It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood (2015)
OUR JOB AS PARENTS
“Ewww. Don’t do it, Patrick. Don’t do it. Dogs pee here.” A woman was giving my husband a hard time because our eight-month-old son had just dropped his banana on the ground. Patrick picked it up, licked it, and was handing it back to our boy. Seamus scarfed it down. A minute or two later, he was grunting for more.
“If we threw away everything this child dropped,” I said with just a hint of heat, “he would be skin and bones. We do this kind of thing all the time. As you can see, he is the picture of health.”
Seamus is fat and happy, alert and engaged, and he has seven teeth. Going anywhere with this kid requires constant chitchat with admiring strangers. I don’t want my kid to eat dog pee, for sure. But I also don’t want him to live in a hermetic bubble of germophobia. I do not wipe down the carts with sanitizer at the supermarket. I do not bathe him every day—it is a twenty-minute wrestling match that I usually lose so I save it for special occasions. I do not scrub his toys every time they fall on the floor. For the most part, I just brush them off and hand them back to him. I do try to keep him from eating too much sand, dirt, grass, and leaves. But he is a curious child and encounters the world with his hands and mouth first.
He likes sitting on our lawn, which is great because he and I are in charge of the mowing with one of those push power mowers that requires constant stick removal. He also likes exploring the ground at the community garden since there are lots of wood chips and dirt to taste. Through all of this, I watch him carefully and rescue him when he runs into trouble.
But I do not freak out every time he puts something “dirty” in his mouth. I have learned from more seasoned parents that this just causes stress and makes moms and kids grumpy. I am also finding out that the more Seamus is exposed to now, the healthier he is likely to be as he gets older.
Dr. Thom McDade, who directs the Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University, found that children who were exposed to more animal feces and had more cases of diarrhea before the age of two had less incidence of inflammation in the body as they grew into adulthood. These inflammations have been linked to chronic adulthood problems like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. As Dr. McDade says, “Microbial exposures early in life may be important…to keep inflammation in check in adulthood.” It is called the hygiene hypothesis and it is gathering credence amongst health professionals.
In a recent Swedish study, researchers found that early exposure to parents’ saliva may help stimulate a baby’s immune system, and that could mean a lower risk of developing eczema, asthma, and sensitivities to certain allergens. They looked at parents who lick the baby’s pacifier to clean it rather than washing it with soap or sanitizing it.
Of course I want to protect Seamus from what is dirty. But I am not all that concerned about the spectral dog pee lurking on the ground where bananas and toys may fall. I want to protect him from prejudice, from racism, from hatred—from the real dirty underside of life. I once listened to a segment of Snap Judgment on NPR where the host, Glynn Washington, described moving with his family from Detroit to rural Michigan when he was a little boy. On the first day of school, he got on the bus. A hush fell over the other kids: “See, we were the only black folk for miles around.”
He tried to sit in the first open seat, but a “tow-headed boy spit on the seat, right where I was going to sit. I kept walking down the aisle and every open seat had spit on it, daring me to sit in it.” He finally found a seat at the very back, next to a little girl who silently moved her backpack to the floor to make room for him. They sat together every day after that.
He kept sitting in the back with the girl, Mary Jo. One day she got on the bus smelling awful. It was winter and her family’s pipes had frozen, so she could not shower after doing her farm chores. She masked her unwashed body smell with perfume and when she got on the bus, the whole bus erupted, screaming about how bad she stank. Washington called it the odor of “rotting flowers pressed on top of barn filth.”
At first, he wished that she would sit somewhere else. Then he was ashamed, recalling how she had been the only one who accepted him at all. He moved his backpack to the floor and Mary Jo sat down reeking of perfume and chores. They talked for the first time that day—chatting all the way to school. I cried into the sink thinking about how mean kids can be. I also cried into the sink thinking about how kids can rise above it all and be so kind and generous.
Where would Seamus have fit into this story? Would he be a spitter? Would he rail against his classmates’ prejudice and racism, calling them out, calling them to something better? Or would he be the one to silently move his backpack to the floor? Would he be compassionate and accepting? Would he be brave and principled?
Glynn Washington is probably in his mid-forties now. Racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, and good old-fashioned ignorance have not disappeared from the playgrounds and yellow buses of the United States. Isn’t protecting our kids from the disease of hate and violence more important than sanitizing their toys?
