“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
This quote has always meant a lot to me. As a social worker especially, however as a mom to two little boys it has taken on a whole new meaning. My “change” is raising my two little boys to be good humans. Here’s what I mean…
First off-I’m not a fan of the phrase “boys will be boys”. I think it’s an excuse, a crutch for unsavory behavior. As a 2 year old this behavior is rather harmless but we know that inappropriate and even dangerous behavior can begin at a young age. The whole “He likes you if he’s bullying or teasing you!” No that will not be a narrative played to my boys. It also feeds into stereotypes that girls can’t be dirty, play with trucks, or jump off jungle gyms and bust their knees open. They sure can, and they should. And the opposite is true. M loves to wear my headbands for example, and recently at a friends house he went upstairs and got into their little girl’s lipstick and was SO proud of how pretty he looked. So boys will be however they damn well please, in my house at least.
I also don’t like this phrase because we now live in a world where men are continually excused for poor and sometimes dangerous behavior (see: Brock Turner) and the catch phrase is “boys will be boys” (if you don’t believe me or think I’m being over dramatic then please search for the letter that Brock Turner’s father wrote defending his son’s actions). So it’s somehow okay to be disrespectful or demeaning or vulgar just because you have a different set of genitalia? I don’t think so. Not in my house.
This brings me to my sweet baby boys. I now have the awesome responsibility of raising two little boys who will grow up to be men. The influence I have is important and not something I take for granted. And while they have some pretty amazing men in their lives to look up to, society throws lots of other examples our way…
Regardless of politics, a standard has been set. A new normal has been accepted. As a social worker and a mother, a new challenge has been handed down to me with these little boys I’ve brought into this world. Here are some lessons (admittedly abstract) I hope to teach my boys as they get older and begin to experience a world much different from the one I grew up in.
You will be feminists.
You know the notion that women are your equal. This is just common sense in our family. Feminism is not a bad word, its equality, THAT’S IT. There are no hidden agendas or secret man hating parties. This isn’t the Little Rascals.
You will appreciate that women have fought very hard for a very long time to still be treated less than. I don’t want you to pity us, I want you to be mad. I want you to be an ally. And not just for women, for everyone who may be treated like they are unworthy because of the color of their skin, the God they choose to pray to or not to pray too, or who they choose to love. Equality is a big word worthy of big actions. You can and you will fight for it.
You will be kind.
To the bus driver, to the janitor in your school, to the boy in your class in a wheel chair. YOU WILL BE KIND. Every single person on this earth deserves your respect. Even if they’ve failed to reciprocate…that is not an invitation for hate or retaliation. It is an invitation to love harder. Kindness is always the answer, my loves.
Always seek justice.
Even when it’s not the popular thing to do. In 6th grade I was teased for taking a “kick me” sign off of a boy who was perceived to be “uncool” by some unkind classmates. Always take the kick me sign off. Always stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Always pass the mic to those who haven’t gotten a chance to have their voice heard. We don’t all get the same opportunities sometimes but that doesn’t mean we don’t all have something important to say.
Sometimes the ugliness of this world will seem unbearable.
Some days it will seem like the bad guys are winning. Keep fighting. Keep being good. Continue to be a light in the darkness.
There are certain privileges that have been afforded to you of which you have no control. These privileges will undoubtedly help you in life, but understand that while they may help you, they can also hurt others. This is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to help (see steps 1-4 above). Just be aware. Keep your heart and your mind open, always, and be the change. I’ll be right along side you. And just like Officer Hopps, you’re gonna make the world a better place!