I was interviewed at a Hillary Clinton rally. The interviewer was dressed in a freshly pressed suit and clearly had been following her campaign for some time. He looked worn down and a bit tired despite the freshly pressed suit. I am sure he had interviewed hundreds of supporters before me and will probably interview hundreds more as the campaign wears on. He seemed most interested in why I chose to bring my two 4-year-old boys to such an event. It was an evening event in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia.
They were serving beer and finger foods within the walls of The Filmore — not typically a place for hyper 4-year-old boys. In fact, he wasn’t the only one to question my questionable parenting. Fellow supporters wondered about my decision as well. They wondered out loud what my boys were getting from this event. They offered babysitting advice and commiserated with me about being a single parent.
I am not a single parent. I am happily married to a wonderfully supportive man. Had he not had to work, he would have been with me, supporting Hillary Clinton.
Although I never appreciate unsolicited advice from strangers, I am pretty used to it. What I found strange about this advice was the lack of understanding that I am raising my boys to admire and respect strong, powerful women. Isn’t that the reason we were all there chanting Hillary? Isn’t that one of the reasons millions of people around the country flock to her events? She is making history. A history long overdue. Why shouldn’t I expose my sons’ to history in the making? Even if she isn’t the eventual president, we are watching history unfold.
There were plenty of little girls there. There were plenty of mothers beaming with pride watching their daughters chant for someone who could be the first woman president. There were infants strapped to the chests of new parents, bouncing to the beat of Katy Perry’s Roar.
There weren’t any other little boys. There were few older boys. There were just mine (and maybe one or two tween boys) chanting Hillary. Is it only important for little girls to see strong and powerful women? I certainly don’t think so. Shouldn’t both boys and girls have strong men and women role models? Why would we deny our sons a role model just based on his or her gender? When I am sitting in a rocker, old and gray, I want to know that I raised my sons to respect and admire people not based upon their gender, but upon their accomplishments.
For years, mothers and fathers have been teaching their little boys to idolize Iron Man, Superman, and Spiderman, creating an unattainable image of what a man should be. And where has that gotten us as a society? It’s created the misogynistic world we live in today. I want my sons to see the problems with the world, not as a male or a female, black or white, but rather, human problems. Human problems they can help solve or, at the very least, listen to others discuss. In order to make meaningful change in this world, we need to change how we are raising our sons. We need to stop giving them passes like, “boys will be boys” and start holding them accountable for their actions.
Not only was I exposing them to a strong, history-making woman but I was also exposing them to two thousand people from different backgrounds and communities. There was a diversity within the crowd that I could never match in my small New Jersey town. Young, old, black, Asian, LGBT, rich and poor were all there chanting along with my kids. Seeing and talking with so many people that were different from themselves provides my boys with a larger view of the world. A more tolerant view. I take my job as a parent very seriously. I am raising the future generation. I feel the best way to combat the Trump way of thinking is to raise my children to hold themselves to a higher standard, and I want them to hold their generation to a higher standard.
I want my children to understand the history of our country. The good, the bad and the ugly. The best way to teach them is to show them how we can change the bad, rid ourselves of the ugly and celebrate the good. I want them to be great, but not at the cost of others. I want them to be successful, but not feel a sense of superiority. When they are on the playground, I want them to stand up to the bullies and help the victims. When they are at the board meeting, I want them to stand up and call out the injustices they see. I want them to see the problem, not be the problem. I want them to hear the marginalized communities and be their allies. I want them to ask questions and listen to the answers. The only way I am going to properly teach them is to show them.
I can talk about why something isn’t right or how to change the things I don’t like in this world, but my boys are watching me. They are learning from my example. If I pick up trash in a parking lot and put it in the trash can, so will they. If I stand cheering for a woman, so will they. If I show them how I am trying to change the world, they will.
When that reporter asked why I brought them, I told him just this: There is no better way to show strength than to be strong. There is no easier way to teach equality than to support it. There is no better way to be proud than to celebrate it.