In middle school, I volunteered in the school library. One day, I stayed after school to shelve some books. The whole building was quiet, but it was not empty. On my way to the bathroom, I was stopped by an older girl. Like most of the kids I grew up with, she was black. I didn’t know her. But she grabbed my stocking cap off my head and spit in it. I had not done anything to make her mad. My whiteness might have provoked her. Maybe it was easier for her to be mad at me than at something big and scary and wrong in her own life. I have no idea. But she was mad. So she hocked a loogie in my hat and then shoved it in my face. I resisted the urge to cry. I went back to the library, collected my things, and went home. She was so angry. She was itching for a fight. What did she do when I took that away from her? Did she find someone else? I went home and told my parents. They gave me sympathy, compassion, and a lesson in the corrosive effects of rage and powerlessness. They had never met this girl and did not know her particular circumstances, but they probably did a really good job of explaining where her hatred and rage came from and reassured me that not reacting—not lashing back at her in anger and hurt—was a strong and nonviolent reaction.
“To those to whom much has been given,” my dad intoned, “much will be expected. You are so blessed. You are loved and cared for and you live in a good, safe home. And you need to be generous with others who don’t have all those benefits. In this instance, what is expected of you is compassion. You can take what she has to dish out. It does not have to hurt you.”
Our dad was a pacifist, but a big burly one with five older brothers and a handful of medals from the killing fields of France during WWII. No one was stealing his bike or spitting in his hat. Our mom is a pacifist too. Of course she would turn the other cheek, but you would have to be nuts to make her do it. I spent the next few weeks skittering through the halls and peering around corners, hoping that the girl had gotten herself expelled. I did not suffer any long-term psychological scarring from the loogie in my hat. I did stop wearing hats so much. I had pretty much forgotten about this entire episode until I watched Bully, the 2011 documentary film that follows five kids who are routinely bullied. Two of the kids committed suicide after suffering years of abuse at the hands of their peers. When the film was first released, it was rated R because of the terrible language that the kids used while talking to one another, meaning that those same kids could not have seen their foul mouthed selves on the big screen in the theater.
It was so hard to watch. Seamus, ten months old at the time, lay asleep on my lap through much of the film, as kids hit, mocked, poked, strangled, punched, and threatened other kids who didn’t fit in because of their looks, race, or sexuality. Seamus is already strong and determined. Will he grow up bullied or become a bully? Or neither? Or both?
Besides the loogie in the hat incident, I was not bullied as a kid. I was hassled and mocked and ganked (when big kids steal from little kids). Once a boy asked me what time it was and when I stopped to tell him, he ganked my Walkman. These were not personal attacks and they were not hateful. It was almost natural, the way lions eat gazelles, weeds choke out lettuce, or Starbucks supplants the local coffee shop. They were just bigger, stronger kids wanting something and taking it.
As a boy, my brother suffered a little bit more. Sometimes, he got hit for no reason, mostly by people he did not even know. While he waited for the bus one day, a car full of guys pulled up to the curb. A boy who was smaller than Jerry got out of the back seat, ran at Jerry, and punched him in the face. Then the kid climbed back in the car and it pulled away in a squeal of tires and a whoop of dangerous elation. Jerry told me that as a kid he had a few deep fears—the bomb and the Pentagon and people who acted out their anger at the world. “Dad’s guidance was helpful here. He didn’t ever make me feel like I deserved such treatment, he was clearly sorry that it had happened, and he didn’t act as if his concern was actually going to solve anything, which it didn’t. It was my cross to bear, and I had to bear it. He couldn’t do it for me.”
Perhaps in response, Jerry got bigger and stronger and more imposing and more gentle all at once.
My favorite “getting ganked” story involves a hat (when you cut your own hair, as I did throughout middle school, hats do come in handy). My brother and I rode our bikes to the school playground on a Saturday. Somehow we had cobbled together enough money to buy a can of Pringles potato chips and were riding around eating them. These older boys showed up and chatted us up. And they pulled our bikes out of our hands and rode away on them.
As the boys rode away, I pulled off my hat and yelled in frustration—I might have said something like, “Not again!” And then all of a sudden the boys were coming back. One of them looked at me carefully. “You a girl?” he asked.
