the Last Normal Day

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Do you remember your last normal day?

The last day before the world changed? Before your life turned into this weird version of something else?

Mine was a Monday.

I haven’t worked Mondays since my son was born 12 years ago, and for one reason or another, my husband had taken the day off. Maybe he had a doctor appointment. I really can’t remember that detail. But I remember we we hung out together during the day on a Monday- a totally rare thing. I guess we should have known it was a sign.

Maybe if we had known it was the last normal day we would have done something more special. Maybe we would have made love mid day, or picnicked with champagne in the sweet, chilly March sun.

But we didn’t.

We browsed Old Navy. I bought a polka dot tee shirt and two soft cotton dresses to be worn business casual in spring and summer. On that last, normal day, the weather was still too cool for such attire, but I was looking forward and they were on sale.

Then we had lunch at a random Red Robin. We ate messy burgers that we slopped ketchup on from a communal bottle. We pulled paper towels out of a roll on the table and didn’t think our lives or the lives of all we loved were at stake.

During lunch we chatted about NPR segments that said we needed to be prepared to be kept home for extended periods of time. My husband mused about the economy and about China and things I couldn’t really grasp. It all felt like something impossible, like we were musing about the plot of a new Star Wars movie.

Four days later, on Friday, we learned our kids were coming home from school for an indefinite period of time. My husband’s work sent him home for “two weeks”. I went to work and found out we would be working remotely for “a week”.

One week, two weeks, turned into more. Weeks turned into a month. A month turned into more.

We learned to stand in line compliantly to wait our turn to grocery shop at Trader Joes. We learned to wear masks. We learned to balance clients with our children’s remote learning needs. We learned to recognized our children’s urgent mental health cues. We learned to tune in to the pressers that informed us of our risks and how to keep safe.

We did none of it particularly well.

Life changed almost overnight.

And here we are.

Nearly four months later, I still think about that lunch with my husband. When I put on the dresses I bought that day, a pang grips me in a super painful way.

It is the weirdest thing. I don’t miss shopping or eating out in chain restaurants, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that. Sure, I miss going to art museums and movie theaters and not having to think about risking my life for a glimpse of culture. But what I truly miss is the sense of safety in humanity.

Dreams come now. Literal dreams at night when I’m sleeping. I dream I’m in a crowd and I don’t have a mask. Or I dream I’m just in a crowd and no-one else knows about the virus. I dream my children are venturing into unsafe places where people don’t believe in PPE. I try to pull them closer to me, but an omnipresent hum of viral droplets and republican rhetoric pulls them from me.

The Riots Are Worth It… because BLACK LIVES MATTER

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Tonight I told my kids they had to play in the yard and stay close to home. There were riots and looting in my city last night, and more are forecast for tonight. I explained to the kids, who are 12 and eight, that a white cop murdered a black man and people are angry.

They were confused. I think they were a little scared.

Our state’s national guard has been mobilized and our city’s mayor has enacted a curfew.

So we wait.

I am infinitely blessed to have been raised, and to still live, in one of the most liberal, tolerant states in the nation. We pride ourselves on freedom of religion, thought, and sexuality. We are an artistic, eclectic community of randoms who love the ocean and grassroots advocacy.

Over the weekend, while the rest of the country blazed in flames of violent reactivity to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white cop, my state had a peaceful protest. It felt good to be able to say we were peaceful, even through intense anger and grief at racial injustice and terrorism.

I did not expect that 24 hours later, hundreds of people would descend on our capital city and set it aflame, smash it up. The cars that transport our state’s neediest foster children were smashed and burned to ashes.

All of this news dominated the cycle all day. Many of these characters involved had nothing to do with the essential Black Lives Matter movement, and had everything to do with inciting violence, fear, and terror on our state.

Watching it unfold, I felt fear and sorrow. I felt things I’d never felt before.

I read theories about rage people are feeling in the midst of the pandemic, economic strife, and racial disparities of death from Covid 19.

Fuck my heart was so heavy.

