6 ways to raise feminist boys (all year long)

A vicious 24-hour stomach bug steamrolled through our house yesterday. We all spent today in recovery doing what I call couchschooling.

It is exactly what you think it is.

Some time after breakfast (my first full meal in 24 hours), I logged onto my phone and learned it was March 8.

International Women’s Day.

Somewhere in the haze of late-night bedding changes and semiconscious debates with Matt about which one of us was the least nauseous parent (and thus obligated to clean the carpet), I didn’t plan any special activities for today.

But on second thought, I justified to myself, stumbling my way from the bed to the couch, maybe it’s better this way.

Maybe it’s better to teach the important things – like feminism, or environmentalism, or racial justice – a little bit, all of the time.

And so that is what we did today.

We read a few of our favorite feminist biographies (while I still had the voice enough to read).

Then Gus chose one woman to learn more about. He picked Harriet Tubman.

We watched a few Youtube videos on Tubman’s life. (Which also meant that I could stop talking. Yay.)

Did you know that after guiding 300 slaves to freedom, she became the U.S.’s first black female spy (during the Civil War)? And that her most famous quote is, “Move or die”? And she never went anywhere without her gun?

Gus thinks she was incredible.

Me too.

He made a drawing of Tubman’s escape route (from the crops at the plantation to the northern part of his piece of paper). In his drawing, she makes her way through swamps and narrowly avoids alligators. He made sure to include her walking stick and gun.

And the words he used to describe what women can do? Be brave, navigate, rescue, spy. 

And that’s it, folks.

After that, I had enough energy to lay motionless, occasionally refilling the kids’ bowls of dried Cheerios.

(They were well-fed, supervised, and busy putting together alphabet puzzles. Don’t worry.)

We try to teach feminism year-round over here. Which makes me feel better about the minimal amount of effort I put into homeschooling today.

Here are my 6 Ways to Raise Feminist Boys (All Year Long): 

  1. Stock your shelves with books that feature bold, unstoppable female characters.

    Boys should be reading books about girls. There are lots of fantastic children’s books written about brave, clever, and creative girls – but it’s a problem if only girls are reading them. Boys need to read books about gender equality and girl empowerment, too.

    Curious about some of our favorites?

  2. Include the perspectives of women from diverse backgrounds. 

    Scour the library shelves for books about bold, unstoppable female characters, but don’t stop there. Make sure your collection includes the perspectives and voices of women of color, women from countries outside of the United States, women with disabilities, working-class women, and bisexual, lesbian, and trans women.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t easy. But there are book lists out there that can help.

  3. Learn about famous women from history…
  4. … but don’t forget about the amazing things young women and girls are doing today.

    Ted talks are a great way to introduce your kids to the young women who are changing the world today. Gus especially liked the talks featuring:

    Jade Hameister, who at 14 years old became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole.

    Adora Svitak, who published her first book at 6 and now, at age 12, is a educator, public speaker, and children’s rights advocate.

    Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose and Naomi Shah, award-winning teenage scientists.

    At 4.5, Gus is just barely old enough for TED Talks. If I pause the videos frequently enough to explain and answer his questions, however, he can follow along pretty well.

    And even if he doesn’t understand every detail of the talk, he’s seeing images of young women in positions of authority, accomplishment and leadership. This will make a lasting impression.

  5. Give your son female role models…

    Have a future pilot in the house? Learn about Amelia Earhart. A budding computer programmer? Read books about Ada Lovelace.

    Gus was already interested in spies when he discovered that Harriet Tubman had been a spy for the Union Army. That fact made him want to learn everything I could find about her.

  6. … as well as male. 

Boys need to learn that girls can do anything. But they also must learn that boys can too.

Boys can be sensitive. Boys can cry. Boys can play with dolls and wear pink. Boys can grow to become nurses, preschool teachers, and stay-at-home parents.

I’ve been searching for books that show boys and men in non-traditional gender roles.

One of my favorite books that teaches a broad, inclusive definition of masculinity is called Real Cowboys by Kate Hoelfer.

Real cowboys are gentle. They know all of the songs that keep cattle calm..

This book is amazing. I’ve never read another quite like it. Hoelfer does a fantastic job of illustrating how a person can be strong and sensitive, tough and tender at the very same time. Because, as she points out in the book, real cowboys are girls, too.