“Yep,” I replied, wondering where this was headed.
“We don’t steal from girls,” he said. Then he and the other boy handed us back our bikes.
“She your sister?” he asked Jerry. “You shouldn’t let people steal from her, you should protect her.”
The thought that Jerry should be protecting me had never occurred to either of us. Hmm. We shared our Pringles, chatted about this and that, and then the boys went off. Jerry and I could hardly believe our good luck. We lived to ride another day!
Nonviolence means more than not being violent. It means more than being meek and turning the other cheek. Being nonviolent means digging for the root causes of behaviors, policies, and attitudes. It means understanding, addressing, changing, resisting, and converting. All of that begins with asking why.
But that is not enough. Watching the film Bully, I was struck by the helplessness of the adults—the parents, heartbroken and angry; the administrators, cautious, equivocal, and overwhelmed; the police, ready to lock someone up. It is so easy for everyone to cast blame—parents blame schools, schools blame parents, and everyone blames the media and video games.
What is the answer? Smaller, better-funded schools for one, where kids don’t get lost and aren’t invisible, where teachers and administrators are accountable. We also need more involved parents, which means a living wage and fair working conditions for all. Daily anti-violence and conflict resolution education in schools would also help, by providing a bulwark against the violence endemic to our culture, giving kids the tools to articulate their feelings and resolve problems as they arise.
Of course, all of these common-sense responses come down to resources. But maybe, if we disarm the biggest bully on the block, the military-industrial complex, we will have the money we need to de-bully our schools.
Once, when Patrick was a kid, he and all his friends were sitting under a big table in a circle. They were talking in emphatic and verbose gibberish—each taking a turn and getting more and more animated as they went along. Finally, one of the adults had to ask, “What are you kids doing?” “We are having a meeting,” one of the kids declared with that no-duh kind of voice that they perfect at such a young age. I read not too long ago that if kids get to see their parents at work, they will mimic that work in their play, as Patrick and the play-group kids did. It is evolutionary. Since the dawn of time, kids have learned how to hunt, forage, farm, and worship by playing. They try on different roles within family and society through their play and learn how to navigate the world.
When we were little, my brother and I played “Protester.” We would fill baby bottles with water (the water was pretend blood), close the massive front door of our house, eye it from the bottom of the stairs, and then run up as we unscrewed the bottle, closed our eyes, and flung our water at the highest part of the door, while loudly decrying war and militarism. The other sibling would play the part of the police officer, wrestling the “protester” to the ground—which was tricky on our marble front steps—and carting them off to the paddy wagon. If the game was good, the protester would continue to testify throughout the arrest, maintaining a noble and nonviolent dignity during the police manhandling. But most of the time the game devolved into simple, plotless, unredemptive roughhousing.
Other times we would dump ashes that we had gathered from our woodstove. It was harder to throw ashes than the adult protesters at the Pentagon made it look. You had to get the ashes out of the bag smoothly (hard) and fling them just right (harder). If you did it wrong, it was neither haunting nor evocative—it was just a pile of ashes on the steps. Either way, it was a pain to clean up, so we only used ashes occasionally.
We learned these games from watching our mom and dad, friends, and community members mark the Pentagon with blood and get arrested so often growing up. We had doctor friends who took blood from anyone who was willing to give it and then we stowed it in the freezer alongside the ice cubes and frozen, concentrated orange juice. The blood was supposed to remind the workers of the Pentagon that even though they went to work in clean, antiseptic offices every day, the work they did shed blood all over the world. Often, they walked right through the blood on their way to work, tracking brown stains down the hall.
The ashes were used to remind the workers of the people turned to ash in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the United States dropped nuclear weapons in 1945. The bombs incinerated tens of thousands in an instant.
The pillars of the Pentagon are made of white marble. The blood, thrown from a plastic baby bottle, splashed bright and red and nearly indelible, soaking into the cracks of the stone like water into a sponge. The workers would spray bleach and water and soap, and scrub with long-handled brushes. They had a whole team of people tasked with protest cleanup. They wore green jumpsuits. I remember that one of the men on the team only had one arm and he would pin his arm flap to his shoulder, giving him a sort of lopsided, martial look.