I was frightened for my children. I didn’t want my boy to go biking with his buddy, and I did not want my daughter to leave our yard, not even to walk the dog.

As I cleaned dinner dishes, I watched a bunch of bunnies hop around in our yard. I found it hard to believe our bucolic landscape could soon be dominated by flashing lights and sirens.

It struck me.

This isn’t even a fraction of what black mothers have felt for decades. Centuries even.

This does not even touch on the fear and uncertainty regarding safety, and it my privilege reeks that this is the first time I’ve ever had to be scared like this.

Let me be clear, I don’t condone any violence ever. I don’t ever want to see anyone hurt or harmed. I do not want to see anyone’s business suffer.

But if somehow we can understand even a shred of what our black friends and brothers and sisters have experienced all of their lives, and all of their ancestors’ lives. . . then it is worth it. The looting and rioting is worth it, because we need to know.

We need to understand what it means to have had black bodies looted for all these years by white people in power.

We need to know and we need to make amends.

Please consider donating to one of the charities that support the legal funds of people arrested in the recent protests. The following link has a series of resources for where you can either amplify your voice to assist in the movement, or to help those in need.

https://www.timeout.com/things-to-do/how-to-support-black-lives-matter

What If We Die?

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Over the past few months, I’ve been very conscious about limiting my exposure to and intake of the Covid 19 coverage. I stay informed enough to understand what’s going on in my state, and how I need to protect myself and my family, but I also impose firm boundaries in order to maintain my sanity.

My husband on the other hand seems to thrive on information. He voraciously consumes the science of it all, and is always eager to fire off statistics and new factoids at me. I frequently have to tell him to stop because it makes me super anxious. We all deal with stuff differently.

But this past weekend, he mentioned a new trend in the health crisis that really made me stop and think, and that I have not been able to let go of. He told me about how relatively young and asymptomatic people are dying suddenly of severe strokes. This stopped me dead in my tracks (absolutely NO pun intended).

We’ve been following our state’s stay at home order to the letter of the law, and so far we have presented as healthy. The fact we could be going about our business and randomly drop dead without even a clue it was coming, is absolutely terrifying.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What if I die? What if he dies?

We are in our second decade of marriage and we have discussed death as it pertains to when we are much, much older, and usually with an atheistic sense of humor around how we can access the cheapest option for body disposal. In these future-oriented discussions, our kids are grown and independent.

In my more rational moments, I’m pretty sure we are going to be okay. But what if we die? I’ve got to tell you, my irrational moments are a lot more frequent these days.

I don’t really have any answers and the hubs and I are yet to have a discussion about what the actual fuck would happen if one of us dropped dead right here and now. To be completely honest, it actually pisses me off that I have to think about this question, let alone plan to have a nuts and bolts conversation about it, but it seems like the responsible thing to do because we have two children who would be lost without us. . .

What do you guys think? Do you have plans for this? Is this something that any other parents in their 30s or 40s are thinking about? 

 

What Are You Grieving?

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92423AB4-92CD-46BA-BC35-F29338DB7AC7In the midst of the general death and destruction wrought by Covid-19, a grown woman took the time to complain on social media that she would not have a birthday party this year. She was devastated there would be no restaurant, no margaritas, no tapas, no cake, no friends to make her feel special and celebrated.

My first thought? What a selfish brat! 

This is a grown up we are talking about, not an eight year old who already picked out unicorn party favors. Has she not read the posts written by traumatized, sweaty ICU staff who are actually risking life and limb to care for victims of this pandemic?

I was angry, but not just with Birthday Girl. I was angry with our country and all the interlocking systems that have failed in keeping us safe, in working cooperatively, and in providing resources to treat us humanely. The more I thought about it, the more depressed I felt. Then, like many have already observed, I realized I was bouncing around in the cycle of grief.

We are all grieving different things right now.

Some of us are grieving celebrations in which we cannot partake. Others are grieving loss of employment, or income needed to stay afloat. Some bear the palpable loss of a loved one to this pernicious disease, while others suffer isolation, and the grief of loneliness.

