This is bonkers, she said finally, looking up. I think you can do it, I replied. When we're driving in the car and the questions are competing with tunes on the radio, and we can't think for the sound around us, we can offer an option: Music or questions? Perhaps, too, we can preempt their Are we there yet? After all, we, as adults, like to know the answers to those questions ourselves. Questioning the status quo is questioning boundaries in progress. When it comes to those more serious questions about death, sex, sexuality, race, homelessness, crime, and the world around us, it does us well to remember that to a child, those questions come from the same place of curiosity as when they wanted to know what noise a cow made. The questions they ask about those topics feel to them no different from the questions they ask about anything else. It's how we react to the questions asked of us and how we craft the answers that matters. Age-appropriate knowledge sometimes comes into play here, and it's a fine art between that and remaining honest in what is an opportunity to broaden their awareness and acceptance of important topics. Help Them Dial In to Their Needs When babies are born, they have a really handy way of expressing that they need something--they cry. It made me feel observed, watched, and judged. I didn't like how that felt, and after her comment, I didn't like her very much, either. I thought I was ugly. I never felt like a pretty little girl. I wasn't a pretty little girl. One time while in Caymen's department store, I was looking at pocketarticles when I heard a sales clerk say, Can I help you, young man? My heart sank to the floor as if it were a cinderblock falling from the sky. I felt raw, exposed, and as if my worst fear had been confirmed.

I was ugly. Not long after that incident, I was standing outside of my house when a hairy, older new kid came strolling down our block. Your to-do list comes first. That's your Monday. Partway is finalizing the trip, including meetings and a possible networking event. Halfway is when you start applying for jobs based on recommendations from the people you meet. You make it sound so easy, Rox said. It's not easy, I replied. But it is doable. Okay, futurist, she said, waving at the screen. I'll text you sometime from the future. The screen went blank. And they cry loudly. We become attuned to the different tones of crying, too; They unashamedly ask for what they want. Something strange happens to us between that phase--when we instinctually express our needs--and when we become adults. Taking what we need and communicating what we need becomes something we're not always confident doing. We've unlearned how to do it along the way. As parents, then, we can look back on our experiences and identify the times our needs went unheeded and when perhaps they were invalidated and silenced. We can reflect on the times we felt heard, seen, and happy, too.

In doing so, we can use those experiences and calibrate how we might parent our children so that they grow to understand the importance of their needs and at the same time respect the needs of others. We can embolden our children to continue to communicate how they are feeling rather than putting words into their mouths. He didn't like the way I looked at him, and so he approached me and said, You got a problem with me? Before I could get a word out, the kid punched me hard in the stomach, and then hit me in the side of the head as I doubled over, clutching my belly. As I lay on the ground, curled up into a ball, with my arms protecting my head, he kicked me once or twice more before deciding to leave me alone. I remember feeling stunned and dazed. It all happened so fast. I hadn't done anything to have him pick on me. I didn't even know who he was. I can still see his face in my mind's eye. His eyebrows were black and bushy, and his facial hair seemed abnormal for a kid of thirteen or fourteen. I was only about eleven at the time, and shaken deeply by his violence toward me. As Promised, a Text from the Future Rox's path to her future was not a short one. Her dream was big, and anything big takes time. Over the next year, I checked in every few months to see how her progress was going. Rox was extremely methodical with the process, connecting with other animation professionals, finding the people who could help her. These people connected her with experts, many of whom generously gave of their time for informational interviews. She went on to discover that Emeryville was just one city in an entire region of the West Coast, from Los Angeles to Portland, where the kind of work she was interested in was being done. As Rox learned more of the ins and outs of the business, she also discovered that animation stretches far from the world of Pixar.

Nearly every shot of most medium- to big-budget movies is touched by an animation or special-effects technician. From fixing little flaws on a film set to adding backgrounds and altering buildings, their input is never-ending. We can help them delve into why they might be angry, sad, worried, overwhelmed, tired, or scared--and to hold space no matter how uncomfortable that may be for them at times. We can assist them in exploring what they need at that point, whether that is some comforting, cognitive tools, reassurance, or action. The opposite is also true: What makes them feel happy, laugh, feel comforted, excited, and supported? Encourage more of that, too. It's healthy to talk about this stuff, to open the door for the vulnerability that so often gets locked away and to do so by leading by example--sharing our experiences with them, talking about how we feel, and why, and making room for our needs. It's not building a snowflake generation to enable dialogue about the power of our emotions; If we want to raise kids to be confident, mentally and physically healthy, resilient, and kind, then we need to teach them how to vocalize so much that goes unsaid and to heed their needs in a world that wants to take so much more from them. Widen Their Awareness We only know what we know. And, as children, we only know what those around us have introduced us to: cultures, people from different walks of life, lifestyles, social causes, hobbies, food, music, adventure, and so on. I lay on the ground until I was sure he was not going to hit me again. Once he was gone, I slowly rose to my feet, and then scurried to my room bewildered, afraid, bleeding from scrapes to my arms and legs. I never told my parents what had happened. I kept it to myself, and hid in my bedroom, listening from the window to the sounds of all the kids on my block playing manhunt in the street. A few hours later my brother Marc came to my room looking for me. I pretended to be busy, not wanting him to know how alone I had been feeling. Lee, did some kid just beat you up? Well, yeah, some kid punched me outside, but I don't know why.

Why are you asking? Because this kid just told me he kicked my brother's ass, and then I said, `I don't have a brother. The lack of immediate gratification didn't bother Rox. I was worried that she might become discouraged or lose motivation. But having a long-term goal and specific steps to take each week and month made the work and the wait more bearable. And it made her less disgruntled about her job--no more dark jokes about no future worth living for. I was pleased to learn that when Rox told her boss at the construction company about her hopes and dreams, as well as the steps she was taking to make them a reality, he was supportive. He said he never really thought I'd stay that long, she told me during a quick check-in chat. He actually said everyone there knew I was destined for something bigger. After her second trip to California, I started to hear less and less from Rox, though her dad assured me things were going well. Then one day he emailed to let me know that Rox had gotten a job--not at Pixar but at a smaller animation studio in Los Angeles. A few months later, I finally got that text from the future. We can sometimes have a narrow view of the world because it's never been extended outward and is made up of the people around us--what they're like, what they do, how they've treated us, and how they treat other people. We wouldn't have extraordinary tennis player Serena Williams if she hadn't at some point picked up a tennis racket and ball and then trained her socks off. The same can be said for humanitarians, actors, musicians, scientists, artists, plumbers, chefs, bakers, graphic designers, writers--all professions. Something, however minute it might have seemed, piqued their interest and they had the space to learn more about it. The world is rich in differences, and it's crucial that we grow up understanding not only that those differences exist, but that it's OK for us to be different from what and who is around us. Fundamentally, though, we're all similar in our inherent needs. Labels are for jars, not people. We're complex, we can be many things all at once, and if we're told something often enough, then we start to believe it.