I’ve been thinking a lot about that post I wrote last week.
I got a lot of feedback on it. Mostly women with daughters who were feeling the same way that I did.
Disgusted. Concerned. And powerless.
Some readers said that we should be confrontational when we see a man staring at us or our kid. Take a picture of them. Call them out.
But that’s not the right action. At least not for me. That reaction feels too dangerous to me. And reckless. Because you don’t know anything about the other person. They could be mentally ill. They could be on drugs. And yes, they could have a gun.
(Obviously, if the person got too close for comfort, I’d be the first one to take action. Nobody fucks with my kids. It’s the Mama Bear instinct.)
No for me, the right action is one that I can control. I can teach my daughter how to handle herself. Make sure she respects herself. And try to balance out what she sees and hears in the media.
I make sure she has strong female role models. I count myself as one. My mom as another. My sister-in-law. And my girlfriends who don’t take shit from anyone. We’re smart and strong. We like ourselves.
And she has strong male role models. Her stepfather, her grandfathers and her uncle. Men who respect women.
But it’s not always easy to balance.
My daughter loves music. All kinds from indie groups to pop to rap music. I know that letting her listen to rap music may seem hypocritical. Some of the lyrics are just horrible. I don’t love that she sometimes listens to it but I have to pick my battles with her.
I try to counteract the effect by listening to some of the music with her and talking to her about the lyrics. And telling her what I don’t like about them. We’ve also been to some concerts together. We agree to disagree but we respect each other’s opinions.
And all of this is not something I do for just my daughter. I do it for my son too. But I admit I do it a little differently.
He needs the male and female role models just as much. And it’s just as important that he learns how to handle himself in the world and to respect himself. But with him, I also feel the need to make sure he knows how to respect women. That movies and video games are not accurate depictions of real life and gender roles. And my brother had a talk with him and his cousin last summer about pornography.
These things are out there for our kids to be exposed to. So we have to talk about it all with them.
Both of my kids are in high school now. Busy with homework, extracurriculars and social lives. Becoming more independent with driver’s licenses and jobs.
Even so, I still spend a lot of time with them. Evenings when they’re doing their homework, I’ll sit at the table with them and do some writing. Before bed, my daughter and I still read our books in the same room, usually sitting on her bed.
And I’ve found that the best conversations are those that come about naturally.
It’s that question that snaps you out of your chopping while you’re making dinner and they’re sitting at the counter, seemingly engrossed in their electronics. Or when you’re driving them home from school and make that stop for a Frappuccino at Starbucks. Worth every penny because of the conversation that follows.
I’m not a perfect parent. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I’m learning how to do this as they get older. And I’ve made some mistakes. But this is what’s working for us right now.
And I’ve realized that I’m not powerless but that I can only control what’s within my control. I can’t single-handedly change society. And neither can you.
But if we all do a little bit, by raising our daughters and our sons the best that we can, by modeling what relationships should be like and by teaching them the importance of respecting themselves and each other, we just might be able to make a dent.
I’m banking on it.