It made me stop and realize what a judgey twat I was being.

It also made me question what I was grieving.

I’m certainly wandering around in a haze of sad uncertainty that feels a lot like grief. I miss simple structure, routine, consistency. I’ve lost all the ways I typically “do” life. I’ve lost being able to see and embrace my friends and family. I bear witness to my children’s pain at separation from their grandparents (who they typically see daily), their friends, and routines of school and activities.

I definitely miss leaving the house and listening to music really loud in the car on my way to work. Who’d have thunk it? And I miss sitting with my clients, face to face. I miss the things you see on people’s face that you can’t experience in their disembodied voices, or in pics, or in ticktoc vids.

So, maybe it’s a bunch of things? Maybe I really just miss being able to race out to the market to fetch that one thing I’ve forgotten without it being a big HAZMAT issue that puts all our lives at risk?

Maybe I miss when life wasn’t such a hyperbole and I could use hyperboles in fun and actual hyperbolic ways?

Yeah, I guess, I’m not grieving anything greater than a birthday party either. We all know the horrors that are right outside our doors (or at least the ones of us choosing to stay in and socially distance do).

I’d like to tell you that the nice thing about this grief is that it will be impermanent. A vaccine will be developed, treatment will come, and we will be free to roam about the world again. Things will get better. Those are all facts.

But will we go back to normal?

If I’ve learned one thing about grief, it is that grief, when traumatic enough, has the potential to change us, to alter us right down at our DNA level. Don’t believe me? Google the epigenetics of trauma. I swear to you it is an actual thing.

So, the good news is if we stay kind, supportive, and connected, we have a far better chance of surviving and getting back to our baselines. If this situation has taught us anything, it is how much we need one another, how essential the embrace of humanity is to our health and existence.

I’m so sorry I forgot that, even for a moment.

What are you grieving? Please feel free to share in the comments below. I try to respond to any and all who take the time to share their time and thoughts with me. Thank you for being here. 

STOP “Looking For The Helpers” /Avert Your Eyes or Get Busy

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

If I NEVER see the Mister Rogers quote to “Look for the helpers; there are always people who are helping,” when something goes dreadfully awry in our world again, it will be too soon.

Unfortunately, in the mist of our latest and greatest (by greatest I mean completely camel shit dick ball sucking craptastic) international disaster, I’ve found this platitude of the famous children’s TV show personality almost everywhere I look.

Sure, on the surface, it’s sweet, kind; it offers hope in the midst of despair. Hope is a good thing. I have nothing against hope.

What I DO resent is the bastardization of a sentiment intended to comfort children and reassure them their adults were in control of dangerous, traumatizing situations.

While it is natural this quote might comfort adults of children to whom they might offer it, it is often held aloft by adults instead, a sort of shield against their own anxiety.

In a way it pretends nothing more need be done than utter those magic words, and presto! Instant comfort and hope. All better.

Mister Rogers has had a moment over the past couple years. Our frenetic, mean world seems to crave his slow-spoken kindness. But with any figure who becomes pop icon, there is a sort of revisionist hagiography, a blurring of flaws so only goodness and purity shine through.

On a lot of pages and sites online, I see people asking, “What would Mister Rogers tell us about Covid-19?” And the invariable answer is, “He would tell us to look for the helpers!”

I didn’t know him personally, but I guess he might tell you that if you were in the four to eight-year-old demographic his show targeted.

But an adult?

I have to believe a man with his intelligence would have challenged us a bit more than just to look for arbitrary people doing important jobs in order to comfort ourselves in the paralysis of our own helplessness, or worse, our laziness.

If I am to continue having ANY respect for Mister Rogers, I must believe he would not encourage us to simply look for helpers while the world literally falls apart around us.

Here’s another reason I truly resent the use of that phrase: I’m a helper myself.

I’m a therapist. This time has been unbelievably unsettling for my clients, my colleagues, my profession.

