I talked to my 9 year old about sexual assault. I just did it. I sat him down one night and we reviewed consent and we reviewed sex and we talked about how - when he’s older and ready - it’s important to ensure everyone is on board, no matter how good it feels or how much you want it because sex is an activity that should make both people happy or you shouldn’t be doing it. Non consensual sex is a form of violence that never goes away, like a bruise that stays forever. We talked about how girls have an added pressure to take care of others and not be disagreeable too, so as a boy he has the responsibility to be extra sensitive to the situation so that he can pick up on that.
It was slightly longer than our normal dialogues but mostly unmemorable, and then we read a book and I tucked him in and that was that.
The other day in the car he told me about how he “retired” from chasing the girls at recess and now he protects them - of course I then questioned why they needed protecting in the first place and what can he, with his unique gifts and privileges, do about the causes of this playground problem
and the other night while grocery shopping we discussed judge kavanaugh and the layers of disbelief in a sexist system
and this morning - Indigenous Peoples Day - on our walk to school we talked about Columbus, colonization, racism, and how to be in solidarity with indigenous people as a family of immigrants.
I bring these up to say hey, check out these incomplete and imperfect and mostly unplanned conversations that I’m so happy to have had with my child because I need his generation to be better than ours. Something I keep coming back to, whether we’re talking about an organization and what it can do, or allies and what they can do, or parents and what I believe we can do - is that social justice is not a checklist; it’s a practice. It’s not about getting it all done; it’s about just doing it.
I believe it’s true that the revolution will not be televised. I think it’ll be mostly composed of small moments, the bulk of which are common and private and unsensational. Therefore I believe the revolution can and should be explainable to children. You can do it. As parents we narrate and break down all kinds of things, from “looks like you’re tired so let’s take a nap” to “sharing is caring” to turning shoelaces into bunnies and trees. There’s developmentally appropriate ways to teach all kinds of complex concepts, and you already do this.
Also, it’s okay to use words like sexual assault, consent, racism, solidarity, etc with our kids. They know and understand all sorts of words. My son can recite entire dialogue scenes from Star Wars and he’s learned all those weird names of their planets and creatures and the entire history of their galaxy so I figure it is really not a big deal at all to learn our own. We just have to teach them.
Let’s normalize the conversation. Talk to your kids about social justice - about feminism and racial justice and gender expression and on and on and on. Imagine it’s your duty, just like teaching your kid hygiene or table manners. We brush our teeth twice a day, we don’t eat with our mouth open, and we get to decide what gender pronouns we want to be called. Whatever the topic, whatever the day. Let’s make it a practice, let’s make it popular. Start em young! I guarantee they’re ready.