Real cowboys want peace…

Real cowboys are good to the earth…

There is so much good in this book. And so many good resources out there.

But there’s not enough.

I want more children’s books to feature stay-at-home dads. (There is this one, however, that we plan to read).

I want to read a book that tells boys and girls that they can become a scientist, the president, or a stay-at-home parent – and that all of those choices have value. All too often, female empowerment in children’s books looks like success in the workplace. We need to recognize and value the unpaid work of full-time parenting (regardless of which parent is staying at home) and present it as a legitimate, valuable role for children to aspire to.

I want more books that teach children how to speak out and stand up to injustice.

It’s one thing to learn that injustice exists, but it’s another thing completely to learn how to stop it.

 

I was wrong about President Trump

My first reaction to President Trump was all wrong.

On November 9, the day after the election, I wrote an uplifting post about the hope I felt for our country. Yes, Trump had won, but democracy was awakening. People were changing. We were reaching out to each other. We were engaging politically. We were going to make a difference!

It sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?

My post reads differently to me today. There is something subtle, something insidious hiding between my lines. In the background of my post, a tiny voice is whispering: “It won’t be that bad. It won’t impact me. I am safe. I am protected.”

Can you hear it?

Less than 24 hours after Trump won the presidency, I was assuring myself that everything would be okay.

Because people were wink-winking “I didn’t vote for him either.” Because someone wore a vaguely political t-shirt in public. Because the coffee shop was playing ironic, pseudo-revolutionary music.

I can’t believe I was serious.

What I was really saying was that I would be okay.

Me.

My family.

This was my privilege speaking.

Many Trump voters chose him not because of his hateful rhetoric, but in spite of it. They were willing to look past his “flaws” to see the businessman and “strong leader.” (My quotations reference sentiments I’ve picked up from Trump voters. I would use different terms.) I hadn’t been able to understand how people brush off this hatred so easily, but now I see that I was doing it, too.

I wasn’t thinking about refugees when I said, “it won’t be that bad.”

I didn’t consider the rights of the LGBTQ community when I was embarrassed by Trump, but not outraged.

I wasn’t thinking of the assaults on the press and freedom of speech when I felt annoyed, but not angry.

I didn’t consider the environmental degradation we’re leaving for our children when I reassured myself, “it will be a long four years, but we can hold on until the next election.”

I didn’t care about the religious persecution of Muslims when I said, “let’s not talk about it, it is too depressing.”

I’ve been comforted by my privilege for a long, long time. Many of us have. It’s part of the reason why we find ourselves here.

It’s time to step away from that.

Let’s be comforted by each other, as we’re working, calling, and showing up… but let’s not be comfortable, lulled in a sense of personal security that disregards the real pain and oppression experienced by others.

Comfortable is dangerous.

Comfortable is compliant.

And when innocent travelers are detained at airports without access to lawyers for hours, when people are persecuted for their religion, race, and country of origin, when scientists are silenced, when freedom of speech is threatened, comfortable becomes culpable.

Teach your kids the people’s history of the United States

Embarrassing confession: Someday I’d like to be a historical interpreter.

You know what I mean. Those people who dress in pioneer costumes and shuck corn at historical villages. I think I’d be pretty good at it. No matter how hard you tried to trip me up, I’d never reveal that the president was anyone but Ulysses S. Grant or that I got to the village any way other than horse and wagon.

I don’t know why, but the Little House on the Prairie series is wintertime to me. Maybe because weather was everything to them, they lived and died by it, and much of Wilder’s writing focused on the seasons. For whatever reason, I crave those books in December, but I can’t read them past March.

Last winter, when Gus was three, we started reading Little House in the Big Woods. We had tried chapter books before, with more or less luck. But when we started reading about homesteading, he was hooked.

A five-page description of how Pa dug a well? Detailed instructions of how Laura and Mary hung onions in the attic? Keep reading, Mom! He could not get enough of it. (Of course, neither could I.)

One of our favorite winter activities is learning about how people long ago survived (and celebrated in) the cold.

