Life and Health

“Dear Theodosia” – Parents Never Change

I’m hoping there won’t be any spoilers in this post at this point but if you haven’t seen Hamilton by now then you probably won’t ever see it so you don’t care. Also, since it’s based on historical events (with some creative liberty) there really isn’t much that you couldn’t find out just by searching Alexander Hamilton.

Aaron Burr (sir) acts as a narrator and dramatic foil to Alexander Hamilton’s character throughout the story. There is one particularly touching moment where the war is over and both Burr and Hamilton have become fathers and they sing a beautiful duet called “Dear Theodosia”:

Provided to YouTube by Atlantic Records
Dear Theodosia · Leslie Odom Jr. · Lin-Manuel Miranda
Hamilton
℗ 2015 Hamilton Uptown, LLC under exclusive license to Atlantic Recording Corporation

The Munchkin is a huge fan of Hamilton and this song in particular because they “are singing to their babies!” so there is often a request for Hamilton and “the one where they’re singing to their babies”. The song is about the kind of fathers they want to be and the kind of world they want their children to grow up in.

One day we were driving home from somewhere and we got to this point in the soundtrack and I started to tear up as I was driving. And it got me thinking about this song and being a parent and how we’ll “make it safe for you.”

I have no idea at what point in his life Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote this song because I know he has sons now but the ability to write this beautiful song is a testament to the universality of parent hood.

At it’s essence “Dear Theodosia” is a love song from parents to their children. The song is all about how the parents (Burr and Hamilton) want to be around and do what’s best for their children (Theodosia and Phillip, respectively). Even though as parents we’ll “make a million mistakes” we’re still going to try our hardest to give our children the best life possible.

This song was written by a contemporary New York man, trying to put words into the mouth of war time survivors in the late 1700s that brought this modern day woman and mom to tears just speaks to the universal love parents have for their children. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of issues within families but I believe that most parents want to do what’s best given the tools that they have.

As a species, we’ve been having babies for hundreds of thousands of years (approximately 315,000 years with current evidence) and if you’ve spend any time around an infant you know they are utterly helpless; they are that way and stay that way longer for evolutionary purposes. The longer they stay children, the longer their brains have to develop and can learn (it’s called paedomorphosis or neoteny). This helplessness and our connections to these helpless babies create situations where our babies are cared for so they can grow and learn to be more than we are.

(Almost) Every parent wants what is best for their children and we just happen to be at different stages and levels of the learning curve to make that happen. Cutting each other down or judging each other makes everything that much harder; this may have been the one time in the story that Hamilton and Burr actually agreed on anything and stopped antagonizing each other. Burr spent most of his time “lying in wait” trying to figure out what was the right step so he didn’t disappoint his (dead) family’s legacy whereas Hamilton keeps charging full steam ahead as a loud mouthed rabbel-rouser traking to make a name for himself. Yet when it comes to their children there is a moment in the show where the two men are on the same page.

Being a parent is tough, being a parent in 2020 is a constant uphill climb, but “Dear Theodosia” reminds us that we’re all just trying to do our best job. In many ways, that plight has changed very little in 315,000 years or in almost 300 years since Hamilton’s time. Yes, there are more distractions and more “rules” and more of everything that can get in the way but the bottom line is that we love our kids and want to create the best world possible for them. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of parenting for thousands of years so there’s no reason to think we can’t keep doing this in the 21st century. We have some killer parenting instincts because if we didn’t our species would have been gobbled up by whatever were the prehistoric lions on the African continent.

As we move into a very contentious election week here in the United States and forward into the 21st century we need to remember that we’re all trying to do the best we can with what we have. Some people are at a different place on the path of life but we won’t convince anyone through attacks. If we listen to our hearts and have a little compassion we’ll get through this. If we could all get to the point of Burr by the end of the show:

I was too young and blind to see
I should’ve known, I should’ve known
The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me
The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me

The world is wide enough if we just make space at the table and recognize that we are all part of the human tribe instead of the categories we like to put ourselves and others into. These differences are what make us strong and what has made us able to conquer the globe. The love of parents transcend thousands of years to allow children the time to grow and learn. Without that parental love, without the time to spend as children we probably wouldn’t be the advanced civilization you see today. We have been told by algorithms (if you haven’t already I highly recommend The Social Dilemma on Netflix) that “they” are bad. Whoever “they” might be to you but take a look around you. You probably come in contact with many “they” in your life and they aren’t bad; they’re just humans like you and I. But you can lump the nameless “they” into a group while making sure you exclude the “they” you personally know because they’re not the same as “they” are. We’ve been divided into tribes, into factions, into Hamiltons or Burrs and instead of looking for the strengths in those differences we’ve taken those differences as attacks. Don’t let computer algorithms decide for you, remember that Hamilton and Burr both wanted to be good parents. Who knows, had Hamilton and Burr looked at each other in that moment and recognized their sameness maybe Burr wouldn’t be the villain in our history?

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