It’s equal parts disturbing and funny to me when I find myself saying things my parents used to say to me. It feels almost like an out-of-body Freaky Friday experience to hear yourself being the thing you used to be so annoyed by almost as if you had no control over it. The words just slip out via some sort of pre-programmed parent soundbite auto-pilot. And you’re like “Did I really just say, ‘Do as I say, not as I do?’” What happened to me?
The other day I found myself saying to Evie, “Watching TV after dinner isn’t a right, it’s a privilege, Evie.” Only this time, it wasn’t just me who found my parent-speak jarring.
“Uh, mom, that sounds like you are saying ‘privilege’ is a good thing, but I thought ‘privilege’ was a bad thing,” Eli said.
D’oh! The challenge of parenting in Trump’s America strikes again! Of course, I’ve tried to educate my children about privilege. So, of course, they are confused now that I’m making “privilege” sound like a reward. I told Eli he was right, and that it’s a complicated concept that can be good or bad. But from now on I’ll say it’s “a reward” not “a privilege” in that context.
That’s the weird thing about privilege in our country right now, isn’t it? It’s something that you should earn, not be automatically entitled to. But the entitlement by those born white, male, cisgendered, etc. has gotten so great, that it’s changed the definition of the word. For kids coming fresh to the world now, the old meaning we grew up with doesn’t even make sense. Privilege is no longer used to mean you aren’t automatically entitled to this, it used to mean you feel you should be.
Kind of a head f*** when you think about it. But directionally right for society, I think. Not all kids will get “privileges” dolled out to them equally or fairly as they grow up and the stakes become a lot bigger than watching TV after dinner. Better for them to come to the word acknowledging that.
Sometimes I feel like I have the hardest conversations after I leave work.