The Minnesota History Center has dozens of historical farms, historical mansions, and living history villages – and we’re slowly crossing each one off our list. Last year, we learned about Victorian-era Christmas traditions at a mansion in downtown St. Paul. We rode on a one-horse open sleigh at a pioneer village, and we learned how ice from Minnesota’s frozen lakes was harvested and shipped as far away as India at an ice harvesting festival. Today, we went to the History Center itself, and I was impressed to see how much of the exhibit was dedicated to Native American cultures and history.

I find it important to remember that the Wilder family’s story of “settling” the prairie was not one of claiming empty land. The places they built their homes were on land already occupied by the indigenous people who had lived there for generations.

If I’m going to enjoy the Little House series for it’s good parts, I feel a moral obligation not to gloss over it’s bad parts.

And so I point out these issues to Gus when we’re reading. At four, he’s had conversations about indigenous people’s land rights. We talked about the many times Native Americans were made to move, and move, and move again. We discussed how the European settlers hunted all the buffalo intentionally to cut off the indigenous people from their main food source. I credit reading the Little House series as a major reason for why Gus felt as compelled as he did this fall to support the Standing Rock Sioux.

As parents, we want to protect our children from negativity for as long as possible. However, there is a way to present this kind of information to young children without harming them. I preview all content first (watch videos alone first, scan books for photographs I’m not ready for my kids to see). Then, I give one or two basic facts in simplified language. “The colonists made the Native Americans move because they wanted to live on their land.” After that, I wait for the questions to come and answer them as they roll in, continuing to use short, simple answers.

Remember also that it’s okay not to answer right away. If you can’t think of the right response, or if you’re unsure if your child is ready to hear the truth, think about it. Come back to it later. “Hey, I remember you were asking me about the Trail of Tears. Well, I had a chance to read more about it. Are you still interested in talking about it?”

It’s important to me that my kids don’t grow up learning just a rich, white man’s perspective of history.

The historical sites in Minnesota, for the most part, do a good job telling the stories in the indigenous people who lived here first, as well as the stories of the various immigrant groups who settled (are settling) in Minnesota and made (are making) it what it is.

Here are some other resources I plan to use to teach history in our homeschool:

A Young Person’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Rebecca Stefoff

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow

How are you teaching history to your kids?

We need more than random acts of kindness. How about some real service work?

When I was eight, I asked for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. Personal pan pizzas were all the rage, and nothing went better with a Book-It dinner than a single-serving slab of funfetti cake cooked underneath a blinking light bulb. This was the 90’s, after all.

It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that my Easy Bake Oven was not the real deal. The center of my desserts were always mushy, and no matter how long I stirred the powdery mix with my miniature plastic whisk, part of my cake always tasted like chalk.

Kids like to do real work. Montessori education is based on the idea that kids can contribute, and if you involve them in real work from the beginning, they grow not only to do it well but also to enjoy it. In a Montessori classroom or home, a child would learn to cook using real, child-sized kitchen utensils and would use a real oven with adult supervision. 

With the exception of the child-sized utensils, which I doubt existed in rural Minnesota in 1993, this is how I eventually learned to bake the best funfetti cake my Girl Scout troop ever tasted.

There’s a type of community service that reminds me of that Easy Bake Oven.

You might call it random acts of kindness, paying it forward, or filling someone’s bucket. The idea is that one good deed creates a chain effect. If we make someone’s day, they will in turn do something kind for someone else, who will do something kind for someone else. And so on and so forth.

It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Scientists even say it works

Except I don’t buy it.

A quick Pinterest search for random acts of kindness turned up these ideas:

  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Help someone carrying heavy groceries
  • Tape a bag of microwave popcorn to a Redbox machine
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line
  • Smile at everyone you meet
  • Return someone else’s shopping cart at the grocery store

These ideas sound like common human decency mixed with a little bit of silliness. When we tell ourselves, and when we teach our children, that this is what community work looks like, we’re doing everybody a big disservice.

Random acts of kindness are low-risk. They’re easy. When the random act is meant to be anonymous, you don’t have to interact with someone unfamiliar. You don’t have to go into a strange neighborhood. When you teach your children that helping someone means buying a triple caramel macchiato for the the person behind you in line at Starbucks, who most likely can afford the $6 extravagance (because why else would they be in line?), you don’t have to have real conversations about poverty or racism or war.

Like the Easy Bake Oven, this kind of community service is a cheap version of the real deal. But it sure is fun and cute!

