We were walking home from the town fair and, as is our tradition, stopped for ice cream at the truck on the way out. I mentioned to the kids that when I was little, the first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an ice cream man.
We crossed the street and the kids started stuffing ice cream in their faces, and suddenly Zack said, “Wait a minute, Mom — you couldn’t be an ice cream man! You’re a GIRL! You’d be an ice cream WOMAN!” And Becky chimed in with, “Or ice cream PERSON.” So I explained that back in the olden days when I was wee, the distinction wasn’t really made all that often — it was still fireman, policeman, chairman, and so on, no matter what gender the person doing the job actually was.
Then Zack asked the question that started the conversation that gave me one of those super-proud-mom moments, wherein it is demonstrated that my children do indeed think critically about the world around them and want to change it for the better: “Is that because they didn’t respect women as much?” I answered that yes, that was pretty much the reason, and he said he was sure glad it had changed. So I told him that yeah, it’s changed a lot, but that kind of disrespect is still there. Then I mentioned the wage gap and he stopped dead in his tracks: “Mom, that’s just not right! I wish I was a lawyer, because I would pass laws so that wouldn’t happen anymore.”
I explained that there are some laws for that, but that they’re really hard to enforce, and that’s why it’s so important for us to always do our best to make sure we’re doing the right thing and not just following along because it’s convenient. I also talked a little bit about how important it is for those who are in the “respected” class to be advocates for the people who are being disrespected. He nodded, and held my hand as we walked along.
Then the gloaming was upon us and there were fireflies to chase. So he ran off, and I thought about how proud I am that he has noticed that women are often disrespected but even more, that he feels the wrongness of it and wants to rectify that. He’s a good kid, and conversations like that give me a glimmer of the good man he’s growing up to be.