Your Kids Take Everything In -- And with You as a Mom, That's a Good Thing
I will never forget the day in October 2017 when I put my three-week-old son down for a nap and decided to get on Twitter for a bit. What I thought would be a mindless few minutes scrolling through witticisms and memes turned out to be an abrupt and unanticipated introduction to the #metoo movement. That day, I scrolled through post after post of my friends sharing the hashtag, often with an account of ways they had faced sexual victimization. The coming weeks and months brought a steady stream of more of these stories, accompanied by dozens of accusations of sexual harassment and assault against men in positions of power.
My son is a year-and-a-half now, and as I reflect on what’s happened in U.S. culture in that time span, I can’t help but think what a truly unique time it is to be a parent, and what a delicate time it is to raise a son. If you are raising kids now, it’s likely you’ve had the same thoughts.
We are raising our children in a time of change — a time when injustice, abuse of power, and exploitation are coming into the limelight. We can no longer escape the reality of how normalized these atrocities are. Young and old, rich and poor, average and powerful — we have seen that any person can use any ounce of power they have to dehumanize and abuse.
I often hear that "kids take everything in," and as I look at the larger culture around my son, that can be a scary thing. As he grows up, he will observe every pattern of disrespect, abuse of power, exploitation, and selfishness around him.
Parenting in this climate isn't easy. How do we teach our kids to recognize the privilege they have and use it to speak out for the value and dignity of others? How do we teach them to stand up for justice for all people, including themselves? How do we teach them that the world is not always friendly while still encouraging them to be open and confident?
It's natural to doubt, wonder, and worry, but as I look around at our Dressember community, I have hope, and it’s precisely because kids take everything in.
In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been a mom, I’ve been thinking about my own parents and some of the values they have taught me like, selflessness, kindness, and honesty. I learned these values from them at many times when they were not purposefully trying to teach them. I knew what was important to them because I was watching and listening, even when they had no idea. As other influences outside my family began to grow and I saw contradictory values being displayed elsewhere, the values set by my parents were the ones to which I compared everything else.
So am I saying that we better be careful to make sure we have a positive influence on our children? No, I’m saying that I think we already do.
We may not always see the impact we are making, but our kids see it. Our sons and daughters see us wearing dresses for an entire month, running a 5k in a dress, giving to worthy organizations, shopping ethically, and having conversations about human trafficking. They know what's important to us and they see the community we’ve built that holds the same values.
They listen when we talk about kindness and the value in other people. They notice when we treat others with dignity and respect, speak out for the oppressed, and stand up for ourselves when others fail to treat us with dignity. Maybe you’ve heard, kids take everything in.
When I think about my son growing up, and my influence on him growing less and less, I believe that because of these little lessons, repeated over and over again in his foundational years, he will grow up to be a passionate, caring, and kind person. By the very fact that you’re reading the Dressember blog, I’m willing to bet that your kids will as well.
We're doing important work, we're doing it well, and it is making a difference. Our kids are taking note, joining in, and becoming the next generation of advocates. It truly is bigger than a dress.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you strong, caring, and justice-seeking moms out there. You are making a difference.
About the Author
Erin Flippin King is a freelance writer and editor, loving life in Jonesboro, AR with her husband, Aaron (same name, cute right?) and son, Sam. Erin enjoys dancing like a fool, joking at wildly inappropriate times, spending time in the sunshine, and Dr. Pepper. She recently earned her master's degree in Biblical Studies and Hebrew and shares her writing at erinflippinking.com.