Each week my son goes to a ninja class where he learns tumbling and parkour (think “American Ninja Warrior” for little ones). He loves it! Last week, his class with filled with all boys who were age 5 to 7. They jumped and tumbled and ran. During one of their water breaks, I heard another little boy talking with his family. He was telling them he was tired.
The kids had just finished jumping and running over and over, so it was tiring. He wasn’t whining. The grandpa leaned over to the child, pointed to the all-female competitive cheerleading team practicing on the next mat over and asked his grandson if he wanted to go to the girls. When he said no, then the grandpa advised him to stop complaining or he’d have to.
I bristled. It bothered me. The message he just sent his grandson is that those girls aren’t as valuable. He told his grandson that going to a group of girls is a punishment. He told his granddaughter, who was sitting right beside him, that boys only do something girls do as punishment. Boys are better. Even crazier to me is those girls were older than his grandson and a heck of a lot better at their skills of tumbling.
OK. So it might sound like I’m over-reacting. I don’t want to rant and rave. But, as the mother of a boy, I want to be conscious of what I’m teaching him through my attitudes and words. As the mother of a girl, I want to be conscious of what I’m teaching her through my attitudes and words.
I don’t appreciate the idea that for a boy to go into a girls’ class is punishment. I wouldn’t appreciate it in reverse either. I am also big on being aware that there are differences between boys and girls and men and women. We tend to have different strengths and such, but that doesn’t make either gender less than the other. I never want my daughter to feel she is less than a boy just because she’s a girl. I never want my son to feel superior to a girl just because he’s a boy.
What was very interesting to me is that very evening on the way home from his ninja class, my son and I had a discussion right along these lines. He wanted to know if Adam and Eve had only sons because he’s never heard of their daughters. I explained to him that through the years, as men wrote down history, including the Bible, they didn’t take women and children into account because they didn’t think they were important. We talked about how Jesus fed the 5,000, but that 5,000 was only the number of men. He actually fed way more than 5,000. My son was incredulous that they didn’t care about women and children. How could they not, he wondered.
My best answer was unfortunately that’s just how it was. I did tell him that it wasn’t the way God planned it from the beginning. Yes, He made Adam first, but that doesn’t mean that Eve wasn’t just as important. I reminded my son that God loves all of us the same, and seeing any one of His children being treated poorly based on gender or skin color would make Him sad.
I didn’t bring up this topic. I did find it quite timely that my son did. He didn’t hear the grandfather’s words. I didn’t say a word about it to him. In fact, I didn’t even share it with anyone aside from a friend I met for breakfast the next morning. However, the two conversations go side-by-side.
The grandfather didn’t tell his grandson that he was superior and girls don’t matter or aren’t as important in those exact words. Not many people would say that, especially these days. But his attitude showed a different picture. His attitude showed that he clearly thinks women are less-than, weaker, whinier and wimpier than boys. And THAT message offends me for myself, my daughter and my son. I don’t want to raise a boy to be a man with that attitude. His father doesn’t have that attitude. His Heavenly Father certainly doesn’t have that attitude.
The words we say hold so very much power. We live in a world of political correctness where people are often chastised for the words they use, sometimes to the point of what seems ridiculous. I understand that maybe we get tired of posts just like this one. We may get tired of tirades and roll our eyes at what seems an over-reaction.
But until these kinds of attitudes stop and aren’t accepted, I think they need to continue. I will stop myself from getting off on a tangent about how women are treated and perceived inside the church. In fact, I’d daresay many churches are the greatest offenders of gender equality. I want to focus instead on thinking about the hidden messages in the words we say to our children. They are soaking every last one of them up.
That little boy didn’t go home last week thinking he was better than girls directly. He did go home having absorbed some of his grandpa’s attitude. If he is given that attitude enough times, it will fully soak in and shape his views. That is what we must do our best to change and do better than generations before us. We’ve made progress, but there is so much more to be made. The message we are giving our sons (and daughters!) shouldn’t be one of superiority over any one for any reason.