[Image description: Illustration from ‘Rain!’ by Linda Ashman and Christian Robinson. In the illustration, a young child with brown skin tries on an older white dude’s hat. The man is shocked to see the child mocking him, wearing a frown and shouting “You!”]
This season, we’re exploring bias against older adults and teaching our kids to identify harmful assumptions about age
This article & book list is a part of the anti-elder ageism series. Start from the beginning: Why Young Activists Depend on the Fight for Elder Rights.
I’m trying a new thing here where I break this loooong infodump into multiple pages. I’ll come back and cut out all the fluff later – but…time, I do not have enough of it.
Leave a comment and let me know how the multi-age thing is working for you. Particularly if you’re using a screen reader.
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Only You Can Prevent The Arrogance of Mediocrity
My five year old enjoys explaining things to me. His brain has spontaneously combusted with imaginary facts, taking that “anything is possible” nonsense, transposing it to mean if he can imagine it, it’s a fact.
Which sounds very….post-truth. Everything about social media, climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and our government makes more sense now. No one told these bloviated windbags that no matter how many times you repeat bullshit, that doesn’t make it true.
Somewhere along the line, this five-year-old decided he had the authority to give me instructions.
He tells me how to gently turn the pages of a book. He tells me how life started on earth. (Aliens. He’s firm on this.)
It started out cute. I’d nod and smile and be like “Oh wow. Really? Aliens, you say?”
Now it’s just annoying. He tells me how to cut his apples, how to sweep the floor, and how I should wear my mittens. Sometimes he insists I stop and re-do it his way.
He’s starting to notice that he’s the littlest in the family, the littlest in his school. He can’t reach the sink, he can’t tie his shoes, he can’t pronounce his own name, but everyone around him can.
The whole world bosses him around and tells him what to do. Letting him bullshit me about aliens makes him feel confident. Speaking with authority on things he knows little about makes him feel smart and capable and in control of something.
This new discovery of the world + quest for confidence + me humoring it = makes these kids a little arrogant
His older brother is seven, and the seven-year-old has recently hit peak mansplaining.
(At least I hope it’s a peak. Good gracious it’s awful.)
We parents don’t do anything right. His teachers are in his way. His classmates play all wrong. No one knows how to do anything, except for him!
That angst! Thick with condescending sighs, frustrated whining, and eye-rolls – normal for seven. But the paternalism – that’s concerning. While he could maybe grow out of it on his own, I’m not gonna leave that to chance.
I see my part in this. I played along pretending he’s the smartest person in the room when he was little. In kindergarten, it was fun and adorable. Now that he’s huge, and it just comes off as arrogant and rude. Time for us to cut that nonsense out. My bad.
As the folks raising this next generation of kind and brilliant humans, it’s our job how to prevent the arrogant, mainsplaining nonsense of mediocre white dudes. Of all folks with privilege who blow smoke about why they deserve power, but are not responsible for sharing it.
It’s time to teach our kids about intellectual humility.