Wednesday Aug. 24 was the first day of school here in Casper. That means that on Tuesday night we had “back-to-school” father’s blessings. This has been a tradition in our house, as it is with many families. However, this year felt a little different. Todd, my oldest , was starting middle school. Geneva, my youngest, was starting full-day Kindergarten. It is a year of transition.
Shem, the new 4th grader, went first. I will not go into the details of the blessings themselves, but I love the intimacy of such blessings. I love the feel of their hair as I place my hands up their head. My hands on their head often reminds me of how little they really still are.
Geneva was next. A year before we were very nervous about her education. However, her speech has improved greatly and we now feel that she is ready to conquer Kindergarten…and the world.
After I said “amen,” Geneva jumped up. Beaming, she said, “I want to do it.”
She was standing by the chair…ready to assist in the blessing of her brother Todd.
And she was pumped and ready to go. She had seen people at church during the setting apart of presidencies. Once a president or counselor is set apart, they join in with the circle for the next blessing. Geneva was ready to do the same.
Or maybe she has been reading Stapley and Wright and she know that girls have done this before.
My first reaction was one of pride. Pride in my bold little girl. She was ready to jump into the good work.
Now, Geneva is a feminist in training. That is for sure. She already thinks that Kristine Haglund and Tracy McKay are awesome. She is also a strong willed and determine little one.
However, this was not the result of a feminist impulse.
Geneva loves the limelight and the blessings were taking center stage. She does love praying. The opportunity to say our morning family prayers is what wakes her up in the morning. While my boys might groan when asked to pray, my Geneva is always disappointed when she is not picked (as a result…she gets picked a lot),I briefly thought about letting her join in the circle. However, I did not want Todd’s blessing to be about Geneva. I explained to her that Daddy would give Todd the blessing. Not because she is a girl, but because everyone was getting a special blessing from Dad and now was Todd’s turn.
I did not tell her that girls don’t give blessings. They don’t much anymore, but that was not the message I wanted to send. I do not let my young boys join in blessings, yet they someday will. My oldest, Todd (lounging this morning in the picture above), will turn 12 this April and he will be able to pass the sacrament. Shem, almost 10 (see his picture in my post on Tim Tebow) will soon follow.
Buy what about Geneva? She will be keenly aware of being left out. I will also be aware of her exclusion. It already pains me to think of it. It may pain me more than it does her. Also, I know as a social scientist that the symbolic messages sent by such exclusions are real. Even if my wife and I teach her an egalitarian approach to religion, the messages of inequality will be stuck in her head.
I have been thinking about these issues in the abstract for a long time. Susan Moller Okin argues that feminism is about the full recognition of the human dignity of women. As a feminist father, and more importantly as Geneva’s father, these issues are now very real.
I am at a crossroads that I had never thought I would come to. I am not sure what to do. However, I do know that Geneva, Shem, and Todd will come first. My first and foremost obligation is to them.