Within a couple days, we had to figure out how to do our jobs completely differently to continue helping during this time of unprecedented challenge.

Anxiety, isolation, depression. Addiction. Abuse. Hunger. Homelessness.

Loneliness.

In a world with billions upon billions of humans, people are lonelier than ever.

I also have a family. My kids are scared. They are schooling at home. I am helping them while juggling my entire caseload. The idea people would look for me as a helper and not see the entirety of my humanity agonizes me.

I’m only doing telehealth from the comfort and safety of home. Doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, bus drivers, pharmacists, and millions of other people who can be considered “helpers” don’t have that luxury.

One thing we all have in common? Fear.

You want to look for us? Know this: We are burnt out. Terrified. We are scared of getting infected, but even more than that, of infecting our families. We carry the weight of our clients and patients every waking moment and into our dreams. We experience vicarious trauma that keeps us up at night.

Right now, the usual boundaries we set for ourselves to stay balanced and healthy are askew. We are being asked to do more, take on more, be more flexible. It comes with the territory, but damn it feels dirty and unfair.

Being a helper gives me chest pains and raging shits. Sometimes I shake. Being a helper leaves me with very little for my own family. Being a helper makes me cry and feel hopeless. Often, my heart races. Being a helper makes me angry, full of rage. Being a helper makes me so tired, but doesn’t let me sleep.

Does this mean I shouldn’t be a helper? No. I don’t believe so. I believe it means I’m human.

Watch the clip of Fred Rogers, in the 2018 documentary, trying to address the nation after 911. He felt it too. He wasn’t perfect. He didn’t have endless reserves of compassion or patience. He despaired just like the rest of us. You can see it in his eyes, the slump of his shoulders. The rest of that documentary was dross to me for its desire to propel him to sainthood, but that one scene felt so real to me. It was the one moment to which I could relate to his actual humanity.

We are all of us squishy, stupid, flawed, fucking human beans.

We are imperfect, but we have a gift of being able to connect with people. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t be this tired. If I didn’t truly care, I wouldn’t bother speaking out right now.

Here’s the other thing: As a helper, I can’t help anyone who isn’t willing to help themselves. You depressed? You got trauma? Cool. Let’s work. But let me be abundantly clear, you will be getting busy. My job is to open a door. It is your job to get up and walk through it. I can point to the thread that might start to untangle your messy web. It is your job to start pulling.

The reductive idea helpers exist to endlessly help is not only tiring, it is quite frankly offensive.

I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. That’s fine.

When pain, fear, or sorrow trigger us we tend to go where we are familiar and feel comfort. For many, Mister Rogers provides such refuge, and has since they were young. Do what you need, but I beg you, if you want to look for me as a helper- look at all of me.

Look for me with my greasy hair and baggy eyes. Look for me with the ugliness of my stress acne. Look for me falling asleep watching TV with my kids. Look for me taking walks and trying to crawl out of my own skin because the world scares me and I want to fly away.

Please don’t just look for me hanging up after a telehealth session when I’ve said something wise to create connective tissue with a client, massaged an old scar with clinical theory, helped someone establish safety. Please don’t just look at me when I am “winning” at helping. Helping is hard, fucking drudgery.

And for the love of milkshakes, please don’t just stand there and look! Spring into action!

None of us can know what Mister Rogers would say if he were here. Honestly, I can’t imagine he’d have any point of reference to say anything remotely cohesive about the horror happening on our planet. It doesn’t really matter what he would say.

I wonder if he would want adults to be more proactive with helping children and each other, as opposed to just sitting back and “looking” around.

What words of comfort or motivation can you offer?

There are a lot of ways that start within ourselves and have nothing to do with looking for others.

Reach out to someone to see if they are okay. Reach out to a helper to see if they are okay! I promise you, they are almost certainly not okay even if they say they are.

Draw, journal, listen to music, dance. Infuse the brilliance of art into the bleakness of trauma. Take walks. Sing. Nurture your body and soul.

