As I was making one of my numerous trips in an endless cycle of laundry, I chanced to encounter the above note on the floor beneath my feet. It was rather hard to see at first with a large load of laundry before me. I might have taken this scrap for just another odd or end that someone forgot to put away, but something about it attracted my attention. I put the basket to the side. I could soon tell that the note had been planted there in my path. So, I picked it up.
As a teacher, I couldn't help but notice the glaring errors in spelling, but once I made sense of the message in its entirety, I quickly looked beyond. The message posed a basic philosophical question, showing the highest order of thinking skills: "Why do adults have more rights than kids?" The question was followed by a rectangular box, asking for an answer. I knew at once that this note had the fingerprints of my oldest all over it.
At first, I was amused, proud and concerned that a nine-year old would think to ask this question. I thought about some of the first theorists on the idea of human rights. I thought about those who had taken those words and fought to win those rights. I thought about the continuing struggles of people and the necessary expansion of human rights. And, I wondered why the answer box my daughter had left for me was so small.
Then, I wondered why my daughter would pose this question. Had something happened that day that had greater significance than I realized? I had no answer. So, I decided to keep that laundry basket grounded and seek out my daughter.
We sat down and talked, not about the spelling errors or the failure to proofread, although sometime I might drop some subtle hints here; after all, I am a teacher. We talked about rights and responsibilities. And how people gain rights and responsibilities as they mature. We talked about which rights she might want that she currently lacks. She seemed peeved that all she could do was cook scrambled eggs. I thought it interesting that whereas some would see this as a responsibility, she was defining it as a right. I quickly saw that if we could find some middle ground, something short of giving her the car keys, we might find a solution to please both sides. It was a good discussion and, I am sure, one that will need to be revisited many times, with more serious concerns, as she rapidly matures.
I will always hold on to this note. Not just because of the pride it gave me in my little girl, but because it is a reminder to me that there is so much more to educating real people than pure academics or proper spelling. And, it is a constant reminder that the job of a parent is probably the hardest on earth, but that it isn't always easy being a kid either.