Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, and Rossana Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
My family and I were on vacation in the U.S. when the Orlando shootings happened. We were getting ready to attend Pride in Philadelphia when we tuned in to CNN and saw the news coverage. My husband couldn’t say anything. I was holding our daughter and feeling so bad for the world. This was our third trip to the States. The first time was smack in the middle of the Aurora shooting and I remember watching The Dark Knight Rises with a SWAT van on standby outside the movie theater. Between that year and our second trip, the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. I cried for all those small children and I remember hating feeling so helpless.
As parents, these kinds of events are affecting me and my husband in a visceral way. It’s hard to look away from this and it’s forcing us to think of the kind of future that our daughter would be living in. It horrifies me that with all of the advancements the human race has achieved, we still haven’t moved beyond living in fear of the other. Fear of the other is the common thread that weaves through the issues of gun reform and LGBTQ rights.
I didn’t grow up political, I inherited my parents’ beliefs and parroted their opinions. For the longest time, I had to figure out what I really believed in and a lot of the work involved a cultural and spiritual emancipation from the beliefs I grew up with. Now I find myself very vocal with my social values and it’s deviating from my parents’ politics. This is why I’m trying to be careful with what I am passing onto my daughter. I don’t want her to believe something just because I do.
It’s clear to me now that I still have to guide her toward what I think is right. We could be wrong though and that’s why we’re going to encourage her to challenge us and reason with us. But before she learns how to argue, we need to figure out how we’ll be grounding ourselves. These shootings are as a wake-up call to prepare ourselves for the difficult conversations. The conversations about race, sexuality, bigotry, and discrimination needs to happen. There needs to be a shift away from this desire to gain resources and to acquire power towards a desire to understand and coexist.
Instead of picking a tribe and adapting its traits and ideologies, I want her to break away from binary thinking altogether. This means learning to view the world as it is, in shades of gray, and understanding that people and things are never 100% evil or 100% good.
My husband and I made the decision to attend Pride long before we landed in the U.S. We wanted to be identified as LGBTQ allies. We want to broadcast it loud and clear to our LGBTQ loved ones that they do not have to stand alone and that we’re going to be there for them. And as much as I try to be careful with passing on my politics to my child, I’m understanding now that my daughter will be looped into this.
Little kids are inundated with lessons and platitudes about kindness and acceptance, but you’d be surprised at how inherited prejudices can easily override that. Teaching your kids empathy and privilege is one instance where your children can transform you into a better person if you allow it. It wasn’t so long ago when my husband and I used the words “gay” and “fag” as insults or refuse to use the correct pronoun to refer to trans people. We’re a lot better now but we can still be so much more.
We took our daughter to Pride with hopes that being around so much diversity becomes a norm to her. Something much more interesting happened to us as parents and all it took was to see how she absorbed the world around her. My daughter sat in her stroller quietly studying the feather boas, colorful beads, and rainbow flags. She didn’t flinch nor get scared when men in leather thongs and six-foot drag queens paraded past her. She smiled when a lady manning a children’s tent approached her and handed her a sticker with a hand-drawn porcupine on it.
Children enter this world so innocent and without any prejudice. Bigotry is learned. Children may not have the capacity to understand family dynamics, relationships, and gender identity, but they know love. Maybe the greater task at hand is to educate our children on how to love and how to accept people as they are. We obsess so much on the right ideas, the right religion, and the right politics that we forget about recognizing each other’s humanity. Let’s start with our little humans.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Nico Ortigoza