My Most Important Job

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Photo and graphic by Micaela Adams

Photo and graphic by Micaela Adams

By Anaín Bjorkquist

When I sat down to write this piece these uncomfortable feelings began to bubble within me. Sounds crazy right? A woman feels uneasy dreaming about a world in which women lead the way. This woman. I am that woman. Let me explain before anyone comes for me and screams that I am not a Feminist.

Mothering three sons at different ages and stages of their development opened my eyes to the delicacy and courage that creating The Dream really requires. Raising my sons to be good men is the greatest, most important job I ever undertook: men who care about their communities, men who work toward making room at the table for people of all genders to lead. I challenge them while gently inviting them to think bigger and with their hearts.

My job that gets complicated when the police stop and question my son’s close friend when he rode his bicycle to our house. On days like that I must swallow my anger, so that I can handle the situation with kid gloves and assure these young men that things will change. We must support our dreams of a better world with actions.

My fifteen-year-old son and his friends do not like to be “othered” or treated in a condescending fashion by the police or people, teachers, parents, or others in positions of power. They want to talk about fairness—how things should be but may not be. As a parent, I work diligently to ensure that they don’t become a part of the problem.

When I hear them talk about girls in an inappropriate way, I must talk about how they should not objectify women. When they see a Muslim man dressed in a “strange” way and they giggle, I remind them of the courage it takes to be yourself when people judge you before you say a word.

When teenage boys say senselessly mean things to one another while using PlayStation, I remind my son that friends should talk to one another with more respect—conversations that my oldest son does not enjoy. He doesn’t want to be called out on the things that he thinks are okay because “everyone does it’ and “Mom, why do you care SO much about what I say.” I must entice him to engage in conversations that make him feel uncomfortable, that make him understand the agency and the privilege that comes with being born male. I want him to be powerful, to do great things, to be happy but above all else I want to raise a man who makes big choices from a place of love and of empathy.

I often postpone my dreams so that I can teach my sons the complicated ins and outs of performing gender—lessons that hit close to home because one of them sometimes behaves outside of his gender norms. No, ballet isn’t just for girls and liking the games that girls play on the playground doesn’t make you a girl. I soothe his tears because the Principal confused him for a girl and called him “sweetheart” in front of his whole class and they laughed. In what world should an elementary-school principal call a fourth-grade girl “sweetheart?” So much work remains to be done.

I don’t want women to rule the world; I want conscious humans of all genders to rule this world. I cannot even begin to write about what the vision looks like because I spend so much time teaching my boys to use all their agency and privilege to help others in need. My heart is so heavy and my body is tired, but tomorrow I will rise again to do this work regardless of who is in charge of the world.