While watching a Harry Potter movie with my boys, I patted myself on the back for recent compliments on their good behavior at events, until….. “Yeah, like, pipe down, woman,” my older son said to the television in response to a condescending Hermione quote. Woman? Pipe down… woman? Shit.
Calling him on the comment, I instructed him not to identify gender at the end of an insult; it makes one sound like a creep. It’s especially offensive when men or boys are derogatory towards women due to thousands of years of misogyny in mainstream culture. Since women are gaining in economic and political power now, it’s becoming uncool to indulge in man-hating, too.
Bad habits are difficult to break, and it’ll take time for the war of the sexes to end completely. It’s easiest to stop spats with children, because they don’t have broken hearts and workplace harassment to forgive. They are (hopefully) less injured, and so easier to convince respect of the opposite gender is a good thing. Stopping the insanity before it starts is best, of course.
But then there is that silly thing we call “reality.” The reality is my sons were raised in a home where femininity wasn’t always respected, and words exchanged between the parents weren’t always mindful. Honestly, I felt disrespected for years in innumerable subtle expressions in my marriage; and now I’m hearing my older son speak aloud what he learned.
What I am writing of is not severe, like domestic violence or verbal abuse. The attitudes, interactions, and half spoken beliefs were subtle communicators of a lack of respect towards women, and specifically mothers; but were expressed so passively they seemed invisible. They were invisible until my older son said, “Pipe down, woman.”
Our children show us who we really are, and sometimes it’s so painful to witness I can barely believe it. What I endured for years for “the good of the family” has had a fall-out like radiation after a nuclear explosion: invisible, silent, yet sickening. What my pride told me was the right thing to do; my children are showing me was a flawed bargain.
I am recreating my family now, from a place of love and healing. The new found confidence I have in my soul, like a peony blooming, will give me the strength and energy to undo the unhealthy attitudes my children learned. There is still time to teach them better. So grateful am I to have the opportunity to instruct my boys to be respectful to women…and conversely, respectful to the feminine part of their own spirits; which will help them to navigate their lives with gentleness.
Thank God for endings that allow beginnings, and repair.