Make cards and send them to a nursing home for the residents, or even to the staff to pick up their spirits during this time.

Start a gratitude journal. Studies show that focusing on things about which we can be thankful, as opposed to concentrating on the negative, helps encourage positive feelings to take root.

Take time and talk to the children in your life. Check in with them. Read them stories. Allow them time to ask questions about what is going on and to process their own feelings.

Focus on facts, not feelings. Consume social media and the news in smaller doses so you don’t fuel your own anxiety. This will allow you more energy for helping others.

If you are able, donate to a food pantry or to a shelter that is helping the most vulnerable of our citizens during this time. There are so many who don’t even have the luxury of what many of us take for granted every morning.

Together we can do so much to lift each other up during times of trouble, but only if we move beyond our comfort zone, past the shallows of familiar platitudes to the places where authentic connection can truly heal.

 

 

ABORTION- Writ Large

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Twenty years ago today, I had an abortion.

The thought struck me as I drove home from work, or rather, as I drove to my seven year old daughter’s science fair at her elementary school. The thought came again, once I went home and made supper for my eleven year old son, my daughter and her dad still at the science fair.

Twenty years.

Somehow, I am at a point in my life when I measure things by decades.

Trauma has a way of either binding or erasing memories from our memory. It is an actual chemical process that happens in our brains.

On that particular day, twenty years ago, moments were seared into my memory as if someone held a tattoo gun to my grey matter.

I wore a pink sweater and black pants. I carried an alpaca shawl with me that I’d been sleeping with for years and named Mr. Snuggly. Even after the nurses made me change into the johnny, I still had Mr. Snuggly draped around my shoulders. They made me take it off when I went in for the actual procedure. I felt so suddenly cold.

Have you seen the Netflix show Sex Education with Gillian Anderson? There is an amazing abortion scene in that. My abortion was partially like that and partially not. I watched that series not too long ago and found myself thinking wow…  they got it right...  but then when I thought about it today, about my experience, I thought about all of the ways it was different for me.

The strange, awkward camaraderie of the women as they waited their “turns” in the show was totally resonant with my experience. I’ll never forget the women who told me stories and tried to comfort me. But I got suddenly sick to my stomach and a nurse made me go into another room by myself to wait on a bed with bleached, white sheets. Maybe the nurse thought the other women, who had been through it before, scared me. They didn’t, to be honest.

To this day, I remember those women and feel the wave of comfort they imparted to my pale, conflicted soul.

Ask me anything.

Ask me if I was scared; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I was sad; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I felt certain; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I cried the entire time so hard, the nurses threatened me that if I didn’t stop the doctor wouldn’t do it and would make me come back another day. Yes.

Ask me if I wanted to die along with whatever bloody tissue they scraped out of my uterus that March morning. Yes. 

Ask me if I regret what I did. . .  the answer is no.

At the time, my boyfriend, and I use the term loosely because I learned later he cheated on me during our entire relationship, was a Marine. We had been together for a little over a month when I found I was pregnant. He was menacing, and became even more so after I told him I was pregnant. He doubted the pregnancy was his. He accused me of being unfaithful and deceitful. He told me I was ruining his career and his life if I continued the pregnancy.

Then he decided we would make great parents and he said he would allow me to keep the baby. That lasted for about two days. When I couldn’t make up my mind in the market over something minor, he berated me. He told me I’d make a horrible mother. He brought me to tears with harsh words, then soothed me, as he proved his point I was an unstable human, unfit to have a child.

But that was not all.

Statistically, abuse increases for pregnant women in domestic violence situations. I was part of this statistic.

He’d squeeze the tender flesh above my knees or my elbows, then scream at me when I recoiled in pain.

I found a grenade in his closet one night when I was hanging my clothes for work the next day.

A grenade.

He told me not to worry about it. It wouldn’t actually kill me; it would just create a shattering force to concuss me and render me unconscious.

