The statement “my child is my equal” would for real blow the mind of those around me. I’m sitting at work while my coworkers discuss child-rearing and allowing your child to modify their own body, specifically as teenagers, but also in general. The discussion was initially centered around transgendered children and at what age they should be allowed to physically change their body (puberty? age 18? age 21?). The conversation quickly deteriorated into, “When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to talk back” and “my mom/dad would say because I said so and that was the end of it!” People feel that that’s a good thing, I guess. Oh behold the good old days when children were seen and not heard, not allowed to reason or discuss anything with the adults who controlled every aspect of their daily lives, and on whom we could exert supreme authority!
I’m in the extreme minority, it would seem, but I’m looking at these co-workers of mine, people I generally get along with and like quite a bit, with disgusted amazement. Are they kidding me right now??? They think those were the good old days? Did they like being treated like that as a child? Or is it all they know so it’s the only way forward that feels comfortable for them? Is it “their turn” to be “in charge” since they once had to suffer through the indignity and humiliation of having no control over their own life choices?
My child is my equal. By equal, I don’t mean intellectual equal, or even my equal in the ability to make sound judgments. I mean it in the way I would say it about an elderly person who has declined a bit and now needs extra care or guidance in her or his daily life. My child has the right to protest, to argue, to explain, and to bargain. My child has the right to disagree. My child has the right to say and do things I don’t like. My child has the right to be someone who is other than who I’d expected or hoped. My child has the right to alter her body (cut her hair, pierce her ears, change her sex, wear all black). My child has the right to have a parent who is her guide, her mentor, her protector, and her friend. My child has the right to have a parent who is not her dictator, her boss, her emperor, or her god.
My child is an equal member of my family. She has a say in what we do, where we go, and what happens in her day-to-day life. The older she gets the more she’ll be able to express and exert her influence on the family. She won’t turn out to be a horrible, lawless, wild person because of this. To the contrary, she will learn the value of mutual respect, compassionate leadership, autonomy, and self-motivation!
2 thoughts on “my child is my equal”
I’ll never forget our introductory parent/teacher meeting at my older daughter’s middle school, which in those days happened in 6th grade. “Wax” (Mr. Weatherwax) said something to the effect, ‘now that your kids are in middle school they will seem like they want to be lots more independent and will push back at still being “held” by the parents’, but he emphasized with well won observation and kindness, ‘even when kids “push back” they still WANT and NEED parental structure and holding’. Being equal is wonderful as long as parents still hold a certain ‘authority’ (even tho that word can hold negative connotations), I mean it as in “freeing the child” to be carefree and unburdened by the “heavy” parts of life and not feeling the need to “save or to solve the world’s problems” at too early of an age. They have their entire adult lives ahead for that. The feeling of safety and security are critical to their healthy development (I’m saying this as a general premise of childhood) and we as parents approach that in many different ways.
Oh absolutely, children need limits, firm limits, but I think the goal should be to set limits as respectfully as possible. Adults are able to set limits for themselves due to maturity and ability and extensive social conditioning, children are not able to and therefore have to have limits externally enforced to various degrees. There are non negotiable limits and some negotiable. Just like with elderly persons with dementia, for example, a child can be respectfully guided toward safe and respectful behavior. I’m referring to the mentality that a check doesn’t even deserve the minimum level of respect afforded to adults.