Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Let me make it clear that I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter. I’m not a rabid opponent, like some, and in fact in the unlikely event that she gets the nomination I will probably end up campaigning for her. But she’s not my first choice. Or really even my second choice.

But one day last week, Lucy came home from school breathless with excitement.

Lucy: Mommy! Guess what!

Me: What??

Lucy: There’s going to be a girl president!

Me: Uh…

Lucy: She’s trying to get yeleted right now!

Me: Right! That’s right. A woman is trying to get elected president.

Lucy: Oooh, I hope she gets yeleted!

Me: Why?

Lucy: Because that would be so cool, to have a girl president!

As a matter of fact, this is my sentiment exactly. It would be so cool to have a girl president! Just not, you know, this girl president. I guess I thought that we’d come far enough that I didn’t have to support her just because she’s a girl (er, woman). But Lucy’s reaction to the possibility of a female in the White House makes me question that belief, because my gut-twisting realization is that having a “girl” president is a big deal to Lucy.

How does she know that this matters? Sure, she knows about the presidency, and she’s understood for quite some time that voting is important. But this level of excitement on her part is usually reserved for things of monumental importance, like a trip to the ice cream stand or permission to stay up past bedtime. How can she possibly have internalized the underrepresentation of women in politics so completely in a mere six years? And what does this mean for me, her unabashedly feminist mother? Do I have to start supporting female candidates based solely on their gender just so that there are more role models for my daughter?

No, of course not. But this is a reality check for me. Maybe we haven’t come as far as I thought.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


This morning in the garden:

Ben: [picking up a large stick] This is my gun, Mommy.

Me: [alarmed but trying not to show it] Oh?

Ben: Yeah. I’m going to shoot mean people.

Me: I don’t think you should shoot people, even if they’re mean.

Ben: Why not?

Me: Well, it hurts them. It might even kill them.

Ben: [reassuringly] Oh, I’ll only shoot the mean people.

Me: Maybe you could call the police and they could take the mean people to jail.

Ben: Yeah!


Ben: And after they take them to jail, I’ll shoot them.


Me: Who are the mean people?

Ben: You know, bank robbers.

Well, at least he’s not thinking of someone we know.

Although there is very little hard research on how gun play affects children (at least according to my cursory search), there is no question that many, perhaps most, children go through a stage in which they are fascinated by guns and fighting. Looked at positively, they are learning about aggression and conflict in a safe, non-threatening way. Looked at even more positively, they are acting out fantasies of being a hero, protecting other people, getting the bad guys. Looked at that way, gun play is not so much about hurting someone as it is about protecting someone. Looked at less positively, guns are dangerous and I don’t want my son going around shooting people, real or imaginary.

And there’s the real issue: when Ben pretends that his stick is a gun, to me it’s about the gun, which is dangerous and can kill people. To Ben it’s about the mean people, and he’s going to protect me from them.

I guess he’s thinking of someone we know after all.