Today is the day I came head to head with the dark truth of my heart about my children; the day I had seen coming since the conception of my first child. The day I had to come to terms with the fact that this world is shitty and my kids are living in it and I can’t protect them from it because suddenly, it’s coming for them with a vengeance.
Hello, Middle School, you feckin’ Teenage Wasteland.
My daughter bawled in my arms today because I told her what a good friend she was and how much her big heart mattered. That she was doing a good job staying positive and reminding people that there is good in the world just because she was alive and giving her friends respect and comfort. My tender heart girl.
Alternately, I had a very impassioned and logical conversation with my (precocious) youngest about how she can’t believe everybody she meets online will greet her with the truth, vying for attention and sympathy and saying anything to get it. In her own way she is a tender heart too but she’d rather be on the front lines defending her bullied friend rather than comfort them in the dark of the night. She uses her anger to try and right the wrongs and sometimes that can be overwhelming. But kids shouldn’t have to deal with that crap at 13.
She was called a Snowflake by a boy at school for no reason other than he knew that word is triggering and disrespectful. (Small miracle she didn’t punch him in the nose.) Poor girl couldn’t do anything except cry out of frustration. She couldn’t defend herself because it would enflame the situation, inciting more bullying and she couldn’t go to a teacher because their hands are tied as well. The “Zero tolerance” is a bull shit law.
My older daughter gets verbally abused by her classmates on a daily basis (she is high functioning autistic, rides the “short bus” and has a class full of obnoxious hurtful boys). The only thing teachers can do is gently reprimand the students to please stop because using ‘No’ in a classroom now is considered negative teaching.
I cannot say how angry this makes me as a mother and as a kid who got bullied herself.
I have to teach my daughters to become hard-hearted so the world and all it’s assholes won’t shred them to bits but at the same time remind them that there is good in the world worth fighting for, they just have to find it.
WHAT THE HELL?
Why should I have to have these conversations with my thirteen year old children? Why do I have to watch my daughter cry because I praised her for being genuinely a good person or caution my other daughter against investing her heart in people because they might hyper-focus her sense of justice and bully her into submission? What the hell kind of backward world did I bring them into?
I feel like this world has aged them into Adults before their time and now they have to run the Gauntlet with only half the advantages. I’m not sure if I want to put them in a bubble and keep them away from society or go sign them up for the military so they’ll harden up and be prepared.
Of course, all this angst can be funneled into stories. Writing down the feeling of ineptitude as a mother, of injustice as a bullied kid, of being ostracized because of my physical abnormalities and hyper-smart brain. Writing down the need to fit in with peers because of ingrained social norms but also wanting to stand out as being unique and different.
What a struggle it is to find our place and our people; to grow out of the titles and labels we’re given as teenagers and young adults. Having a neurodivergent daughter has given me an alternative perspective on life that I count as invaluable. It has been a blessing and source of anxiety and now I get to share it with the world. The trials and triumphs of growing up and now seeing my children grow up.
The world needs more stories about how to handle differentness, about how to teach tolerance and acceptance and also raising strong sons and daughters in the face of adversity. The world needs more stories like Wonder and A child called It and Phantom of the Opera. Stories that make a change, that force people to think differently and feel deeply.
This is the blessing and the curse of parenthood AND a writer. Someone needs to feel your heartache and hear your story from your own perspective. Someone needs to be reminded of how hard it is to grow up. Someone out there needs to have a spark of inspiration and passion from YOUR WORDS.