Getting There

Being a parent is frequently terrifying. You know you’re screwing your kid up. You’re certain that every influence or bad thing is screwing your kid up for you in ways that you never imagined. It’s so hard to see what you’re doing right, and so painfully obvious where you’re falling short. And you don’t have to be a grumpy old neighbor yelling at kids to get off your lawn to fear that the current generation is the one that’s sending our whole society to hell in a handbasket.

But, if you let yourself recognize the good stuff, kids are the reason I have hope for the future. They’re why I think the world can change and why we as adults who care about kids can have an actual impact on making the world better.

Today my daughter shared something that happened at school that gives me hope, and I want to share it with you.

My daughter is in sixth grade and she’s just started yoga as one of her electives for this marking period. She had her first yoga class today and two of the boys were talking about what it means to be “tough.” (Sidenote: First—she gets to take yoga as a school elective. Second—there are at least two sixth grade boys who are taking yoga by choice. I think this is very cool.)

So the boys were talking about different kinds of tough, and they were drawing a distinction between “football tough” and “wrestling tough.”

My daughter spoke up and asked, “What about dancer tough?”

They replied, “Oh, yeah. They can get broken feet and stuff.”

She was pleasantly surprised by their response—she’d expected an argument. Of course, she’s been dancing ballet since she was three (about nine years now) so she had to explain that with proper training and safe practices most dancers don’t actually break their feet.

Let me take a moment to give my own kid kudos, because she had the guts to speak up even when her expectation was that they were going to shoot her down. I’m proud of her for that.

What makes me thrilled, though, is that there are a couple of athletic sixth grade boys who without hesitation acknowledged the toughness required to be a dancer. They in essence classified my daughter as an athlete no different from them. Calling her tough made them no less tough, no less athletic, no less masculine.

I’m grateful to the parents, teachers, and coaches of these boys. There must be phrases those adults heard as children that they chose not to repeat to this generation of kids. There must have been conscious decisions to repeatedly work against the social norms that seep in even as we fight against them.

No, the world isn’t perfect. Sexism isn’t gone. I’m sure some jerk is going to say something insulting to my girl that will make her cry as she tells him off. I’m sure even these boys who make me so happy today will say something stupid at some point. I know I need to remind my strong brave daughter that it’s not okay to use her girl power to insult her brother.

But these kids are starting out so much farther ahead than we did. Miles ahead of where our parents did. Light years ahead of where our grandparents did. We’re getting there. It may be slower than we hope, but we’re getting there.

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