The other day, I was walking into a bank. I was weighed down with a heavy one-year-old, a diaper bag, a purse, a folder of legal documents, and a couple of allergy bags for my oldest two children. My shirt was riding up, my pants were falling down, my one-year-old was trying to escape, and my seven- and five-year-olds skipped through the double doors into the lobby. I almost grabbed one of the double doors with my pinky and slid on through after them, but then I thought about it again.
And I decided to wait.
Eventually, my seven-year-old came back to the double door and pressed his face against the glass, wondering where I was. I motioned for him to come outside. He did, and I said, “Hey – remember what we’ve talked about? Ladies first, right? I need you to get the door for me.”
He sighed a heavy sigh and held the door for me, and then I waited for him to get the next one.
“Mom,” he asked, “Why is it that boys always have to get the door for girls? Why is that a rule?”
“Look,” I said, “I’m glad you asked. Do you see all the things that mommy is carrying?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Okay,” I said. “Name them for me.”
So he went through the list: diaper bag, baby, purse, allergy bags, folders . . .
I said, “Listen, Mommy’s got a heavy load. That’s reason number one. You should always look out for people carrying a heavier load than you. You should always try to help them. But also, you shouldn’t just assume you can see what someone is carrying by looking at what is in their arms. Girls carry a lot. Their load is heavy. And you should always offer to help them.”
“So it’s like girls carry invisible back packs?” he asked.
I thought about it for a minute and I said: “Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like. When you see a girl, you should always just assume she is as strong as you, but she’s got a lot to carry.”
He looked puzzled for a minute, but then he said, “Okay,” and held the next door.
Together we walked into the bank.