Dressing up for the future

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by Deb Pleasants • “Mom, is it okay if I play dress up?”

From the time he could talk, my son has always had an active imagination, replete with several imaginary friends to keep him company. That hadn’t changed just because Jaden was in third grade. If anything, it had become more elaborate.

A Mother’s Eye is the blog of Deb Pleasants, a stay-at-home-mom (mother of four) who moonlights as a freelance writer and citizen journalist. Her short stories, essays and poems can be found on her blog

“What did you want to wear?”

He pointed to a navy blue suit hanging in his closet, his First Communion suit. We were saving it for another special occasion such as a wedding or—God forbid—a funeral; however, for nearly a year it had sat in his closet gathering dust. In all likelihood, he would outgrow it before he would wear it again. Still, I hated the idea of it getting dirty or stained.

“Why do you want to wear your suit?” I asked.

“I want to dress like Barack Obama.”

Without hesitation, I told him he could wear his suit. A smile radiated across my face when I looked at him in the suit because he really did looked like a pint-sized Barack Obama (with curlier hair).

Three days earlier was the big day—Inauguration Day. I wanted to go to DC. I wanted my face to be part of that sea of smiling faces. I wanted to take my eight-year-old son so together we could witness history. Yes, I had hoped to be there. However, the idea quickly lost its appeal once I realized we would travel over 1000 miles (by bus) just to stand outside in the shivering cold for hours, between a jumbotron and a row of port-a-potties.

I opted instead for a more rational way to mark the occasion. First, I kept my son home from school on that day—his first missed day all school year. Together we went to the Riverview Theater in south Minneapolis. After standing outside for 45 minutes in temperatures similar to our nation’s capital, we joined 700 other people inside to watch the Inauguration on the big screen. Jaden sat in the seat with his eyes transfixed on the movie screen while eating real-buttered popcorn. He cheered when the Obama family came on camera and gave a standing ovation when Barack took the oath. When we left I felt like we were just as much a part of history as anyone in the DC crowd.

At the time, I had hoped I was creating a lasting memory for my son, a story he would share with his children someday. Now three days later, I could see I had achieved far more. The simple act of wanting to dress up in a suit told me he now aspired someday to be president, like Barack Obama.

Later that same day, my son’s friend came over to play. Jaden again wanted to be the president. I suggested his friend could be Vice-President Joe Biden. At that moment, I realized how close this picture was to the reality, for my son is biracial and his friend is white.

As I watched Jaden’s imagination soar, I wondered: Was this type of fantasy play even possible when I was his age, forty years earlier? I think not. I seriously doubt it was a consideration for many minority children even twenty years ago. However, 2009 is the year when things changed, for it is the year the first African American became president. In my son’s mind, and to a certain extent even in mine, all things are possible.

President Obama inspired millions of people of all ages and hues to believe again in America’s greatness. My hope is that he will be a successful president, partly because his success is inextricably linked to our nation’s success. However, also because the hopes and dreams of so many young Jadens rest on his shoulders.

Jaden is a self-confident (sometimes overly confident) boy with high ambitions. The son of two introverts, once a stranger asked if he was shy. He looked in her eyes and assuredly told her, “No.” He is a leader. He already can see himself growing up and becoming president. And now, so can I.

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