What Do I Share With My Daughter?

I would like to preface this by saying that I speak from the "I" perspective. 

My wife and I believe in speaking with our child clearly, fairly, and intelligently. We have done so since birth. We are happy to have our thinking validated.

For us, we didn't adopt "baby talk" since we don't believe in talking down to her. We believe in speaking appropriately to her. I'm often reminded of a line from To Kill a Mockingbird. "Mrs Merriweather was one of those childless adults who find it necessary to assume a different tone of voice when speaking to children." We certainly encounter this phenomenon with not only strangers, but also friends and family. At least they're not as bad as what we endured at a recent playdate at a famous chain of children's party and gym spots. They added "ie" to the end of everything. You haven't lived until you've heard the word "ballie" twenty times in a five minute stretch. I am not immune to this. As much as I try, I still find that I refer to myself in the dreaded 3rd person. My daughter is old enough now so I certainly don't have to speak to her in this patronizing fashion. I have made big strides with this though. 

We also don't use slang or goofy words for things that don't need them. For instance, no Boo Boo, but a scratch. What is a Boo Boo anyway? She uses words like vagina, penis, and nipple as well. I thank Logan Levkoff and her fantastic work for inspiring us and our approach. There is no reason to fear using the correct terms. If you don't know her work, check our her website and blog on the Huffington Post using the links below. Thanks, again, Logan!

However, there is more to all of this talk about talk. We are also thinking about how we speak to our daughter about bigger issues. Not too long ago, I had an interesting conversation with my wife. (Borderline debate actually. And it's not over yet either.) We've tried to let our now 2.5 year old daughter forge her own identity by offering lots and lots of things and people as possible influences.  
So, our conversation became interesting when we started to discuss our child's library. As a former independent school diversity director, I feel that a diverse library is essential. Books that challenge stereotypes, show a variety of family configurations, and have characters that look like our multiracial daughter are a must.
Where my wife and I started to differ was how much do we influence her political views. What this debate really came down to was how we were each raised. My wife says she was raised without any discussion of politics. Her parents focused on the importance of treating people with respect. I grew up differently. Although following the golden rule was just as essential in my upbringing, I was raised to be very aware of my race. And that others would also be aware of my race. We watched Roots, which continues to have an impact on me. We listened to Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech. I was read Stories for Free Children from Ms. Magazine. I was taken to pro-choice rallies. My mother worked for women's organizations. At those organizations, I befriended some of my mother's lesbian co-workers, some of whom are lesbians, who taught me a valuable lesson that love is love. My mother truly wanted me to be a more modern and sensitive male. (Think it worked, Mom. Thanks.) 

This debate and my contemplation after have led me to these conclusions.

1) I am convinced that people in underrepresented groups do not have the luxury or privilege of being quiet and letting views develop on their own, especially when fighting for civil rights is part of your history.

2) I remain convinced that by the general nature of my daughter's "village" and her diverse library, she would most likely lean liberal. 

But, are we obligated to raise a child to believe the same essential things that we hold true? It seems as if the majority of the people who support these essentials (i.e. marriage equality, fair pay for women, racism still exists) are liberal and Democrats. Should we subtly and not so subtly influence her to vote along these same party lines? I am thinking more and more that the answer to this is yes. Not because I want to impose my will. But because I feel it is the right thing to do. And I want our family to be on the right side of history when it comes to these issues. To be fair, my wife makes some great points about holding back the political nature of some of our comments. I just wish some of these issues were not so politicized. So, we will continue this conversation. 

Posted on December 3, 2013 .