They were grim in the face of their task. After the AIDS crisis struck, they also wore hazmat suits complete with booties and head gear. Sometimes protesters would try and block them from cleaning up, chanting, “You can’t wash the blood away.” But the blood always got washed away, and it made me uncomfortable that we were most often pitted against the janitors instead of the generals.
When the police knew we were coming to protest, they wrapped the pillar in plastic. It was unsightly and probably a lot of work, but it protected the pristine marble from being marred and stained by blood. Over the years, the pillars got marginally thinner, worn down by so much blood splashing and spray painting, so much power washing and scrubbing. This was seen as a minor victory. We were making an impact! Like drops of water carving rocks over millennia, we were changing the Pentagon with our actions and our presence. Eventually, however, they treated the marble with some sort of polymer that made it easier for the maintenance workers to clean the blood and paint off.
Blood and ash. Basically, we made a big mess. I don’t remember if we just outgrew our game or if our folks got tired of the spectacle and mess, but we stopped playing Protester at some point. That kind of protesting at the Pentagon also came to an end. Not even the most intrepid protester can get anywhere near the Riverside entrance to the Pentagon anymore. The redesign of the whole Pentagon complex after the destruction on September 11, 2001 makes most of the building unapproachable to all but workers with IDs. I think our game reflected our parents’ and friends’ seriousness about their work. But by switching back and forth between protester and police, we each got to experience the affrontedness and exasperation of one side as well as the outrage and rectitude of the other. The game did not make me want to throw blood at the Pentagon, and it also did not make me want to arrest people.
And now I am forty and I haven’t done either of those things, but I have risked a lot for peace and justice. Not as often or as intensely as my mom and dad, and not since I have had kids, but I have been a brazen lawbreaker within the context of community.
In 2005, I helped to establish Witness Against Torture when twenty-five of us flew to Cuba with the hope of gaining access to Guantánamo Bay, the U.S. naval base where more than seven hundred men, called “enemy combatants” by our government, were then detained. We were only taking up an invitation that President George W. Bush made to European Union leaders in response to allegations of torture and human rights abuses there. “You’re welcome to go down yourselves…and tak[e] a look at the conditions,” Bush said.
So we did. The naval base authorities denied our requests for entry and so we fasted and vigiled for five days, before returning home to organize a movement to shut down Guantánamo, and to end torture and indefinite detention. The first “unlawful enemy combatants” arrived at Guantánamo on January 11, 2002. The American people have since learned the truth—the vast majority of these men were not the “worst of the worst,” as Bush administration officials claimed. They were chicken farmers, illiterate tribesmen, and well-traveled, well-meaning students: 93 percent of the men at Guantánamo were captured by bounty hunters or allied governments such as Pakistan and handed over to U.S. forces, according to a study by Mark Denbeaux, a professor at Seton Hall Law School.
Our walk began in Santiago de Cuba on December 7 and over five days we walked about seventy miles, camping on the side of the road at night. Sometimes we walked in silence, meditating on the stories of prisoners in Guantánamo. I walked, thinking about Mohamed and Murat, two teenagers who were inside Guantánamo.
Mohamed el Gharani was fourteen when he was arrested in an October 2001 raid on a religious school in Pakistan. Transferred to Guantánamo a few months later, he was subjected to routine abuse. According to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, the Chad-born teenager had been singled out for mistreatment because he vocally objected to being called “nigger.” Mohamed is not the only juvenile imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. There were thirteen other young men who came to Guantánamo as teenagers. El Gharani was repatriated to Chad in 2009.
Murat Kurnaz was born to a Turkish family in Bremen, Germany. After September 11, he traveled to learn more about Islam in Pakistan, where he was arrested. He was eventually sent to Guantánamo. As the son of “guest workers,” Kurnaz does not have German citizenship, even though he was born there. For a long time, Turkish officials maintained that Kurnaz was German and therefore not their problem. Even after conceding their responsibility, Ankara did not pressure Washington to release Kurnaz. His mother begged “for a sign that my son is alive, that he is being treated justly, that he has not been tortured.” Kurnaz was released on August 24, 2006. Like other released Guantánamo captives, he was transported by plane in shackles, wearing a muzzle, opaque goggles, and sound-blocking earmuffs. He was reported to have been denied food and water during the seventeen-hour flight. He now lives with his parents in Germany and has a desk job, which he enjoys. He says he does not hold ordinary Americans responsible for the abuse he endured.
