It’s been a while since I’ve turned to this space to spill out some words. I can find myself looking around the world and wondering if anything I have to say is worth it in comparison to the great pain that is being felt in the streets, in isolated hospital rooms and in abandoned businesses.
Can I really justify another post about the importance of loving our children just as they are and not as someone else’s idea of what they should be? And then I remember. That truly what I am hoping to do in the world is to remind parents that they can not tear down the systems of oppression in the world outside of their home if they are continuing to exercise a power over dynamic with their children. It’s shifting toward partnering with our children that creates the model of what they will look for and call for in the futures they are stepping into.
I remember years back coming across a bumper sticker that read “world peace begins at home be nicer to your kids” and instantly understanding the deep truth of the message. The reality that I can’t be a peace activist out in the world if I am a dictator at home. I had to start with myself first. A careful analysis of the places where I was already causing harm. Yelling at someone smaller than me, with less experience in the world who was simply experimenting with ways to get their needs met, was causing harm. Demanding a level of respect without handing back that same level of respect was causing harm. Ignoring requests for love and attention for reasons I had deemed to be of higher importance was causing harm. So I began the work of causing less harm right there in the space that I had the most control and influence, my home.
I had been raised on systems of oppression. Systems that wanted me seen but not heard. Systems that indoctrinated me into believe there was one right way to be in the world. Systems that had me believe my age and experience gave me power over those, younger with less experience. Systems that gave unearned privilege to those born into skin and bodies they had no choice over.
I’d like to say once I saw this I got to work right away at tearing it all down. But that would be lying. It has been an 18 years journey of questioning the entire world around me. It started with wanting to preserve the humans my children already were and to create a space for them to grow into that knowing. It has lead to continual, repeated deep reflection of the racist systems and structures that have shaped the spaces I walk in everyday.
When I began questioning how I was going to parent my children I had no idea I was opening the door to questioning everything else I had ever thought to be true. Yet, I can see it now. My children were given the freedom to question which they continue to liberally apply to every situation they encounter. I’ll never forget the first moment my eldest said to me “I think that’s a racist term mom,” and I learned another place where I had been causing harm. Being heard and valued in our family made him want a better space for us both. Calling me in for my ignorance was a necessary step in that process.
My friend Patti Digh reminded me years ago as I stepped into a more active roll in my community to start local, to understand what my neighbors and community needed and to influence change at that level. I am here today to say there is nothing more local than my own home. Influencing change starts in my home, by shifting the power dynamic away from power over to partnering with.