This morning in the car on the way to preschool, the twins were talking about a spider they saw inside the house. Inside the house! I’m not sure how they’ve never seen one inside before, but for some reason this rocked their little world. Why was he inside the house? What did he want? Was he there for a reason? Didn’t he know he belonged outside? The questions were flowing fast and quick.
Last night, I found an article on using “I wonder” questions to foster inquiry and curiosity, so I decided to give it a go. “I wonder,” I said to the twins, “how that spider came into our house. Do you have any ideas? Any theories?”
Molly was pragmatic as always. “I think,” she said with authority, “that he used his web like a strong rope and climbed into a window that was left open.”
Matthew was thoughtful for a few moments. “I think that he…”
He stopped and looked confused.
“I think that she…”
“I think that spider found a secret passageway that only spiders know about. And I think that spider used it to come into our home.”
As usual, Matthew’s answer was dreamy and fanciful, while Molly’s was based on what she knew to be true about spiders and their webs. But something more struck me in Matthew’s answer. In the absence of evidence about the spider’s gender, Matthew was unwilling to make assumptions. Somehow, he knew that was important. Instead, he ordered his thinking and his words to accommodate that ambiguity.
With all this nonsense and bathroom and gender policing going on, it was an important moment I wanted to remember. If my five-year-old can understand that gender is so important, so integral to identity, and so personal that he was unwilling to impose his own assumptions on something as tiny as a spider, why can’t we all learn to respect other human beings in the same way? What does it cost us to have the grace and trust to allow others to self-identify not based on body parts, but on who they are in their innermost core? As my oldest daughter says, when will we learn to “stay in our own lane” and spend less time policing others, and more time policing ourselves?