Your hair’s messy.
“Hmm, yeah I guess so.” I watched Kara continue to be the only child in Sunday School coloring within the lines of her coloring sheet.
“Did you even brush your hair today?”
I didn’t know what my hair looked like. I recalled the bun I had tied it in while I hurriedly did my makeup this morning, and replied with a laugh that this was a step in my routine that didn’t make the cut.
Sitting in the dark blue kiddie school chair, I fiddled around with my freshly washed wisps and asked the five year old a few times if it looked any better. Her feedback was uninspired. Funny to think how children, and some adults, may point out points of error, with no investment aside from sharing. No judgment either.
Soon after during our class, the four boys and two girls fumbled through a “civilized” game of matching cards with Disney characters.
The two oldest boys had each collected five pairs, and one tried to egg the other on in taunting a younger one with a single pair of princesses.
“He’s probably going to get all princesses, huh!”
Wait until you’re thirteen and we can ask again what’s wrong with that.
Later I almost thought I would have to have a talk with this boy’s father. Being hearty, small children, the boys are both raucous and intelligent, and the girls are calm and inquisitive. One boy is certainly smart with keen observational skills, and another has not much more to say than bragging rights and why boys are better than girls.
These children are preschoolers, and I am all for friendly rivalry between whether boys or girls are gross or superior. But for some reason this child regularly has such a need to vocalize why boys are better and to directly (Well, I’d really only count it direct if there was real eye contact.) put down the girls in class.
Referencing some book, he cleared the air to state that firstly, boys are better than girls because they have better manners. Secondly, they are stronger. And while he continued to shout, it all muddled together for me as we transitioned the kids from story time to craft time.
Kara, the baby sister of two older brothers, stood with feet planted and full eye-contact to firmly declare, “You may be stronger, but girls are strong too!”
And because he was being the spaz that a five year old boy naturally is, the boy paid barely any attention, and she repeated her statement with equal, tiny fortitude.
Now, these are children. Sweet babies without any worries.
“Did Daddy pick out Mommy’s Christmas gift?” I had asked Kara earlier. She had said giving her family, especially her mama, presents was her favorite part of the holiday.
“No. I paid for it with my own money.”
“Wow! That’s really wonderful, Kara!”
“But not from my account! I’m saving that money for one day so I can go to college.”
Kara comes from very smart parents who plan to encourage their children to study hard and attend prestigious schools in or out of state.
“…Do you already know what college you want to go to?”
“Nope, I’m not really thinking about anything.”
So is it a big stink to get worked up over to see a rowdy little boy assert the superiority of his gender? I think it’s up for argument. But if I esteem that child for the complex, thinking, created being he is, I should believe that he can be a force for love and justice, however small; and thus I ought to believe correction is worthwhile and effective.
I don’t know who taught him his arrogant faux-literacy on gender equality. I don’t know who taught Kara it’s not worth fighting over who’s better—that it’s of greater value to say we all have the capacity for strength.
As the little boy hauled the bag of paper towel rolls ready for craft time, he stopped short of passing them out. “Boys first, girls LAST!” he shouted, running back the way he came to avoid the mere two girls in class.
“Gentlemen let ladies go first,” said my mom, no condemnation, only suggestion.
Kara sat quietly next to Evie, then said matter-of-factly, “They’re not gentlemen.”
Again, the perspective was not condemning, but prescriptive. Definitive, nothing less, nothing more. This little boy was not expected to be a gentleman, but he wasn’t one nonetheless. His pugnacious attitude wasn’t exactly direct in attack; his attention span couldn’t sustain that. But his words were enough for one little girl to feel the need to lucidly express her disagreement—without needing to rally any support.
If we believe ourselves to be humans interested in justice and kindness and mercy, it is fair game to expose injustice, unkindness and harshness. It we aim to be worthy of this call, we will not treat this as just a personal call to heroism, but a deeper desire for ultimate good—for all, in justice and kindness and mercy.
I didn’t talk to that little boy’s dad. And I didn’t give kudos to Kara’s mama for her bravery. But maybe next time I’ll be a little more prepared when it comes to taking a stand for these little ones.