It happened in less than a minute, but it has profoundly affected my thoughts.
Yesterday, my daughter had a company dance photo shoot. She wore the costume for the dance, “Cook Kids vs. Nerds.” Of course, she was a nerd and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. A little later, she wanted to go to the store to look for earrings and I wanted to find new jeans, so we went shopping.
I’m getting a new tattoo; it is a semicolon with butterfly wings. I first heard about the semicolon project from my niece and if it doesn’t sound familiar, it would be worth your time to look it up. The most basic meaning would be, “my story isn’t over yet.”
I haven’t discussed my past at length with my daughter, but she is getting to be that age where she has started asking more and more questions. Next week, I am going to a presentation called, “Playing Monopoly with God,” about a woman’s experience with postpartum issues and returning from that place I once knew all too well. When asked if I would be willing to share my story in an interview, I hesitated. Most of you who know me well wouldn’t believe that. My life = open book. But, my daughter is to the age where she can surf the internet, she knows about my blog and I’ve never discussed what happened after her birth with her. I have NEVER wanted her to think it was her fault. EVER.
She and I began discussing my tattoo and the meaning behind it. I told her I wanted this tattoo in a very specific place for a very specific reason. I finally explained to her that I used to injure myself. We spoke a little about depression and suicide, but didn’t dwell on the issues. She brought up the fact that she wished people would take more time to put themselves in other people’s shoes to see how they might feel if they were treated the way they treated others. She said she thought some of the reason kids her age get depressed is because of things other kids say to them.
We went to the mall and she convinced me to go to Claire’s to look at and purchase earrings. The gal at the checkout said, “Are you having a mommy/daughter date?” Grace and I looked at each other to decide if we wanted to give our time together a title. I looked at the gal and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
As we walked out of the store, I noticed the gathering of four girls sitting on the benches around the trash can. They were whispering and giggling and each of them had their own cell phone they were glued to. I vaguely sensed they could be talking about Grace, but honestly, couldn’t figure out why. I looked their direction and noticed one of them had a black eye.
On our way out of the mall, the girl with the black eye shouted out, “What are you wearing!?!”
And suddenly, everything rose up inside of me.
I turned around to make sure the girl was speaking to us. I turned around to make sure the girl knew I was speaking to her.
“It is a dance costume,” I said emphatically.
The girls sitting on the benches looked at each other, “We’re sorry, she’s just being rude,” they apologized, swatting at their friend’s arm.
I kept looking.
Less than a minute, but a lifetime of influence, both in cause and effect.
As we made our way to the car, I was considering going back into the mall to make sure that girl knew her words had consequences, but Grace stopped that line of thinking by saying, “You know you didn’t have to do that, right?”
My heart was still racing. “I didn’t, but I did,” I tried to explain.
“Well, your confidence made me more confident,” she said. “I couldn’t have said what I did if you hadn’t said what you did.”
After a few seconds of silence, she continued, “And by the way, what she said didn’t offend me.”
And then, I took a step back to review the situation. My daughter and I had just finished a “mommy/daughter date” and were on our way home, together. We had been talking, laughing, sharing interests. Grace is a dedicated dancer with confidence enough not to worry about what others might think of her “costume.”
I began to wonder what kind of home life the other girl had. She was at the mall, unsupervised, with a black eye and a cell phone. She probably thought her friends would think her comment was funny and maybe for a split second, she would feel like she belonged if she was able to make them smile.
Sometimes, life is so sensitive, it hurts.
And sometimes, I am just extremely grateful that my daughter has the “swaggest dance costume around.”