Twelve: My Daughter, Age 9, on Boys
We’re halfway through October- I flipped through my calendar scanning in anticipation of the coming week. I could hear what I’d said to a fellow passenger on the plane this summer: “It’s Christmas and New Year as soon as we’re back from summer holidays.” Remembering I rarely leave enough room to prepare for year-end celebrations, I mentioned to H perhaps we shouldn’t wait until Thanksgiving to write Père Noël this year. She looked at me and nodded.
”Okay. I have an idea. You know? Since Christmas is actually about giving- could we ask Santa if he could offer more to kids who really need things?”
I remembered the Christmas after Fukushima, the gift she'd asked Santa to bring her. She's grown to about 4/5 of my height, but that part of her hasn't changed. I stopped unpacking the groceries and sat down next to her at the table. I explained that it’s a great idea- and that perhaps for the first time, she might be powerful and resourceful enough to do things to create change herself, rather than ask Santa to do it on her behalf. She asked about donating, and whether we could. Sure, I said- but what could she do? There are so many ways to support causes. Which organization? Shall we raise awareness around a certain cause? Shall we see what Skateistan is up to this year? Her answer: donate to UNICEF.
“There’s soooooo much focus on girls and how to help us. I want to support kids. All kids. Not just girls. What about boys? It’s all about girls right now. It’s not fair- boys should get help too, don’t forget!☝︎”
Wow. It's not fair? That the focus is on girls, and not boys as well?
I was taken aback by how much a product of her time she is. I snapped out of momentary stupor to quickly understand that she hadn't realized she'd been on the receiving end of sexism when she'd been repeatedly told she couldn't do certain things- because she's a girl. I made arrangements to move from the beautiful, traditional, and very conservative city, and came back to the Big City soon after.
I explained- back history on why the big focus is on supporting and giving voice to girls- after so many thousands of years; pointing out that boys and girls are able to do things, or at least try and see whether they're things they'd enjoy. Mid-thought though, I realized - she might be right. We need to support boys in new and different ways. Boys are supported, but in a particular, often narrow way, dictated by dominant (read: patriarchal) culture. It felt as if without knowing it, she was hinting at the need to support boys, to create a safe, encouraging environment for them to explore and nurture their emotional intelligence, compassion, empathy- and discovering what empowering and masculine expressions of that might look and feel like. I'd read We Should All Be Feminists with her. She gets it. She gets it, and the ideas behind He for She.
Her thinking that support means donations clearly comes from a place of privilege. I’ve decided to save that for another conversation. I could explain we could go back to visit, play, dance, and sing with the children at Benih Kasih. Or find a cause we can support, closer to where we live.