7 Things People Need To Stop Saying To Progressive Parents, Immediately
Growing up, I didn't realize I was being raised by progressive parents, even though the clues were there. We took vacations to the Women's Rights National Historical Park. We cheered on my uncles as they became the first gay couple to jointly adopt a baby in their state. We were encouraged to question the things we were taught in Sunday School. To no one's surprise, I grew up to be a bleeding heart liberal who raised her children the same way she was raised. Which makes me wonder, now, if my parents also heard the things people need to stop saying to progressive parents.
If being a parent has taught me one thing, it's this: we're all going to hear a laundry list of generalizations, presumptions, and nonsense about our parenting choices that will drain us of our energy, discourage us and, occasionally, make us doubt ourselves. I'm sure conservative parents or Christian parents or attachment parents can (and have) spilt just as much ink over their own particular woes. In the end, we all have it "rough," because we're never going to make a choice that is universally liked or accepted.
However, that doesn't mean that the specific ways people question and gaslight progressive parents isn't hugely annoying, to the point that it has inspired me to beg you, humbly and with humility, to please knock it off with the following...
"Well, We Teach *Our* Kids To Be Colorblind"
Look, I know your kid sees color because they just excitedly told me about their pink sneakers and blue dress. Their ability to distinguish between shades of peach, brown, and yellow doesn't mystically disappear when it comes to skin, just because you want to believe that you're, like, super-enlightened and totally not at all racist and therefore your children don't see any differences between people. Progressive parents believe there's nothing wrong with seeing differences. Moreover, it's important to see differences, because then you can see the differences in how different people are treated, for better and for worse.
Generations of racism and white supremacy have resulted in a million implicit biases, so to declare oneself colorblind when these issues are still very much in play in our society, is naive at best and willfully ignorant at worst. Just because you don't want race to be an issue, doesn't mean race isn't an issue. Progressive parents insisting that differences be recognized and respected, instead of just imagined away (even though, let's face it, we'll always recognize differences), isn't necessarily an indictment against your ability or desire to make the world a better place. Instead, it's a recognition that a "better" world has to be better for everyone and not merely focused on keeping the already comfortable really cozy.
"Aren't You Worried You're Confusing Them?"
Personally speaking, I've heard this most often about perceived gender expression, whether in the form of my son's pink sneakers or painted nails or my daughter's penchant for wearing her brother's clothes. To answer these queries: no, I'm not. I'm just letting them be themselves, without worrying about how they should or shouldn't be expressing their still-evolving personalities based on gender stereotypes. In fact, it's the rules y'all insist on adhering to that are confusing. "Makeup on boys is unacceptable, unless he is using it to paint his face to cheer on his local sports team!" OK. "Girls are allowed to dress up as princesses, or fairies, but dressing up as a male character is weird because she's not a boy, she's a girl, so make sure she has a girl version of the male character's outfit!" Well, you know she's not a princess or a fairy either, right?
There are a lot of prescriptive ideas about what it means to be a boy/girl/man/woman out there, and we often see them as natural because they're drilled into our heads from day one. However, if, as a parent, you decide to reject those axioms (insofar as you can) instead, you'll find your child really isn't confused at all. They're just, them.
Oh, and in case you're worried about their ability to function in "the real world" with our laissez-faire concepts of gender: rest assured, they're still going to learn all the stupid societal rules, because we progressives aren't the only voices they hear. Instead, and thankfully, they're going to be far less likely to swallow them hook line and sinker.
"Don't You Worry You're Encouraging Them To Be Gay?"
No. I'm just not actively encouraging them to be straight. I guess if you see heterosexual as the unwavering default it might look like I'm encouraging them to be gay, but that's pretty ridiculous.
And while we're on the subject? Why would I worry about my kid being gay? Like, if I thought you were saying this from a place of concern related to the heightened risks associated with being LGBTQ, even today and as things are getting better, I'd be a little more charitable with my reaction. However, when I've been posed this question, it's always in a pearl-clutching way like, "Won't it be a scandal to have a homosexual in your family?" to which I say, well, nothing. I just roll my eyes and maybe flip off your homophobic ass.
"Shouldn't You Teach Them To Respect Authority?"
Considering they respect my authority, yes, and I currently am. But I know what you mean: larger, institutional authority. Like, "Should you go on with all your progressive talk about holding cops accountable in front of the kids?" or "Should you really call that law 'stupid'? Don't you want them to know that they should obey laws, even if they are stupid?"
For starters, insisting that the institutions sworn to serve the public (government bodies, law enforcement, etc) be accountable to the public and concerned with public welfare is not disrespecting authority. It's a sincere belief that power structures are capable of affecting positive outcomes in society. If we believed all cops and governments were evil, we wouldn't waste our time protesting the injustices we do see: we'd just head for the hills and start some sort of weird commune in the mountains. To quote a great, nay, our greatest American, Jon Stewart, "You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards." We want our kids to know that for power structures to work, it takes engagement from all parties involved, and that includes the public. Blindly submitting to authority, no matter how unjust and without seeking to improve or change it, does not serve the public and does not give enough credit to those who have willingly taken on such enormous responsibility.
"Do You Really Think You Should Expose Them To That?"
I truly believe there is an age appropriate way to discuss pretty much anything with a child, or at the very least discuss the larger concepts that will lay the groundwork for more specific discussions when they're ready. While I'm not going to show my 4-year-old graphic videos of bombings in Syria, I will talk to them about the fact that bad things happen in the world. I may even give simplified versions of important news stories, which isn't actually as complicated as it may sound. In fact, I was able to give a pretty straightforward rundown of the Supreme Court's ruling on Texas House Bill 2. (Won't lie, I was pretty proud when I talked about it and my kid understood.)
Long-story-short? Progressive parents think about what to share with their children and how to share it a lot. Trust our judgment. We've got this.
"Shouldn't You Show Them Both Sides Of The Issue And Let Them Form Their Own Opinion?"
So on the surface this sounds, like, a reasonable suggestion, right? Because who doesn't want to be as objective as possible? Still, I find this sort of insidious and obnoxious for a couple of reasons.
1) Why are you assuming I'm not doing that? In lots and lots of instances, that's exactly what I'm doing.
2) Why am I, as a progressive parent, required to give equal measure to a side of an issue I don't believe in? Like, if you told me you were raising your kids to believe in Jesus as their personal savior, it would be a total dick move for me to say, "Well, shouldn't you take them to a synagogue or mosque so they can decide what they think about the J-man?" There are certain values I want to instill in my kids, and they are not required to be yours.
3) Sometimes, I find "the other side" to be morally, ethically, and in all other ways wrong. There are certain values I want to instill in my kids and, again, they are not required to be yours.
Everyone should strive to look at the world as a being full of nuances and complications. Most topics are worthy of careful thought and consideration. As a progressive parent who values critical thinking, it's important to me that I communicate this with my children. But let's be honest here: no matter what side of the political fence we fall on, we have our opinions and values and those same opinions and values are going to influence how we raise our children. That mine are progressive values should not automatically open them, or me, up to additional criticism or scrutiny.
"What If They Talk About That At School?"
Um, awesome? That means they're interested and engaged and can connect topics of social justice, feminism, racism, and other important issues to what they're learning in school or experiencing in their social life. If I didn't want them to talk about these things, discuss them, and develop their own thoughts and ideas about them, I wouldn't have brought them up in the first place. I mean, that's kind of a no brainer, right?