First, let me say how proud I am of you. You have an unflinching sense of fairness. You think everyone is beautifully equal. Of course, that has led to problems when you don’t quite understand when someone might need an extra boost.
Second, you are not the child I envisioned when I imagined becoming a parent. I often imagined I’d have a daughter I’d raise to be feisty, smart, and generally pretty kick ass. I pictured conversations about being strong and smart and brave and kind and funny and dreaming big dreams. I couldn’t wait to do that. And then you came along…my son. What I didn’t know all those years ago was that I’d still get to have those conversations with you; there’d just be a different spin on them.
Before you were even born, I joked that our family was going to be our own little social experiment. With two moms, you would see an equal partnership with no rigid gender roles. We’d offer you baby dolls and trucks, sparkly purses and building blocks with which to play. We’d let you know that it was ok to feel your feelings. You would learn to support and not feel threatened by girls’ and women’s equality, and be as much of a feminist as a boy can be. For the most part, this has worked. In your world, there aren’t rigid gender roles. As a boy, you get to feel just as deeply as girls. You see your friends who are girls get to be as tough, and rough and tumble as your friends who are boys. Your favorite color can be pink, or bright pink, which is actually your third favorite color right now after orange (mama’s favorite color) and green (my favorite color). Life moves merrily along, right?
Enter Mother Nature. Much of what you know beyond what mama and I have taught you, you’ve learned from observing nature. At age 6, you are a virtual encyclopedia of information about the animal kingdom. That’s great…until it comes to human interaction. For instance, one of your favorite games earlier this year was pretending to be a predator stalking your prey. After my initial thought of, “Seriously, kid!?! Where did I go wrong?” we talked. You were baffled when I explained that stalking doesn’t translate well to human relationships–that it’s very real and very scary, and even though animals do it to survive, people aren’t supposed to.
You challenge my perceptions of the world on a daily basis. I used to see things in black and white, but now there are so many shades of grey…and bright pink and orange and green! It’s no longer “Girls Rock!” and that’s that. Boys can rock, too. Like you, they can be smart, kind, empathetic, empowering, inquisitive, shy, brave, hilarious, sensitive, and lots and lots of other things.
Sometimes I feel like I put too much pressure on you to be the kid who speaks up when you see something that’s not fair or right. Maybe that’s true, but you are brave enough to have a voice now, and I hope you never lose it. I hope I’m laying the foundation for you to grow to be a good man who does not say he supports equality and justice, and then turns his back to benefit from inequality and injustice through access to education, resources, and employment. I want you to be more than that. I want you to be a good man, a good friend/boyfriend/partner/husband/parent or any other role you choose to take on one day. And, I wish I were sending you out into the word beyond our home each day knowing that the lessons that we work so hard to teach you at home were being reinforced by your teachers through their actions and teaching. I have no doubt that they do the best they can, but they need support and empowerment in that work, too, to challenge those things that create fertile soil for toxic behaviors to bloom, especially when it’s hard.
There are many days that I honestly wish I didn’t have to raise you to be a feminist. I wish I could raise you to be a humanist, but we’re just not there yet.
This letter was inspired by an article that reinforces the roles school policies, organizational practices and a teacher’s role in supporting the complexities of our youth. Click here for the article.