The Idealism of Youth
In his book Start, Jon Acuff recounts a story of his kids discussing the famous writer Roald Dahl:
“I heard L.E., my 9-year-old, say to her little sister, McRae, ‘Did you know that the guy who wrote The Twits also wrote James and the Giant Peach?’
I heard McRae respond, ‘I know! I love that guy. He’s got a great imagination, like me.’
What a powerful declaration.
Roald Dahl has been called the greatest storyteller of our generation…He’s sold millions and millions of books. And in McRae’s little 6-year-old mind, his imagination is on par with hers. He’s her peer.
You used to believe like that too. You used to turn sticks into swords or dirty flip-flops into glass slippers. You climbed trees and made forts and thought being a doctor wasn’t out of reach. Nothing was out of reach.
Then, somewhere along the way, you lost it.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to this dynamic, or at least there is in our house.
Last week, our eldest daughter submitted a story to an online writing contest. Basically she’s the youngest entrant by decades, and she’s certainly the least experienced. But neither of those things stopped her from immediately beginning to speculate about which prize she’ll choose when she wins. (the story is here, if you’re interested)
Or our son, just a month into his first foray into organized basketball, debates which team he’ll be playing for when he makes it into the NBA. The NBA. My kid has no idea how to box someone out, but that’s not stopping him from deliberating about which number he’ll wear when he plays for the Lakers.
As a parent, I just shake my head.
I mean, I cannot shoot them down. On the other hand, I should let them down gently. Right?
Sometimes I’m prone to despair about this gender stuff. Like, we’ll never get to the point where men and women are freely and joyfully sharing power. We’ll never balance the ledger such that God’s church will be a welcoming place for women to use their gifts as well as men. Or this blog. Is it making an impact? Should I just pack it in and find something else to do twice a week?
And when I get like that, I remember a conversation my son and I had one Friday afternoon. He was traveling with me to speak to a room full of college students on the topic of gender reconciliation. And while we drove to campus, I was practicing my talk while he played his Nintendo in the back seat.
Finished practicing, I took and breath and, on a whim, asked him what he thought. I figured he’d be so zoned out that I’d get a “good, Dad.”
Instead, he said this:
“Dad, I heard you talking about feminists in your talk, but it just seems like the goal should be for men and women to work together as equals. So shouldn’t we all just be genderists?”
Sounds good to me. Who’s in?!?