Next week, all three of my kids will head to school. They will pack their book bags, grab their lunch boxes, and walk right out the door and right out of my protective care. As a parent, there’s something very unsettling about this. My natural instinct is to protect them by keeping them close so I can know exactly what they are doing every single minute of every single day. But as I’m beginning to learn, part of being a mom means, not only protecting them from the world, but teaching them to sort through the world in a Christian way. Each family will pursue this goal in different ways–some through homeschooling, others through private school–but our kids attend the local (as in 3/4-of-a-mile-local) public school. But if I’m really honest, I find that we spend equal (and often more) time sorting through what they learn on the playground than in the classroom. Whether it is new (*ahem*) vocabulary or how to resolve conflict, the playground is as much a part of their education as the school’s curriculum could ever be.
One of the things that we’ve had to discuss is how boys and girls, and eventually men and women, relate to each other. (Apparently, it was on the playground last year, that two of my daughter’s fourth grade classmates “got engaged.”) At the same time, the playground is also where they first encountered sexist messages like “Girls Rule. Boys Drool” and my personal favorite: “Girls go to college to get more knowledge/ Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.” I recently wrote a piece for Her.meneutics that explores how we as parents and adults can sort between natural playground banter and truly harmful sexist messages. Like so many things in their lives, this is an opportunity for us to show children a better way.
We must realize that demeaning language harms the imago dei of both the one who speaks the message and the one to whom the message is directed. When we sanction messages like “Girls Rule. Boys Drool.” we affirm a false message about what it means to be made in God’s image. And when we undermine the truth of what it means to be made in God’s image, we undermine the ability of all of us, male and female alike, to live in that truth.
The Apostle James reminds us of the relationship between what we say and how it relates to being image bearers when he writes,
No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God… Does a spring pour forth form the same opening both fresh and salt water?
In essence, when our words belittle those who bear God’s image, it reveals that we ourselves are not bearing his image the way we should. We are not reflecting him because we are not doing what he himself has done—extending honor and grace to those made in his likeness.
You can read the rest here.