Inside the huge base, which straddles both sides of Guantánamo Bay, is Cuba’s only McDonald’s, state-of-the-art recreation and sports facilities for American soldiers and their families, two airstrips, and a desalinization plant, because Cuba cut off the base’s water supply. Also somewhere in the far-flung slice of strip mall Americana were Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp Iguana, and Camp V, where Murat, Mohammed, and five hundred other men were imprisoned.
We set up our camp along the Cuba fence, five miles from the prison, closer than Mohamed’s father or Murat’s mother have been to their sons in years. The dust and scrub brush next to the fence was our home for the next five days as we prayed and fasted.
Our principal aim in going to Guantánamo was to let the prisoners know that they were not alone. Despite the reflexive fear that Americans have toward those held in Guantánamo, coverage of our witness in the U.S. press was positive and extensive. Our march received widespread attention in the international press, including Arabic-language outlets. A network of lawyers representing the prisoners brought news of our proximity and solidarity to the men. They knew we had tried, and are still trying.
There are so many issues, so many injustices, so many transgressions that tug at the heartstrings and the conscience, and there is only so much time, only so much energy. I am haunted by the families shattered by indefinite detention. I am undone by the fact that they suffer for our “security.” I do what I can because I cannot sit idly by while children are kept from their fathers.
Even before I really understood time, I always knew that my mom and dad would come home from jail. It was not forever. It was not endless. Six months, eighteen months, two years, even the longest sentences had a “come-home date.” And there was always someone in the community who could figure out what an eighteen-month federal sentence actually meant: time off for good behavior, the newest sentencing guidelines which made every third Friday count for two-and-a-quarter days, whatever. There was always someone who could say, “Look at it this way, eighteen months sounds like a really long time, but your Dad will be home before next Easter.” And they were right. He was always coming home. And so was Mom.
But Faris, Johina, and Michael’s father has not come home. Shaker Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia, but he has lived in the United Kingdom since 1996, where he is a legal resident married to a British citizen. Shaker and his family were in Afghanistan in 2001, doing charity work before he was seized by Afghan bounty hunters and turned over to U.S. forces. He recalled his relief at ending up in American hands after being held and mistreated by various Afghan groups. But that relief was short-lived.
He was brought to Guantánamo in February 2002. Shaker was tortured repeatedly, singled out as a ringleader, and subjected to gross abuses. Shaker Aamer has been cleared for release since June 2007 and the Bush and Obama administrations agreed that he is not a terrorist, that he poses no threat to the United States or its interests, and yet he continues to languish at the prison.
When I first started learning about Guantánamo, one of the things that struck me was how letters in and out of the prison are read and censored. Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian who spent more than seven years at Guantánamo, wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 2012 that “During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone. Most of their letters were returned as ‘undeliverable,’ and the few that I received were so thoroughly and thoughtlessly censored that their messages of love and support were lost.” I still have so many letters from my dad. When I miss him, all I need to do is open up a green box that sits above my desk and hold a small piece of him in my hand—slips of yellow legal pad (usually a quarter sheet), his handwriting neat and legible with a spidery slant, his voice still so alive. I know that envelopes in and out of jails and prisons in the United States are subjected to search and could be read, but his letters were never altered.
When he was in prison, my mom received a letter from him every day. Their correspondence was so steady that even the smallest blip was cause for alarm. After September 11, she went days without hearing from him. After being stonewalled by the prison officials, Mom appealed to Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who eventually found out that Dad was being held incommunicado in solitary confinement. He was placed there on September 11, right before lunch. The Senator’s office was told that he was put in the hole for his own protection. He was released back into general population after ten days.
He was not the only one. Across the United States, as most of the country was reeling and searching for answers, wardens were isolating their leftist and militant prisoners—Black Liberation Army members, Puerto Rican independentistas, perhaps as many as ten or fifteen people around the country. No calls, no letters, no visits. In each case, it was only because friends and family noticed a change in their normal patterns of communication and started agitating for answers that they were placed back in general population again, usually after a few weeks. Without that outside pressure, that solitary confinement could have been indefinite.
