Last week I had a conversation with my son that went like this:
D: Why is my name and Baby Sister’s name and Daddy’s name all the same?” (Why? is the constant conversation starter around here lately).
Mama: Traditionally kids get their last names from their Daddies.
D: Why is your last name Haskell?
Mama: Haskell is my Dad’s last name; I got it from Pada (grandpa).
D: Oh. So why do kids get their Daddy’s last name and not their Mama’s?
Mama, tired and bewildered by how to explain this to a three-year old: Because of the patriarchy. Which we must smash.
D: Oh. Ok, we will smash it.
Often when I respond to the incessant whys with a complicated answer my son will relent and just reply with, “Ok.” Also, my husband feels strongly that we shouldn’t “dumb things down,” but rather tell it like it is when our kids ask tough questions. In this way we can build understanding over time, and it has the added benefit of giving me a little extra brain space.
Answering all the questions is tiring. Sometimes he asks me things I actually don’t know the answer to, and often he asks questions that have incredibly complex answers.
As the week went by my son brought up the subject a few more times. What is the patriarchy? Why are you a feminist? How do you know when something is fair? How do we make things fair? It’s been so thrilling to observe his curiosity. He has been asking various people in his life if they are feminists like him.
A few nights ago while getting into his pajamas he said, “Daddy, the patriarchy is a system.” His father didn’t quite make out what he’d said and asked for clarity. “What is a system?” Enunciating this time, our three year old repeated, “the pay-tree-ark-ee. It’s bad. So we have to smash it.”
We laughed and brainstormed ways in which we can do just that.