Then there was the night he dumped a gallon of ice water on me in the dark. Out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it, so I screamed. I swore. He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me into the next room and told me to get my filthy mouth out of his house and to never come back. Soaking wet, he threw me out of his house.

At that point, I realized I could not have a child with this man. I was terrified for my own life, but even more for the life of an innocent infant that I might bring into the world.

Of course all the pro-life people will rail against me and tell me what an evil harlot I am. I should have considered so many other options. I should have worked it out. I should have left.

Well, when you are being dragged by your hair and when you are staring at a grenade sitting above your freshly ironed blouse, options seem rather scarce.

You may not understand or believe my reasoning, but at its crux, my decision to have an abortion was about being a parent.

It was about being a parent to that little cluster of cells that had nested in my gut way back then in that unfortunate winter, and about the world into which I did not want to bring it.

And it was about being a parent to the children I would eventually have– to Jack and to Emily. I shiver to think of how my life would have been irrevocably altered had I carried that pregnancy to term. In some subconscious part of me, I knew to become a mother at that part of my life would have subjected me to unspeakable trauma that would have ruined not just my life but the life of an innocent. I never would have been available as a human to parent other wonderful, spectacular, complex, humans.

He was thrilled. He promised he would stand by me. He became unspeakably kind.

I made the appointment. He drove me there.

He drove me home and made me a sandwich. He left it on the bedside table, and then he left me. I saw him maybe one or two other times again in my entire life. It was a blessing in disguise.

Ask me if twenty years later I still feel such a profound mix of emotions that I am reluctant to admit I had an abortion; the answer is yes.

Ask me if any day of any week I can tell you how old it would be. Yes.

Women are shamed for all sorts of choices.

Women are shamed for having sex. Women are shamed for not having sex. In extreme cases, women are subjected to violence for their choices.

Today as I drove home from work and realized it was the twenty year anniversary of my abortion, I realized I no longer felt shame.

It took me a long time to make peace with the images of that day imprinted on the coils of my mind. It still makes me feel a bit sad to think of the rainbow socks of the woman in the recovery chair next to me, how they were those socks with the individual toes.

For so many years I sanitized my abortion with euphemisms. I’d say, oh I lost a baby. Or, I had a pregnancy loss. Maybe those things are true. But it is also true that I had an abortion, and it is no less shameful.

You know, many years later, some time after becoming a mother to my son, I got pregnant again. The pregnancy was not viable. I tried to miscarry at home, and I ended up hemorrhaging in a grocery store because some tissue got stuck in my cervix. It was violently ugly and utterly traumatic.

The so called miscarriage was nothing more than science to me. I was only eight or ten weeks pregnant and I understood that the fetus was not biologically sound. But the horrors that my body endured as a result of that event was just not expected or safe. I wound up on an operating table having what they call a D and C. Basically, it is the exact same thing as an abortion. They scrape out the contents of your uterus and you go on your way.

At that point, it had been 13 years since my miscarriage, but I remember feeling triggered by the procedure. It brought back a flood of feelings and thoughts that were unpleasant and unwanted, unlike any of the times I’d discovered I was pregnant. I’ve been pregnant four times and I have two children. All of my pregnancies were wanted; they were all just not tenable.

So.

Here I am. Twenty years after my abortion. No longer scared. No longer ashamed, but still feeling things and still wanting to hug those crazy, generous women who were there with me that awful morning.

Abortion was a gift to me on that fateful day, just as it was 13 years later when it saved my life during my miscarriage. I didn’t know it at the time in 1999. It took me a lot of years to be able to see it for what it was and to get past the trauma, not of the abortion, but of the circumstances that brought me to that point.

Abortion should not be a dirty word. Nor should it be a gift. Abortion should be a right for every woman who needs or desires one. If you don’t want one, don’t have one. If you want to adopt unwanted children, go do it- there are plenty. But please, do not judge, blame, ostracize, or malign women who need or want this medical procedure.

This is my story. It is mine.

There is so much more to it. This is just the tip to the iceberg.

