Weddings are back! COVID-19 postponed weddings and scheduled weddings are everywhere. Who doesn’t love a wedding? They are such happy occasions because they are filled with love.
A few weeks ago, we got to be a part of my nephew’s wedding. In addition to the usual hiccups, they encountered an unexpected one. My grand-niece, the youngest flower girl, couldn’t decide if she wanted to be a flower girl or a shark.
Fortunately, as you can see from the picture; she chose to be a flower girl.
And that is one of the great gifts of childhood…the belief that everything is possible. A child can believe it is equally possible to be a flower girl or a shark.
When my daughter was her age, she wanted to become a jumping house painter. She could combine the things that she loved doing most—helping us paint the house and jumping.
But as children get older, they learn that their options are more limited. Transfiguration is only possible in the movies. It might be difficult to make a living as a jumping house painter.
These learnings are an important part of growing up. But children also learn about other limitations that are not acceptable.
Because of the color of their skin, their socio-economic status, their religion, their gender, their ethnicity, or their sexual preferences; they see roadblocks instead of opportunities.
When I was young, I was told that women could only be teachers, nurses, or mommies. Our generation dedicated itself to breaking this barrier. We have not fully succeeded; there is still a wage gap, and we haven’t attained the position of leader of the free world, but we have come close.
It has been a long journey. After I earned my doctorate, I had many job offers and I was able to set conditions. One was that my husband had to be offered a job as well. Bell Laboratories was happy to oblige, but I was surprised to discover that my husband was offered a higher salary. As they explained to me, he would be the primary breadwinner; so, he was entitled to a larger salary (try to understand that circular logic).
We have come a long way.
Our generation has made great strides with sexual orientation as well. When I joined the workforce, gay and lesbians were not allowed to be teachers, clergy, adopt children, and many had to hide their orientation. Now they are afforded most of the privileges that heterosexuals enjoy.
We have made progress on race; but we had a long way to go, and racism is still sadly present. (If you need any proof, stroll around the Talbot County Courthouse grounds.)
Socioeconomic status remains a persistent barrier. Children living in poverty are rarely able to see past their current circumstances. They see only limited opportunities, and a learned helplessness philosophy can take hold. There is also work to do on ethnicity, religion, and transgender. But we continue to make strides through the courts and awareness.
So, I am hoping that when this little girl grows up; all barriers will be down. And she can be anything that she wants to be.
Just probably not a shark.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.