Yes, letting someone go ahead of you in line will probably inspire them to do something kind for someone else, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not against spreading happiness. Completely the opposite. Searching for ways to encourage kindness and compassion in our children is admirable. We all should strive to bring joy to other people’s lives. For most people, random acts of kindness are the beginning of their community work, not the end. This is fantastic!

Random acts of kindness are pointless. Let your kids do real service work. www.aliceinwonderment.com

This Christmas, consider approaching community work from the Montessori perspective. Let’s graduate our kids to the real oven, so to speak, and with an adult by their side, guide them into meaningful community work.

This will look different for every family. Maybe you want to introduce the topic of homelessness to your kids for the first time. You can follow it up by making care kits for people who are homeless. Hand them out to the people holding signs at intersections and on-ramps. Make eye contact. Give a genuine greeting, or better yet, have a conversation. 

Or you could talk to your family about hunger and donate canned goods to a food shelf in your community. Maybe your kids can help you stock shelves. If there are customers using the food shelf, ask if you can bag their groceries. Wish them a nice evening. 

Are your kids ready to have bigger conversations? This summer, I began talking to Gus about racism – a sign of our white privilege, to be sure, as many kids experience the negative impacts of racism long before they’re four years old. We read books about the civil rights movement, talked about the role protesting plays in democracy, and participated in a family protest calling for justice for Philando Castile. The boys and I picked up a Black Lives Matter sign together, and together we placed it in our front yard.

So when the adults around him started talking about the Standing Rock protest this fall, Gus had an idea of what it meant:

“Are they using signs and their voices to tell people not to build that oil pipe? Are they walking back and forth and standing in a line with their arms crossed all day and all night?”

I answered his questions as best as I could, balancing honesty with my assessment of his maturity and readiness to contemplate tough issues. We read books about indigenous history and colonialism. We learned about Native American cultures today, listened to electric pow-wow music from a Tribe Called Red, and talked about what was happening in North Dakota.

When a friend from our homeschool group collected items to take to Standing Rock, Matt and I took the kids to Menards and had them help us pick out warm, waterproof gloves and tarps.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNo_OBTDuqR/?taken-by=aliceinwondermentblog

Yesterday, when it became clear that the easement would not be granted, and that the pipeline would be rerouted away from Standing Rock, Matt and I celebrated. I couldn’t wait to tell Gus when he woke up in the morning.

He studied me seriously, and then declared, “Mom, I think the water protectors won the good fight.”

Yes, indeed.

Kids know what’s real and what isn’t.

And like that 8-year-old me, chewing on another cardboard-flavored batch of Easy Bake brownies, they crave the real thing.

How does your family do community work? 

A kid-friendly service project that people really love

The boys and I had dinner at a friend’s house this week. I made a chopped salad at home to share. While I was dicing vegetables, Gus announced he’d be bringing his own fruit salad – and proceeded to gnaw all of the skin off apple before chopping it up with a butter knife. Each chunk had dozens of little bite marks all over it.

When I was in the next room, I heard him say quietly to himself, “I’m proud of my fruit salad.”

You better believe we brought that salad to dinner.

(I gave our hosts a quiet heads-up before we served it.)

Today I’m writing about the best Christmas gift ever: A meal train. I love food. I love it even more when other people cook it for me. As long as we’re not chewing up your food before we cook it, I think we can all agree that me making you a meal train is a great Christmas present.

Other people who probably love meal trains:

  • A person with new allergies or dietary restrictions (be clear on what that means before you cook for them, and give them the ingredient list when you drop off food)
  • A family with a new baby
  • A person who just moved into a new home
  • A person who just lost a job
  • A family with a parent deployed
  • A person experiencing an illness or injury
  • A person who recently lost a loved one
  • An elderly person who could use an extra hand

This year, one of our family members had to switch to a vegan diet after eating like a typical casserole-dish, extra-cheese-please Midwesterner for 50+ years.

So I got the kids in the kitchen, and we spent the morning whipping up a bunch of meatless meatballs, vegan lasagna, and black bean burgers. I froze them in individual servings to be pulled out and reheated one at a time.