But this is what I wanted to share today, on this anniversary. Because I am no longer ashamed or afraid, of the word abortion, or of my story.

Compassionate and thoughtful comments are always welcome here at Momaste. Please note comments on this post will be moderated. Anything hateful, bigoted, or obviously written from troll land will be deleted. Take your Pro Life agenda elsewhere. If you have sincere questions or need support please feel free to connect here in the comments. Much love and thank you for reading. 

 

 

Real Mom Talk– What I Think vs. What I Actually Say and How it Enables Toxic Masculinity

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Emily is in first grade now and the mean girl club has started with a vengeance. This has been a seriously rude awakening for both of us. For whatever lucky ducky reasons, my son (who is four years older and five grades ahead of Em), did not go through social crap in the same toxic, manipulative ways my seven year old daughter is already navigating with her peers.

Emily is a sensitive and empathic child, which makes the whole issue all the more heartbreaking. I’ve addressed it with parents, her teacher, and the principal and we’ve come up with some supportive ways to help Em cope with the stress of being a sweet little lamb in a lion’s den.

This week she went back to school after the holiday recess, and happily applied herself to her studies. She loves to read and is thrilled by participating in art. This morning, as I was in the bathroom getting ready for work, she approached me.

“Mama, when you go up to dress, can we have a talk?”

“Of course. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just need to do some talking about my feelings.” She said with a serious little face.

So, here’s another difference between Em and Jack. Both of them have the same goopy, social worker mom, but my son rarely willingly divulges his emotional space to me. Em on the other hand is all about the deep, emotional bonding.

As I pulled myself into my undies and leggings I asked her what was up. She disclosed to me that after school, when she was playing in the school yard, under the watchful eye of her babysitter, one kid had stolen her hat off her head and her special new toy, and run off with them,  and threw them over a fence.

She told me this calmly and clearly as if recounting the forensics of a crime scene.

My heart sped up and it was all I could do to keep the steam inside my head. I hugged her. Her glossy curls brushed against my cheek and I felt the little bones of her back under my hands.  We talked about how it made her feel and how she solved the problem and what she thought we should do next.

Then she wanted to play on the iPad.

She moved on, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I was pissed.

Had it been an isolated incident, maybe I could have let it go a little easier, but dude, I’ve been dealing with this social crap for the past four months now and I don’t understand why it isn’t getting any easier. It also seemed to suck and confound me because the bully this time had been an older boy.

So, at pickup, I approached the kid’s mom and mentioned to her that her son (who is four years older than my first grader) had been physically aggressive to my daughter. I let her know that Em is just super sensitive right now and I’m trying to keep tabs on things, and I knew her kid probably didn’t mean to hurt her hat, toy, body, or feelings, but that was the end result. I told her directly, but politely.

She told me it was inappropriate to mention it in front of her son and that she would talk to him and get back to me…….

Here’s what I REALLY wanted to say, “Heya bitch face, tell your poorly socialized excuse for a spawn to keep his grimy paws off my precious little baby and while you’re at it, maybe you want to have a convo with him about consent and how to treat women because clearly you are training him to be an abusive little shit! Boys will be boys after all!”

I didn’t tell her that at all. I smiled and thanked her for her time and then I went and privately had an anxiety attack that I had confronted this woman who was clearly pissed with me and didn’t have a grasp on where I was coming from.

TBH, I’m pretty much still shaking, even after texting and talking to several friends who validated that I was advocating for my daughter and did the right thing.

It is hard to address these issues with other moms. I appreciate that. Furthermore, I get that the other mom was also advocating for and protecting her son, but oh man, in this day and age, maybe we all wanna double down on those discussions with our sons about respecting the physical space of female bodies and set some good examples for future generations.

IDK. It got me thinking about all the things I sorta wanna say as a mom, but don’t.

Smile and nod. Smile and nod. . .

When does my politeness become complicit? When do I actually enable the abuse of my daughter on the playground by saying what is polite instead of saying what I really mean and feel?

What do you think?