Me: (walking to the kitchen to get coffee, eyes not yet open)
Hank: Happy Birthday, mom!
Me: Thank you, buddy.
Hank: Good morning! I am so glad it’s your birthday.
Me: Me, too.
Hank: Are you being sarcastic.
Me: Not at all! I love my birthday; one more trip around the sun.
Hank: You’re 38!
Me: Indeed, isn’t it wonderful!
Hank: I love that you love your birthday so much. Some moms don’t like getting older.
Me: Yes, but I am not some moms. (inhaling my coffee) I am grateful to age. Unfortunately, I have many friends that will never have the opportunity to be 38. I am so very lucky to live this life every single day and my birthday is the day I get to love my life out loud and celebrate how awesome it is to be me!
Hank: I didn’t know you thought about birthdays that way.
Me: Every day I get to wake up and hang out with you, enjoy this beautiful place where we are fortunate to live, laugh with your sister and be adored by your papa. I have amazing friends and family, my life is rich with creative pursuits and food and and the internet is full of puppy videos and no matter how hard I try I will never be able to read all the books I want to read and see all the places I want to see or all the films or plays, but every year I get a chance to try.
Me: Everyone’s life is hard. Every person has their own struggles and we can’t compare our life to anyone else’s. You only get this one wild and magical life to be you. My life isn’t easy, but it’s worth it and I love it.
Hank: (walking in the house from school, coat and backpack still on) Oh my gawd, mom, you will never believe what happened at school today.
Hank: So I was in the library and this 6th grader who had missed school was in there to take an exam and he cheated on the whole time! Like through the whole test!
Me: Cheated how?
Hank: I saw him. He was googling the answers.
Hank: Normally there is always someone with you when you take a test, but for some reason, I don’t know why he was given the test and left alone so he just used his phone. I mean, I told the librarian, but she said his teacher knew what was going on and not to worry about it, but my friends and I were, like, so upset because that wasn’t right. He should have studied.
Me: Agreed, but Hank, you don’t know the situation. You informed someone of your concerns and that is all you can do.
Hank: I was thinking of speaking to someone else tomorrow. I mean, it isn’t right!
Me: Was the boy physical harming himself or others?
Me: Was he destroying property?
Me: Was he creating an unsafe or disruptive environment?
Me: Was he intentionally spreading a highly contagious communicable disease that could decimate the population?
Me: Hank, you did your policing; you informed an adult and that is all you should do. I know you are a rule follower, but not everyone is like you. In life you will meet people who haven’t earned their place in the world and that isn’t fair, but trust me, that boy will suffer later if he doesn’t know the information on that exam. His laziness will cost him in the future, so there is no need to be a vigilante.
Hank: I just think it is unfair.
Me: Life isn’t fair.
Hank: But (pause)…
Me: Is that boy your friend?
Hank: No, he’s a sixth grader.
Me: All the more reason to not take this further. It isn’t your business, you informed an adult of what you saw and now his cheating is between him and his teacher.
Hank: (frustrated sigh) But why didn’t he just study?
Me: What if he did, but in being left alone he was far too tempted by his access to the internet to prove he knew the material?
Hank: I would never do that. I would never cheat.
Me: And I respect your decision, but no one is asking you to police your school and prosecute wrongdoing. Are you Batman?
Hank: Mom, no.
Me: You did the right thing speaking with the librarian, but you also need to trust the adult you informed to handle the situation further. Only in cases of marginalization, neglect, abuse, violence, impending doom and or natural disaster do you push forward.
Hank: But it’s wrong.
Me: I agree.
Me: Okay, I will tell you a story. A couple of years ago I had to get a blood draw and that blood draw had to be sent to Porto for analysis. It was arranged that I would just pop into the pathology lab at the hospital at the earliest appointment possible and dash in, have my blood drawn and dash out. It was all arranged. So I show up and I am the first one in line, but I didn’t have the same paperwork as the other people waiting in line so they assumed I was cheating and jumping in front of them, but I wasn’t Portugal people with certain illness, diseases and ages get to the front of the line.
Hank: Like babies.
Me: Exactly, but I didn’t look like I fit the criteria to jump the queue so a group of people, men and women, started demanding they see my appointment card and when the techs and I explained the situation and that I had priority because of my RA/AS they didn’t accept our answer and got rowdy and loud and accused me of cheating, saying I was lying and was probably a doctor’s daughter and being given special treatment.
Hank: That is so rude.
Me: Exactly! Then someone went and got a security guard and he got involved and questioned the techs and I again why I was jumping to the front of the line.
Hank: But you weren’t jumping.
Me: Yes, but the people assembled weren’t listening and decided to police the situation to get justice for being the second, third, fourth and fifth people in line instead of simply being one spot higher up the chain. It got so bad that the men that had their blood draws just after mine even walked behind me and insulted my limp and accused me of faking it for sympathy literally all the way home. They followed me to the door of our building loudly heckling me and accusing me of being a liar.
Hank: I think I remember this. You were so upset.
Me: I was and here’s the thing: I wasn’t upset when they raised their concerns in line, but I was mortified when they took their policing of me to the security guard and then to the streets. Even if I was cheating, which I wasn’t, was it all necessary? They had made their poor opinion of me and the situation known, they spoke with staff from the hospital and then with security, but in the end took it too far.
Me: Do you understand what I mean now about being a vigilante? There are a precious few moments in life when it is necessary to interfere, but there are far more small moments where it isn’t and your interference will be more harm than good.
Hank: Okay. I understand what you mean now. I don’t have to like the cheating, but I did what I could and I don’t want to take it too far.
Me: Exactly. Pick your battles, Hank.
Hank: I should save my battles for when I am needed.
Hank: (sitting opposite my on the train home from Porto waiting for departure) This was just the best day. Just the best.
Me: (getting settled for the hour+ train ride home) Buddy, I am so glad.
Hank: I just loved this day so much and I know I sometimes have a bad attitude or get sassy and try and tell you I hate my life, but I don’t, I love my life and I love days like this so much.
Me: Thank you so much for saying so.
Hank: I appreciate so much that you took your afternoon to come with me to Porto Editora (where Hank does voiceover work). Today was really fun and all the people there were great and I wasn’t nervous at all and then buying me a iced mint mocha on the way home AND a trip into Tiger! I mean, I think Tiger is my favorite store and I just had so much fun browsing, no THE WHOLE DAY was fun, from school to having lunch on the train to Porto and talking with the family who shared our seat section! Just the whole day (sigh), thank you, mom.
Me: It was my absolute pleasure.
Hank: OH! And I almost forgot! How was your time in Porto while we worked? Did you have fun with Kylie’s mom.
Me: Who’s name is Rebecca and yes we did, indeed. We went on a bit of a walkabout and found simply the coolest artsy-fartsy Central Commercial with these gigantic sweet gum trees in the courtyard and tons of cool shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants. I can’t wait to go back there. I think it will be my new go-to spot for lunch with friends.
Hank: So we both had the best day?
Me: Yes, I think that is a fair assessment.
Hank: I love that. I am so happy. I am going to remember this day the next time I hate everything.
Me: Life is a mix of ebb and flow, pal. You need a variety of challenges to teach you prospective.
Hank: (digging his headphones out of his bag) Really good motivational advice, mom. You should really consider writing this conversation down for the blog.
Me: (chuckles) Thanks for the suggestion.
Hank: Now, if it’s okay with you I’d like to listen to some music and relax. Are you okay? If you need me I can keep talking with you.
Me: Dive right in, buddy.
Hank: Thanks, mom.
Me: (grinning at his reflection in the window as we pull into the tunnel that leads us out of São Bento train station and towards home.