My son is six months old.
He is, in my completely unbiased opinion, a perfect little baby. He smiles and coos and rolls over and puts anything he can reach into his mouth. Delightful.
All of my son’s playmates are girls, because all of my friends who live near us have daughters. They are older, and possess such skills as walking, climbing, using words, and eating real food. My son watches them in awe.
For now, those little girls have the advantage.
They are bigger and more coordinated and can ask for food and know how to call out for Mommy and Daddy. They can move from one side of the room to the other. Some of them are even starting to potty train (oh, what a lofty achievement!). They laugh and play together. Sometimes they cry or hit or take things from one another; no toddler is an angel. On the whole, they are happy, healthy, bright, kind little girls, whom I pray would be blessed to grow into women who continue to be happy, healthy, bright, kind adults.
I am saddened, however, when I consider that this brief window of advantage for those girls will be over before they even realize it existed.
By the time they start elementary school, four or five years from now, they will have entered a world that favors my son for no reason but that he is a son and not a daughter. The girls will be expected to sit still and quietly learn, but if my son is rude or rowdy, well, “boys will be boys,” and that’s that.
Of course, I want my son to succeed, to be well-taught, and to have every opportunity to grow into a man for whom the world is full of possibility.
But I can’t quite be satisfied knowing that he will have those possibilities offered to him as a matter of fact, while those little girls will have to fight for their voices to be heard and their thoughts to be valued.
So, what’s a mother to do?
Aside from praying for my son to know a world characterized by equality and contemplating how to bring it about in my own life, that is?
I will encourage him to honor and respect all people, however different they may be from him.
I will teach him to listen when women speak, and to value their contributions as dearly as his own.
I will surround him with girls and women like the ones I spoke of before, who are kind and bright and loving and determined—in short, what I hope my son will be.
I will remind him that many things will be easier for him, and that Jesus Christ commanded us to have compassion on the “least of these” among us.
I will love him.
And, whatever else I do, I will be me, a woman who believes that her voice matters.
A woman who believes that God will not be satisfied until each person’s dignity is valued as deeply as if it were a truly precious treasure.
I do not know if that will be enough. I pray that it is.
Until then, I will rest confident in knowing that to God, “…there is no male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)
Meanwhile, thanks be to God for those little girls.
For more on this topic, see Raising an Egalitarian Son by Susan McLeod-Harrison.