Kid friendly ways to volunteer this Christmas. Give a meal train! More ideas at www.aliceinwonderment.comKids love cooking. A toddler can dump ingredients into a bowl and stir with a big spoon. Gus started cutting with a butter knife when he was three, and he’s recently graduated to a steak knife (with supervision) now that he’s 4.5.

The best service projects for kids are the kind they can be involved in every step of the way. With a meal train, they can help plan the meals, shop for the ingredients, cook, package the food, and deliver it.

And clean the dishes. If only I could get my kids to clean the dishes.

Looking for other kid-friendly ways to volunteer with your family? Check out this post.

Do you have a go-to recipe for meal trains? What fabulous recipes have your kids come up with in the kitchen?

Teach kindness with the Elf on the Shelf

Winter is cold in Minnesota. Last year, our homeschool group worked together to assemble over a hundred care kits for people who are homeless to help them get through the chilliest months. This year, we’re doing it again.

Christmas service project for toddlers, preschoolers, and up. Teach kindness this Christmas with the Elf on the Shelf. Thanks to a little help from Taco, our house elf.

This year, Taco showed up on the doorstep with his Christmas sack, full of  the typical stuff – holiday-themed books, hot chocolate, sweets… and materials to create another batch of care kits for people who are homeless.

We have shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, granola bars, fruit strips, instant soup, hats, gloves, and warm socks.

This is a great project to do with a group – a homeschool group, parent/child class, a preschool class, extended family members on Christmas Eve. Whoever. It takes a little bit of organization so you don’t end up with 50 boxes of granola bars and nothing else, but once you gather the items, even the youngest kids can place them into bags. Some of the most dedicated kit assemblers in our group were two-year-olds.

Most of the people we see asking for help are men, but you can make a few women-only kits and include feminine hygiene items, which are always much needed. Summer kits are useful too. I put sunscreen and chapstick in ours.

I drive around with a handful of these kits in the car. You can toss a few in your bag if you get around by bike or public transit.

christmas-countdown

(Pin away, if you’re so inclined. I’d love to see more positive secular and nonreligious posts show up on Pinterest. The kind of posts that show what religious and nonreligious folks have in common, rather than what sets us apart.)

 

I’m raising my white sons to be anti-racist allies and feminists. Here’s how.

I’m raising two adorable kids. They’re kind, funny, sensitive, and curious. They’re also white, biologically male, and middle-class. While their gender identity and sexual orientation are unknown to me, my kids have been born into privilege.

A lovely walk with the boys. #homeschool #unschooling #hsbloggers #freerangekids #parenting #education #sahm #sahmlife

A post shared by Alice Christopherson (@aliceinwondermentblog) on

 

Beautiful, aren’t they?

Kids are so good. We all want them to become good adults, too. But the voices of intolerance in our country are growing louder. I want my kids to reject prejudice, but with hate crimes on the rise and every possible -ism creeping into the national discourse, I’m worried.

It’s not enough to be a good example. It’s not enough to fill their bookshelf with Donovan’s Big Day and I am Jazz and Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside. It’s not enough to wish our neighbors a happy Ramadan when we’re out for a walk. It’s not enough.

If I want my kids to be good allies, I need to teach them how.

This is what my sons are learning:

Listen to others. Their experiences are important.

We need to listen to each other. Even when it’s painful.

Overwhelmingly, white people deny that white privilege exists. It can be hard for us to see the ways we’ve benefit simply by having white skin. That doesn’t make it any less real, however. And by closing our ears to conflict, we do nothing to resolve it.

I’m teaching Gus and Henry to listen during conflicts. Even if they don’t like what they hear. Especially if they don’t understand the other person’s point of view.

I teach this through experience (how I treat them), expectation (how I expect them to treat others), and being explicit (Telling them plainly: “Listen to others. Their experiences are as important as yours.”).

To teach Gus to listen, I listen to him. When he’s in conflict, I can guide him through it. The best way I’ve found to do both of these things is sportscasting.

Sportscasting is making simple observations to help children work through problems without shame, blame, or judgment.

If Gus is crying about bathtime, I can model how to listen by sportscasting the conflict. “You’re really upset about taking a bath,” I can say. “You don’t want to stop playing.” With patience, we almost always arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. Maybe he will play for 15 more minutes. Maybe he will take a bath tomorrow. In the long run, he learns what listening looks like. He’s picking up that other people’s opinions deserve respect and consideration. In the meanwhile, he might go to sleep with dirty feet. So what?

