Every parent of a daughter reads the headlines and cringes. Or cries out for justice. So much violence against women. So much inequity still, even in a world that claims to be past it. That’s just here in my own country. I sometimes can’t even think about the world as a whole.
Since I had my girl, I’ve been passionately praying for her to be brave and strong. I’ve been clothing her with dignity, so that she will stand on the necks of would-be abusers, and cherish the gifts of those who love her truly. So that she will know when to forgive the fumblings of an ordinary “dude,” and when to wash her hands of blood-sucking bastard.
But now…I am about to have a boy. I’m (hopefully soon) giving birth to the headlines that make me so angry. He will be born into privilege. He will be white, male, and the child of professional parents.
We, as parents of the privileged, have to fight against our children’s immature impulses to turn that privilege into entitlement. We cannot feed the beast that says athletes are somehow more deserving than lawn care workers. That their success is proof of their virtue. As much as I want my kids to take pride in their accomplishments, I want them to be even more grateful for generations of investors, workers, and taxpayers who made it possible for them to take the last tiny step across the finish line.
I do not want his teenage female peer to be the first person who tells him “no.” I do not want him to expect that the world will bend to his will.
So how do I treat this boy? This tiny body in whom rests all the potential for destruction?
He too is a child of God, entrusted with power and riches beyond what he has inherited from his parents. He too will need to be brave and strong. He will have to be bigger than his privilege.
I want my son to be brave, not because he knows that society will not ultimately hold him accountable, but because he knows that God will hold him accountable. I want him to risk what he’s been given by us, in order to be faithful to the heart of God.
The heart of God is for the weak. The heart of God is for the hurting, abused, and oppressed. The heart of God is for his children. The heart of God is to bring Shalom, his Kingdom.
When lesser men (rapists, bullies, misogynists) see my boy, I want them to tremble. I want them to know that he will not tolerate evil, in fact he will stop at nothing to see it made right. When lesser men see my boy, I want them to feel a deep ache to be better, and I want him to be their voice of hope.
My husband is a radical and good man. He wears his own privilege with immense integrity, so I know my son will have a good example. My husband loves and honors me, and our daughter. He believes in justice, generosity, and living with a certain degree of discomfort if it means following Jesus.
The son of my husband has every reason to be a radical and good man.
The son of myself? What can I give him?
I want to give him my intensity, so that he will not sit passively and be silently grateful that he is on the right side of privilege.
Ultimately, I know I don’t have the final say in who my children become. I would not have picked the full two-hour score of Cats: The Musical to listen to twice already today, and that’s not the last battle I’m going to lose. But I can beat a drum or two along the way.
If I have anything to do with it:
My daughter will be a warrior. She will breathe fire and swing a mace, and inequity will not survive her fury.
But it’s not enough to teach my son to love her and her kind. It’s not enough to teach him to control his impulses, and that “yes means yes.” That’s not far enough. I heard someone call for the return of “old fashioned gentlemen.” And I thought, “That’s too small for my son.”
He has to join the fight. He cannot sip his genteel whiskey inside the club while the victims (finally) rage in the streets. He has to proactively promote the dignity of God’s girl children, God’s brown children, God’s gay children. I don’t want him to step aside and let a lady pass. I want him to take her by the hand and charge forward into the fray.
My son will be beside my daughter, with his sword and his arrows. He will scour the deepest jungles until every captive is free and take no prisoners in the slaying of institutions of injustice.
They will be peace-making missiles. No cheap peace of dropped charges and long-suffering wives. But the hard won peace of “all that is sad coming untrue.”
Their weapons will be truth and beauty. Their fire will be light and warmth. Whether they pursue it as their vocation or simply in their day-to-day interactions, they will push society toward Shalom. Whether they sit behind desks, or roam the edges of safety, they will be fearsome and yet gentle, and they will carry with them the heart of God.
If I have anything to do with it.