As Anne-Marie Cusac wrote in The Progressive, the actions of my dad’s warden in rural Ohio and of wardens elsewhere were codified in new regulations from the Bureau of Prisons soon after September 11. These regulations authorize the Bureau of Prisons to hold an inmate incommunicado for a “period of time designated by the Director [of the Bureau of Prisons], up to one year.” In the past, the term was only 120 days (which sounds long enough indeed). In addition, “The rule also allows for the Director to extend the period for the special administrative measures for additional one-year periods, based on subsequent certifications from the head of an intelligence agency.” I remember those days of uncertainty and anxiety as my mom frantically tried to figure out what happened to Dad. I remember the relief that came with knowing for sure what had happened. I remember how the relief was quickly replaced by outrage. For his own protection? He was in no danger. He was in a position to help other inmates understand and process the horror they were watching on rec room TV screens, to contextualize and explain and educate. So was Marilyn Buck, Comancho Negron, Sundiata Acoli, and others who were isolated and silenced. Maybe the prison industrial complex sought protection from an informed and motivated population.
We only had to wait ten days, but we had a U.S. Senator and her office on our side. Ten days, not ten years, not twelve years, not forever.
When I stay up too late working on a press release, when the last thing I want to do is brainstorm ideas for the next action, when I am hungry and delirious on day two of a ten-or twelve-day fast, when I spend the night on the hard and grubby floor of a police holding cell, when the handcuffs are too tight, when the orange jumpsuit is too unflattering or too hot or too cold or too stinky from the last person who wore it, when the last thing I want to do is go to another demonstration to close Guantánamo, I think about those ten days our family spent working to get my Dad out of the hole, I think about how precious that first letter after the long silence was, I think about how happy I was to hear his voice on the phone, I think about how even when he was incommunicado, he was always coming home. And I want that for Faris and Johina and all the parents and children of Guantánamo.
It has been many years now since I walked to Guantánamo with twenty-four friends. At the time, there were a number of parents on our walk, but they had kids who are older, in high school or college. Since then our little community of walkers has experienced a population boom—at least fourteen children have been born since then. Now the Guantánamo demonstrations are trailed by a deployment of strollers and straggling toddlers and young kids.
That is where you’ll find Patrick, our children, and me. We are not on the front lines with the banners and bullhorns and barricades.
When the Obama administration threatened Syria with war, friends gathered at a busy intersection in downtown New London. Less than a dozen people were there with signs that read: “Two Wrongs Don’t Equal a Right,” “No War on Syria,” “Peace.” It wasn’t much, but it was enough to provoke lots of honks and thumbs up and a handful of “War is necessary,” “Get a job,” and “$#%& you.”
Seamus and Rosena and I walked down to join the protests, mostly because it was the right thing to do but also because their grandparents were planning on being there and everyone was excited to see one another. We upped the numbers by a third. Rosena held a sign, flashed the peace sign, asked a lot of questions, and kept her little brother from falling off a monument. I really don’t want the United States to bomb Syria. I really don’t want the Assad regime to gas and repress its citizens, and I really don’t want people to die at the DC Navy Yard or at an elementary school in Newtown, CT or anywhere else. None of this suffering, tragedy, and violence stops because we hold signs at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown New London, CT. But it feels better than doing nothing.
There is the famous and somewhat apocryphal story about how pacifist A. J. Muste stood in front of the White House one night as part of a regular anti-war vigil when the rain and cold kept everyone else away. He was completely alone. A reporter came up to him and asked how he thought he could change the world with his solitary protest. Muste responded: “Oh no. I don’t do this to change the world; I do this so that the world won’t change me.” I do this so the world won’t change me. And so the world won’t change my kids. Patrick and I want our kids to read the newspaper and not despair. We want them to take moral cheerfulness to the next level. We want them to be joyful though they have considered all the facts. Madeline and Seamus and Rosena are already making New London and the world a better place with their infectious laughter, their bright colors, and their indiscriminate affection.
Our job as their parents is to help them continue this work of personal and societal transformation while they grow, lose, and grow again teeth, while they learn to say “mama and dada,” and “please” and “thank you,” and “NoNoNoNo,” while they skin their knees and bruise their shins and eventually break their hearts and fall in and out and in love again.