Sportscasting can also teach children how to listen to each other.

When Gus threw a banana at Henry the other day, I comforted Henry and sportscasted to Gus: “That banana hit Henry in the head. He’s crying. He’s saying ‘owwie,'” I said and turned to Henry. “Ow, you’re saying that really hurt.”

Gus thought for a moment, and then asked Henry, “Are you okay?” He turned to me and said, “I was pretending the banana was a lasso and he was a horse.”

“Oh, you were playing horse and cowboy,” I continued sportscasting the facts. “Henry’s head has a red bump on it.”

Gus stood, still holding the banana. “You look like you want to throw that banana again,” I said. I directed his attention back to Henry’s perspective. “Henry is crying.”

“I think I should throw the banana in a different direction,” Gus decided after a pause. “So Henry’s head doesn’t get hit.”

Problem solved. With the exception of one exceptionally  mushy banana.

Sportscasting may seem trivial on the large scale. However, I believe if it’s done consistently over time, children learn how to listen even when the conversation is tough.

For more information on sportscasting, and other methods of peaceful parenting, read:

Ask how you can help

Just because you want to help doesn’t mean that you know what you’re doing. All too often, people with privilege join a movement and find themselves in the spotlight, “speaking for the voiceless.”

FYI, people have voices.

Here are just a few I’ve been following: Black Girl Dangerous, Black Girl in Maine, and Chescaleigh

The people who directly experience oppression are the ones leading the movement to stop it. They know the problem best. They live it. An ally’s role is not to “speak for” marginalized communities. Allies listen. They ask how to help. And then they go and do that thing.

Just like before, I’m teaching this to my kids with experience, expectation, and by being explicit.

Experience: When one of my kids needs assistance, I ask first if I can help. Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer isn’t what I expect it to be. Gus didn’t want me to get the pickle jar down for him, but he did ask me to carry the step stool to the fridge. Okay. That’s not a problem.

Expectation: When Gus’s friend falls down at the park, I role model how I expect him to respond. Does she want help? “Sasha is frowning,” I might sportscast. “I don’t think she wants a hug. Can you ask her what kind of help she wants instead? She said she wants us to get her mom. Let’s do that right away.”

Explicitly: “Let’s go over right away and ask if Sasha needs help. It’s important to find out if someone needs help. That person knows best what will make them feel better.”

More Reading:

Consent is essential.

“If someone says stop, you stop right away. If you say stop, they have to stop, too.”

Gus has heard me say these phrases so many times that he knows them by heart. It applies to tickling. Wrestling. Throwing pinecones at your brother. Chasing your friend through the sprinkler.

“Just because they wanted to do that last time doesn’t mean they have to do that today.”

“You are the boss of your own body. They are the boss of theirs.”

When Gus tells me he is hot, I don’t force him to wear his sweater. I don’t say, “You can’t be hot. It’s 50 degrees, and I’m freezing!” I will, however, gladly help him warm up if he asks me to. I want Gus to know that I can’t make choices for his body, nor can he makes choices for anyone else’s. These are important lessons for any feminist-in-training. And any human being.

More reading:

Everyone has the same rights…

I’m a firm believer that human rights education is an essential component of any curricula.

We need to know our rights. We need to know that all humans have the same rights. We need to know that rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away. In a country where divisive rhetoric is commonplace and white nationalism has a new place in the White House, it’s imperative that our children learn these lessons well.

I first began talking about human rights with Gus when he was three. There many children’s books that do a fantastic job of explaining the concept, and they’re appropriate for all ages. Here are our favorites:

…but not everyone’s rights are respected.

This is where multicultural literature often falls short. My children’s bookshelf is full of books affirming that all people are wonderful, beautiful, and good. It is harder, however, to find children’s books that explain that, while these statements are true, society has not historically and is not currently treating all people with equality.

Racism is not a past problem that was solved by the civil rights movement. Feminism is not outdated because women won the vote. The struggle for justice for these groups and others is real and ongoing.

I believe that young children can, and should learn about prejudice, racism, and oppression, both historically and where it exists today. By no means do I encourage turning on the news for a four-year-old, but we can thoughtfully inform our children of injustices in age-appropriate ways. We can speak out against prejudice in front of our children. And, as always, we can read, read, read.

