the nest

the nest

Friday, April 13, 2012

girls and boys and marsupials

Before I had children I was adamant that I was going to treat my girls and boys no differently from each other.  They would all have the same rules, privileges and freedoms and I was prepared to fight anyone who treated them differently.  My boys would be allowed to be soft and gentle and my girls could be tough and strong.
Here's the thing... If you have been raising children, you know that when it comes right down to it, children are who they are almost in spite of us.  We can dress them neutrally, we can insist that they all learn how to clean a bathroom, cook, change a tire and do their own bookkeeping, but we don't determine who they are.  They do.
For all practical purposes, my oldest (and only) boy child is halfway out of the nest.  He is probably out of the nest from his perspective, but I still have a gentle grip.  Not quite ready to completely release him to the world.  As a little one, he was the sweetest, happiest little guy, who loved his mom, dad, books, legos and his baby.  Yes, he nursed his baby when I was nursing his sister.  That's just how you take care of babies, right?  We didn't have guns or weapons of any kind in the house and I let his baby curls get really long.
By the time he was 4 (maybe before) everything was turned into a weapon or a vehicle.  I was sure I had failed as a mother because the influences of the world had taken over my sweet boy.
I know that's not true.  We have our differences and our disagreements.  I know he has and will continue to make choices that I disagree with, but as a whole, he has grown into a sweet, caring, nurturing young man who cares about social justice and loving EVERYONE.  I could not  be more proud of who he is becoming and am excited to follow his journey.
Overall, launching A has not been terribly rough.  Most of the time I trust him and I haven't worried too much about the world - he is well over 6 feet tall, white, male and doesn't make enemies.
Here's where the difference with my girls comes in. 
I still have years to go to prepare them for the world and up to this point (they are almost 16 and 13), they have had many of the same experiences as their brother.  Same rules, chores, privileges, freedoms.  All of a sudden though they are turning into young women.  We have been lucky ~ they are both late bloomers, so some of the challenges that face parents of girls have been delayed for us.  Not anymore.
My middle child, K, has been a dynamo from birth.  We've had no doubt that she will take over the world someday, or at least do great things to make it a better place.  She is an energizer bunny who has no tolerance for hate or evil - much like her brother.
She is also a beautiful young woman.  The challenges that she will face simply because of this make me cringe.  Don't get me wrong ~ Just in my lifetime, the rights and freedoms women experience have exploded!  The journey of women from the 1960's to today is unbelievable.  We have choices available to us that our mother's never dreamed of for themselves, but made possible for us.  The same is true for our girls.  They really can do anything they set their minds to.
Despite the progress made, the playing field is not level.  I worry about them when they are out in a way I never worried about their brother.  I don't trust the world with my sweet, smart girls.  While I struggle not to squash their spirit and vibrancy while teaching them how to be a member of society, the idea that there are many out there who will try to do just that makes me seethe.  They are in more physical danger than their brother, but more so, they are in more emotional and social danger.
The current "war on women" being waged in the media and politics stuns me.  The idea that there are still so many out there who would try to police my daughter's personal choices about motherhood, as well as the latest questioning of whether women really "need" equal pay, boggles my mind!
What kind of CRAP is that?  I have been and will continue to teach my daughter's that they can do and be who they want to be.  They can change the world, while nursing a baby and caring for a family.  Maybe not at the same time, but they can do it.  It will be up to them to determine their path in life; will they choose motherhood, a career outside the home, or both?  Will they do them at the same time or sequentially?  It will be their choice.  I will be there to help clear the way when they need me just like my mom was there to clear the path for me.
While I know that there are forces out there that would try to keep my girls down, I will fight for them. Just like their brother, they have the power to change the world for good and it's my job to fly below them and boost them up when the forces above try to shove them down.
Go girls, go boys, go PEOPLE.

1 comment:

  1. i loved reading this one, as someone studying feminism in school (women in lit is my FAVORITE class right now) as a big sister and cousin (though really i think of myself as just a super big sister with extended siblings) and just as a young woman learning to face the real world on a daily basis and how to maneuver it in the face of so much ingrained oppression. i agree and think the most important thing is to let us grow into ourselves while still creating an awareness that not everyone is going to embrace our individuality but that you can't let them tear you down. that is one of the longest sentences i have ever written, haha, anyways, i love you aunty jane and i love reading your thoughts.
    <3 amara