Bedtime theology with the 7 yo…   

My siblings and cousins, circa the late 1980s. 
I'm in the center. Only the girls are kneeling.

(After reading the Adam and Eve story, rib version)

7 yo: God took one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve?

Me: Yup, that’s what this version says.

7 yo: Did it grow back?

Me: Um, I don’t think so.

7 yo: Ow. God could have just used dirt to make it.

Me: Well, that is a good point.

7 yo: So boys came first?

Me: Well, yes, in this version of the story. There are two creation stories in the Bible and in the other one, Adam and Eve are made at the same time.

7 yo: Why are there two stories in there?

Me: What do you think?

7 yo: One is the dumb one and one is the right one.

One of the most surprising things about raising children is that they are not you. This should be obvious, but you continue to realize, with surprise, that they have different ideas, perspectives, experiences, biases, relationships and worldviews. And in my house, they all have a different sex. My children, all assigned male at birth, are not having the childhood that I had, in part, because they are in male bodies. 

I feel fortunate that I was raised to believe I could do anything I wanted to and have any job I wanted, as long as I worked hard. This was good for me. But, I realize now that it was only somewhat true and was more true for me with my set of privileges that it was for some others. If I was a young girl today, my options for what I could be may be more severely limited, at least in some states.

As a child, I didn't read the story about a woman being formed from a man's rib with any conscious sense that it made me less. And yet, somehow, I absorbed this gospel: boys come first. 

For example, I realize in hindsight that some of my "shyness" as a younger girl was not about introversion (I'm not). It was more that I didn't want to take up too much space. I didn't want to assume I was better than others. I didn't want to get in the way. I didn't want to be a bother. I didn't want to ask too much. I do not see these tendencies in the male children in my household.

Enter puberty. I realized at some point --  consciously and unconsciously -- that I could get attention with my body and the way it moved or what I dressed it in. Short skirt on your waitress shift = good tips. This was not rocket science, which I did not learn because I was too intimidated to take physics in high school even though I was interested. I do not think the children in my house will do this one day. 

Enter adult workforce. I can think of at least a dozen times in my first two jobs where I let a man hug me too long or put his arm around my waist or a hand on my back in a way that made me feel uncomfortable and I did not say one word. I also can't remember, in those days, protesting when a man (usually much older) made comments about my body, asked when I was going to get married/have a baby, called me sweetie/honey/kiddo or said my boyfriend was a "lucky guy." I just smiled or moved away or giggled awkwardly. Why? I didn't want to be a bother....he didn't mean anything...it might damage my standing at work.... all the reasons women everywhere put up with this nonsense. My boys probably won't have deal with this and they better not do it to someone else. 

The cultural conditioning for those of us in female bodies is so strong. After all of the gains in equity and all of the broken glass ceilings and even my own success in gaining academic degrees and professional leadership, I still found myself apologizing 8 times when I got moved to a different seat on an airplane last week and had to trip past people with a bulky carry-on. The flight attendant literally told me to stop apologizing. I don't think she'll have to say that to my boys.

The story about the rib might mean that boys came first. The story about Adam and Eve being created together might mean that male and female were created simultaneously. These are old stories that tell us more about God than about ourselves. The creation narratives are part of the past, written by an ancient Hebrew people who wanted to define the world and themselves. We can do the same thing, with the stories we're writing now.


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