few nights ago, a dear friend of mine who lives in the Chicago
area phoned. We hadn’t talked for some time, and spent the first
few minutes exchanging news about our daughters. We discussed parenting
issues, good books, our husbands’ terrible work schedules, and
then the current state of America.
Both liberal Democrats, we lamented the Iraq war, the growing budget
deficit, calls by congressmen to oust “activist” judges,
the President’s virtual silence on environmental issues, and
the roles religion and morality continue to play in election outcomes.
Our thinking on these issues gels. We are two minds with one thought
when it comes to our politics. Each sentence I started, my friend
finished, each topic she broached, I expanded upon. Our ideologies
were identical, our activism mirrored one another.
I am lucky to have several dear friends and family members with
whom I can easily express my exasperation with the world, knowing
that they will nod their heads in agreement and toast to my proclamations.
We think in unison, we act concertedly, we criticize in accord.
Get-togethers and homecomings resemble consciousness-raising sessions,
rather than gossip circles.
It suddenly occurred to me, as I reflected on my phone conversation
of a few nights ago, that I might not have this intellectual collaboration
with my daughters. Though I preach racial equality, they may dispute
notions of affirmative action and support racial profiling as a
viable counter-terrorist tactic. Unlike their mother, they may sympathize
with sexual harassers who were “just kidding.” They
may argue in favor of capital punishment and censorship. They may
support war causes that turn my stomach. They may perceive absurdity
in the Equal Rights Amendment, gay marriage, and the morning after
pill. They may agree with tax cuts for the rich. They may believe
the stereotypes of welfare mothers portrayed by the media. They
might point out contributing actions of the victims of sexual assault.
They may ignore the economic benefits this country has reaped from
the labor of illegal immigrants. They may not, as I had always envisioned,
stand by my side on the mall between the Washington Monument and
the Capitol, with thousands of other women, holding “My Child,
My Choice” or “Keep Abortion Legal” signs at a
In their teen years, will they steal the remote control from me
to turn the television channel from Bill Maher to Bill O’Reilly?
Will they carry around in their backpacks Hoff-Sommers’ Who
Stole Feminism? while I sit with a cup of tea and a worn out
paperback of Susan Faludi’s Backlash and stained
and warped copies of Ms. magazine? Will they blame working
pregnant and child-rearing women for the wage gap between the sexes?
Will they deny the existence of the glass ceiling and the power
of the patriarchy? Will they ask me, in all seriousness, what I
had expected to achieve with a Women’s Studies major?
If, in spite of my pains to steer them away from the Disney Princesses
movement, books where women are victims unless married or mothers,
my efforts to tune in to NPR between Raffi songs, participation
in play dates where my mother-friends share disgust for our nation’s
lack of paid parental leave and federally-subsidized child care,
will they shun my ideology? Will they roll their eyes at me from
across the dinner table when I despair over the vast number of white,
upper-class men running local, state, and federal governments? And
if they shrug off inequality in favor of blinded optimism of the
American dream, will I be disappointed in them? Will I consider
myself a failure as a parent, if they do not hold dear to them the
causes that shape my very soul?
Dare I say that I would far prefer that my daughters come home
with pierced navels, pink hair, or tattoos the size of street signs
than champion conservative viewpoints? I can cope, quite easily,
if they reject the faith of their upbringings, chose to live in
a foreign country far from home, decide not to have or raise children,
but if their thoughts about how the world is shaped and the nature
of humanity is polar opposite to mine, will we have a fulfilling
My acceptance of my daughters is, for the most part, intrinsic.
I know I will accept my daughters for their appearances (unless
overly raunchy), their faults (unless someone is hurt by their actions),
and their personalities (however moody). But once grown and independent
of my lessons and teachings, my daughters’ viewpoints of important
social, environmental, and economic issues, if largely varied from
my own, will be the most difficult to accept. And although it might
be a hard pill for me to swallow, perhaps more important than adopting
my own politics, is that my daughters seek out their own, and in
doing so, stand firm in their beliefs, even if there is a schism
in our philosophies, a split in our principles.
For now, I can only expose them to my thinking, relate epitaphs
of my convictions, immerse them in diversity. They are ages three
and one, so I have many years to impart my wisdom, insight, and
values. Other than that, while I watch them build towers with blocks,
eat crayons, and shred important papers, as I search for clues to
their future allegiances, I can only hope.