice day overall. Pretty low key on all vectors (presents, people, food), which I think we’ve all found suits us well.

I am, though, having the somewhat unusual experience of simultaneously feeling grateful for our hyper-local contentment and incredibly sad for the world at large and the millions who aren’t currently content and aren’t likely to be content any time soon. I’m not usually able to separate my feelings about different situations like this and it was kind of surprising when I did a self-check about what’s behind the low feelings, I didn’t land on anything conveniently close at hand that I could perhaps change. Rather I knew in that pit-of-the-stomach way that it’s about other people; the ones who’re freaked out (and understandably so) about the eviction moratorium ending soon, about how to keep their kids safe and fed along with the people who’re facing this holiday season with big empty holes where their loved ones should be.

WP columnist, Theresa Vargas, has a knack for not only pulling on heartstrings, but for getting people to keep looking when they’d rather turn away – at least she does this for me. I read her piece (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/stark-devastating-pleas-show-child-poverty-and-covid-colliding-to-create-an-unimaginable-time-for-countrys-youngest/2020/12/22/031f88f0-4474-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html) right after reading Allan Sloane’s end of the year retrospective on what he got right and wrong about the business world this past year. The Sloane column highlights the awful disconnect between the stock market and real people’s lives, but he stays up at 30,000 feet while Vargas gets in close enough to the real people to be able to get a sense of the devastation wrought by death, medical bills, and job loss.

Each of the family snapshots Vargas shared touch on different varieties of the same desperation, but what especially got to me were the obligatory comments about how good the children are, how well behaved they are, how selfless they are, as if to prove how deserving they are. To be clear, Vargas was quoting from requests for aid submitted by teachers and case managers, not parents. Here’s part of one example:

“This family is currently grief-stricken. The father passed away from covid-19 two months ago. The mother has not worked outside the home, so in addition to contending with her grief and that of her daughter, she is trying to secure employment and child care to keep the family together financially. The daughter is sweet, social, and well-behaved. She is very distraught about the loss of her father….”

Of course the daughter being “sweet, social, and well-behaved” is probably helpful to her mother if it’s true at least some of the time, but would she be any less deserving if she were angry, ill-tempered, and had reverted to thumb-sucking because she’s so anxious and can’t self-soothe otherwise? Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive, but I’m sick of poor children being characterized as though they’re saints and not real children, especially now when so many of their worlds have been shredded.

May all children be safe.
May we be willing to prioritize children’s well-being.
May we stop buying into the trickle down fantasy that only strengthens the 1%.
May we accept that all children are deserving, sweet- and ill-tempered alike.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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