gender roles in my own backyard


we’re eating lunch at a plastic picnic table.  my knees barely fit underneath.  we’re mere feet away from the trampoline and the swing set.

this is how young it starts.

my son.  my beautiful boy.  this kind-hearted, contagious, leader of a boy.  he is a song.  he looks up from his paper plate and asks his two sisters and i –

“do you think it’s better to be a boy or a girl?”



mazzy answers quickly.  a boy.

ella says girl and i do, too.  then i add that i’ve only ever been a girl, so i’m not sure if i’m the best one to answer his question.

he agrees and we all begin to eat again, i think it’s done.  then he says this –

“but i think being a boy is a little better.”

when i start to talk about the great things about both, he starts to list the biblical reasons to support his position.

– god made men first.

– it is called “mankind”

– jesus came in the form of a man

my jaw has hit the yellow plastic as he argues for something i hadn’t known was taken. and the fact that these lines hadn’t been rehearsed at home isn’t lost on me.

oh church.

oh christian school.

oh humanity.

a little riled up now, i answer him.

you know when you make something the first time?  he nods.  you think “eh, it’s alright, but the next time i make it, it’s going to be amazing!”  that’s kind of how god was with the whole first and second business – we’re talking serious improvement.

mom, he says smiling sideways.

and the word “mankind” is a way of saying humankind, women are included in that.

and i’m not completely sure on this, but jesus took the form of a man partly because if he’d been a woman in his culture, in his time, he would have had no voice, no rights.

he quiets down and looks around the backyard.  the trees sway from wind he can feel, wind he knows is true, but that he can’t point to and say, “aha!  there it is!”


later we’re driving and i’ve thought about his small understanding of the gender debate, my small response.  he is trying to express something he sees – boys and girls, they’re different and for him, being a boy is better.

in some homes, in some cultures, this wouldn’t be a conversation.  it would be truth and he’d be celebrated above his sisters, allowed to do what boys will do.  but here in our house, in our backyard, it’s an observation that he wants to put out into the air and see what happens.

i don’t want to take him down at the knees.

i have to help him think about this well.

clean up

“abe i was thinking about what you said about boys being better than girls.”

yeah?  he asks.

“you’re right.  there are things that are better about being a boy.  and there are better things about being a girl, too.  but you’re a boy and i want you to know that i understand what you are saying.

but honey, many times and especially in the church, that idea that boys are “better” has really hurt girls and ultimately can make girls believe they aren’t as important to god.”

he looks surprised and wide-eyed says, that’s not true!

“i know, abe.  i know.  and i know you don’t think that way.  listen, jesus had a lot of power, right?”

right, he answers.

“but he didn’t lord it over people.  he was a servant.  he laid down his rights even though he did not have to.  

abe, you will grow up to be a man and you will have a certain amount of authority and responsibility.  you will need to decide how you want to treat women, how you think about them – you’ll have to choose the kind of man you want to be.”

then there is deep quiet and a staring out of the passenger window with the world flying by.


“and i think you’ll choose well, abraham.  because you are kind and loving.  you have a good heart and i love you.”

i love you too, mom.  i love you, too.

4 replies on “ gender roles in my own backyard ”
  1. Tears in my eyes… I love that boy! And Zena I love your heart… To not just leave it but to push through to the deeper things… To push to the heart! To push through to Jesus… I’m reminded of Jesus saying I did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10). Your words are like that sword… Cutting straight to the heart. I am thankful for words that cut today…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.