My husband and I, on our drive to work, listen to TEDtalks. It is one of the many cute, little bonding things we do to supplement insightful discussions. Trust me when I say, we certainly do not need any assistance in the conversation department, but I love that it allows us time to just listen, and then reflect.
We listened to one yesterday morning that really struck a cord. Chinaka Hodge recited a bold, vivacious, and powerful poem entitled “What will you tell your daughters about 2016?” That got me to thinking: 2016? What will I tell them about life?
If I am being frank, I am fearful. Not fearful that I will not be able to teach them to be strong, but I am fearful that no matter how many times I tell them that they are enough—beautiful enough, smart enough, important enough—it may not be enough. Words are powerful and completely irrevocable. They can cut like knives.
I remember in the 7th grade, one of my girlfriends came to school wearing lipstick. Naturally, being in the 7th grade, most of it ended up on her teeth. Being a kind friend, I told her she had lipstick on her teeth and we moved on. Well, it apparently hit her hard, as she went home that night and told her mother what I had said. When we were at school the next day, she told me that her mother called me a ‘JAP’. I had no idea what that meant. When I went home that night and told my parents that I was called a ‘JAP’, their eyes widened in shock. “Do you know what that means?” They asked. I shook my head no.
They explained to me that I had been called a Jewish American Princess. What sounded like a wonderful compliment to me, was entirely the complete opposite. It is a derogatory term for a Jewish female; implying that she is a snob, spoiled, high maintenance. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was none of those things, but my friend’s mother knew I was Jewish and, to her, those adjectives must have been synonymous with being Jewish. I truly do not remember what happened to my friendship with that little girl. But I will always remember the tone in which she called me a JAP. Even though her mother was the one that called me the name, my friend now felt the same.
This is my fear for my daughters. Even though their friends may not initially feel that way, what they hear at home can impact them for the rest of their lives. I know it will be hard enough growing up Jewish, but growing up a Jewish female? I am terrified.
My husband showed me a wonderful viral article a couple nights ago; a truly wonderful way to teach young children just how important words can be. Amy Beth Gardner has a daughter starting middle school. She tells her daughter to empty a tube of toothpaste, on a paper plate. Once completed, she calmly tells her daughter to put the toothpaste back into the tube. The little girl, confused, says that it simply cannot be done. The mother looks at her daughter and explains that the same holds true for words. Once they have been spoken, they cannot be taken back.
Obviously, this holds true for not only females, but for males, as well. With all of the stories we hear of young children committing suicide, being depressed, feeling worthless, all children need to be told of their importance. What will, or do, you tell your daughters about life? How do you teach them that they are enough and that no matter what is said, nothing can strike them down? Are you hopeful or fearful for their future? Do you instill the same message in your sons? How do you teach them about treating women?