I grew up in what many would consider to be a traditional home. My father left for work at 7am and faithfully returned around 5pm to join us for dinner made by my mother, a woman who stayed home to take care of my little brother and me. She was our teacher – taking us to the park and piano lessons, instructing us on topics from math to laundry. Also, she taught us how best to get lost in a book and the most important lesson of all: one must always play music throughout the day. Dance party.
There was love and then more love. Support, laughter, and play. My father would take my mother on dates. We would go on family vacations to Disneyland, attend church most Sundays, and say prayers before meals and bedtime. My brother and I played together and then disagreed on which movie to watch.
We were exactly what you would expect a Christian homeschooling family to be. Except that we weren’t. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to my parents.
To begin with, Dad never told Mom what to do. I can only picture my little brother and me laughing hysterically if my father were to command anything of my mother. Mostly because my mother is a firecracker, also because my father is good. My mother did as she pleased, but never manipulated or controlled my father. Even as a young girl, I never saw “my father being the head and my mother being the neck.” I saw two complete human beings standing tall, holding hands, and walking through life together. I witnessed a healthy marriage – each person listened and gave to the other. There was no imbalance. My mom was not my dad’s servant.
My mother always put her children before her housework. Sometimes there were dirty windows, smudged with our little nose prints. There were messy living rooms cluttered with Legos and building blocks. There were dirty dishes with ketchup smears hiding our favorite Disney characters in the sink. Our home was always clean and welcoming, warm and safe. But it was never perfect…Mom was too busy living. Sometimes we had takeout or breakfast for dinner. My mother never exemplified that the utopian housewife must be the ideal for a woman. A woman’s ideal was to be exactly who she wanted to be.
Then there was my father: the provider who never bragged about being the provider. To him, it was always “our” money. My dad never made us feel like he had any more right to it because he made it. He wasn’t concerned about roles; he was concerned about his children being happy. He would take care of his family the same way my mother did. Every night my father would do the dishes (except for the grueling few months when it was my job to do the dishes; I have still never forgiven them for that injustice). My father never demanded respect; if he had, I have a hard time believing he would have received it. My father simply lived respectably. Every. Single. Day.
Together they raised my brother and me in the exact same way. They didn’t groom him for success and me for motherhood. They supported us as we each became exactly who we wanted to be. I have heard that some homeschooling parents teach their sons differently than they teach their daughters. I have nothing but anger for this. This falls out of my typical “to each their own” mentality. To raise a son to be a doctor with math and science and to raise a daughter to be only a wife/mother with cooking and cleaning is nothing but negligent parenting. Each human being needs both – to be given all the tools for any possible life path.
My parents didn’t set out to teach me about feminism. They didn’t leave Gloria Steinem books by my nightstand. My mom didn’t forbid makeup or teach me how to burn bras. Instead, my parents taught me that each human being is equally important regardless of sex. My parents taught me that my brother and I could each reach out and grab any star we’d like and claim it as our own. They didn’t even have to speak it; they lived it. Our examples. I love men, I champion women – how could a girl with TWO equally strong AND loving parents do anything differently?
In a few weeks I will be 24, and I now know two facts: I was blessed as a female child, and not everyone else is. I have spent the past few years researching and asking questions and peering into the lives others to see how women are treated. It’s often not so grand. On a world perspective, it’s downright shameful. I know there can be better, because I grew up in better. My heart beats to see real change happen globally for women and girls. So, you see, my parents didn’t tell me to become a feminist. They just accidentally made me one.
Family Photo from dinner last night.
And then the real family photo, taken after my brother and I embarrassed my parents.
Because we’re nerds.