There are many days where I think I’m pretty kick ass and this whole mothering thing? Easy peasy. That I’ve got it down pat. I can sit there, smug knowing I’m that cool Mom who dyes the kids hair blue and reads them Pratchett and occasionally lets them stay up to watch Mel Brooks films.
Then there are today’s.
I’m not in the door 5 minutes when Vivian starts to tell me about this kid who pushed her on the playground. Only the playground is the jungle gym that resides within the bounds of the low income housing, with it’s unofficial “stay out mantra”, and the kid is one of the (many) children of a woman who quite possibly personifies the myth of the mother who has babies for the checks and who couldn’t possibly be any more verbally abusive to her children in public. It’s quite frankly a place I want Vivian to stay away from, especially considering all the needles and cigarette butts and broken glass. It’s hard to not reference the stereotype when it seems to live in such vivid color.
I shake my head, drag the story, such as it is from her, and tell her to have her actual friend come over here instead. Any time Viv goes up there, someone throws something at her, pushes her, etc. And while I’m more than quick to blame my own kid, it’s constant and I’ve seen it. The adults are bullies, and sadly, for too many of the kids, it’s an inherited trait.
I wish it weren’t so.
Then as we’re getting ready for bed, I hear Rosalyn in the bathroom, staring into the mirror. I hear “I’m ugly.” and my heart, is makes this WAAAH sort of noise and I try to keep calm as I ask “What did you say Sweetie?” and she comes shamefaced out of the bathroom and all I can think is “what the hell did I do to cause THIS!?’ There is little to no poor self talk, only mentions of how lovely and smart and strong they are, what wonderful women they’re becoming. She won’t tell me where she’s heard this, denies anyone said it to her.
But I worry at this one. Where Vivian seems so self reliant, so adaptable and frankly, so strong, Rosalyn reminds me of someone.
I turned 34 this past September, and this is the first year I can remember where I have actually felt confident, and beautiful, and smart and strong. Maybe not every day, but most days. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t wracked by fear or doubt or self loathing. I can look in a mirror now. I still don’t always like what I see, but I see it and think this is me. This is a me who has come through and survived and thrives now. This is someone who is loved, someone who is in love, someone who matters. Someone who cares. This is someone.
But I remember being that person who felt only horror at herself, who felt that pain everyday, who said “I’m ugly” and meant it. I remember that as vivid as any picture I have ever taken. I never want to feel that ever again. And I certainly do not want it for my daughters.
Especially my youngest, as delicate as Queen Anne’s Lace, as lovely as starlight, as strong as a young birch, at whim to the wind. She who shares my apparently flighty constitution, my flair for the dramatic, the simple peace of naivete, that which I do not want her to cast aside until the last possible moment. I baby her because she is who I was, she is the creature I remember being, before it all changed. Quietly lovely, and happy. I cannot let her lose that so easily.
I cannot let her lose it.
But it will go. Now, maybe later, maybe well into the future. But I cannot protect them, not completely. Not from others, not from themselves.
All I can do is try and arm them, and hope.