My three-year-old daughter, Shepherd, has dismissed the possibility of following in her father’s unsteady footsteps to become a preacher. But this story isn’t about a rebellious preacher’s kid. It’s about a three-year-old with erroneous perceptions about gender roles. I told this story to a few friends and they dismissed my worry with an unhelpful and speculative assertion that “she’ll grow out of it.” Kids grow out of shoes, they don’t involuntarily grow out of distorted world-views. Now, I’m scared of what other messed up junk is swimming around her tiny little head and I’m looking for the Philistine that told her the specific lie that only boys can be preachers. Shepherd surprised us with this revelation early one morning as our entire family shared in the daily ritual of laying in bed together for the first ten minutes of the day, playing silly games and reconstructing fake dreams that progressively get more absurd. At some point, one of the kids reports that in their dream they ate the school, which means it’s closed today.
Before I share the story, here is some background. Shepherd just turned three which did not stop her mother from introducing her to skinny jeans. She has three pairs she wears with as much dignity as a two foot human can. She also has a nuanced understanding of the color wheel. Her clothes match without any help from us. She knows when the length of her skirt demands bloomers.
Somehow, Shepherd also possesses an above average comprehension of the gender expectations culture implicitly assigns to boys and girls (boys and girls encompass all males and females in Shepherd’s limited vocabulary).
If my daughter was 28, I’d accept her decision to not be a preacher. But Shepherd’s not 28, she’s three and should be more worried about the lack of gummy bears in the pantry than her vocational identity. As a preacher, I’d counsel all three year olds to exhaust all other interests, passions, and talents before concluding that working in the church is a good idea. At a minimum, you shouldn’t rule anything out until after you learn how to write your name with a pencil - crayons don’t count in the real world.
Below is a transcript of the conversation that compelled this blog post. I’ll follow up with part II of my reflection in the next couple of days. For now, allow yourself to be shocked and offer any parenting suggestions in the comments below.
Abraham: Shepherd, can you scoot over, my heads falling off the pillow?
Shepherd: Of course. Is that better?
Amos: Shepherd, you are so helpful and considerate. I bet you will have a job helping people when you are older. Maybe you will be a doctor or nurse.
Abraham: Or maybe you will be a preacher.
Amos and Sarah: Ha Ha Ha Ha.
Shepherd: No Abraham. I can’t be a preacher, I’m not a boy.
Part two is coming up, stay tuned…