  • Teaching For Change has an incredible online bookstore with an extensive selection of anti-bias children’s books. This is by far the best resource I’ve found.

We have a lot to learn.

Being an ally is a process of learning and growing. As parents, we can model this for our children by educating ourselves, evaluating our own effectiveness as allies, and improving when needed.

Right now, I’m working on diversifying my media to hear a broader variety of voices and perspectives. I’m following more people of color on social media. I’m subscribing to blogs written by people from the LGBTQ community. I’m currently reading A Good Time For the Truth, a collection of essays about race written by people of color from my state. I’m attending protests, marches, and meetings. I’m following the news. I’m teaching my kids carefully.

These articles have more ideas of how allies can grow:

This is bigger than us. 

As I’ve written this post, I’ve kept this quote by Audre Lorde at the front of my mind. (I found the quote in an article written by Brittany Dawson on ForHarriet.com):

“Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You [white women] fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.” —Audre Lorde

Read more: http://www.forharriet.com/2014/12/what-we-need-from-white-allies-in-fight.html#ixzz4Qeeh34fE
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The ultimate goal for social justice education is not to raise my own children the best way that I can. While that’s certainly a motivation, this work must be about valuing all lives. It has to be about stopping other people’s children from being hurt. It has to be about making sure everyone’s child has the same chances in life as mine. Parenting for social justice can make a powerful impact on the next generation, but in order for it to be truly successful, we can’t be doing it out of our own self-interest.

I’m trying hard to listen. If there’s anything you’d like to add to this conversation, please comment below or email me. 

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This means that if you purchase something from amazon.com after clicking over from my blog, I receive a very small percentage of the sale, while your price remains the same. Any profits generated from the links in this blog post will be donated to organizations working for racial and economic justice.  

What I learned about America on November 9th

what-i-learned-about-america-on-nov-9It’s November 9. Yesterday Trump won the election.

I had to see if the world looked different today, so the boys and I left the house before 7 with no real plan or place to go.

At the park, we ran into Olivia from music class, eating donuts on a bench with her nanny. “How are you?” the nanny asked me, eyebrow raised, in that faux casual tone I’d grow to recognize throughout the day. It was the way we identified each other, we fellow members of the tribe of disappointed voters. “Well…” I responded, the Minnesota-nice version of “terrified and depressed.” She nodded, understanding me completely.

The baristas at the coffee shop were playing a carefully curated mix of apocalyptic music when the kids and I stopped in for scones. REM’s “It’s The End of the World” came on as I ordered. As we waited for our food, I noticed that people around us were clustering together, shaking their heads, eyes anxious, voices tense. Any other day, there’d be a single-file line of strangers waiting silently for their lattes. Today, nobody wanted to be alone.

Later, Gus asked to go to the local craft store, where wooden cars and hand-knit dolls and fairy houses lined the shelves, and the woman working the counter wore a shirt that read Something Terrible Happens And People Wake Up. “We thought we should go somewhere beautiful today,” I said in greeting, symbolically waving a Me Too flag in her direction. We spent thirty minutes talking. “I turned on Hillary’s concession speech in the store,” she told me, “and everyone here was crying.”

When I woke up this morning, I needed to see if America looked different with Trump as the president-elect.

As it turned out, it did.

Not because anything changed overnight, but because now I can see the country for what it really is. And so can everyone else.

And that is changing us.

Today I saw strangers bucking social norms and making real emotional connections. In a way, it reminded me of how we reached out to one another as the news of the terrorist attacks unfolded on 9/11.

Today, I participated in deep conversations with people I had met only minutes before.

Today, I wasn’t distracted by the trivial or mundane. I didn’t have a single conversation with another adult about potty training or cleaning up my children’s toys. In a stay-at-home mom’s world, that’s almost unheard of.

The future of the country was at the front of everyone’s mind today, regardless of how they voted. People shared ideas on how to make real change, right now, and in the months and years to come. On my social media feed, friends from both sides were calling for unification, kindness, and respect.

I don’t know what will happen after January 20, 2017.

But I do know that today, in one little corner of one American city, I saw signs of democracy awakening.

We haven’t given up our voices just yet.