My first Mother’s Day after getting divorced was likely the toughest of the holidays for me that year. It didn’t help that it was also only a couple of weeks after our divorce was finalized. There was no one to get up with my daughter that morning and let me sleep in. There was no one take me to brunch or to take care of the plans for the day. I was on full mom duty for the entire day and if I wanted to do anything with my little girl, I was in charge of planning it, paying for it, and executing it. The days leading up to it felt overwhelming to me. It wasn’t until I made the decision to celebrate the day, and my child, that I was able to feel a calmness surrounding the holiday.
I bought tickets for my daughter and I to go to a local theater for a children’s production of The Princess and the Pea. I didn’t know what to expect or if my daughter would even be able to sit through a play, but it felt like the right thing to do to celebrate the day together. It turned out to be a wonderful experience and because of how special that day ended up being for us, we became season ticket holders for their children’s theater.
Since that first performance we have seen countless productions there. It has become a tradition for us and a lovely way for us to celebrate Mother’s Day each year. The shows have always been so fun and entertaining for my daughter and I feel so fortunate to instill a love of theater in her at such a young age. It is something I grew up with and I am so grateful that I am able to share it with her now too.
This past weekend we went to another production at this local theater. We were looking forward to it all week. And while my daughter thoroughly enjoyed the show, I sat there, feeling incredibly uncomfortable and disappointed. The performance was based around the challenges the “new kid” faces when they start at a new school and the struggle to fit in with the popular crew, etc. The show consisted of your typical jokes, first day jitters, a wacky teacher, and a love interest between the new kid and a popular student.
Unfortunately, it also consisted of the same story we have seen (and heard) time and time again of the popular guy in class wanting to date a particular girl and (frankly) not taking no for an answer. He harassed her for almost the entire show in spite of her consistent lack of interest. At one point during a dance scene he grabbed her and hugged her from behind as she tried to wiggle out of his embrace. He teased her relentlessly and lied about their relationship to their other friends.
It was so painful for this mama to watch.
When is this story going to stop being a part of our children’s lives? When are we going to stand up and say enough is enough and end this disgusting cycle? We cannot continue to teach our children that no does not mean no. We cannot continue to show our children that it is funny to be harassed, picked on, and bullied into liking another person. We must show our sons and daughters that this story does not exist anymore.
It is time to write a new story-a story about respect. I cannot have my child growing up in a world where no means anything other than no. My daughter cannot be a part of a movement on social media where writing a status including “me too” is still a thing. It feels unbearable to know that at just six years old my daughter is being taught that if you are popular (or strong, or forceful, or disrespectful) rules don’t apply to you. We cannot continue to accept this story line. This story is not okay. This story has never been okay. It will never, ever be okay.
At some point, I will be honest with my daughter about my own story. I will tell her how my brother’s friend took something from me that I will never be able to fully recover from. I will tell her how to this day, over 20 years later, I still flinch when someone touches my neck. I will tell her how I went home that night and took the hottest shower the hot water tank would allow in order to feel my skin burning, in order to feel any other pain than the pain I was feeling. I will tell her how some nights I can still feel the cool smoothness of a rock on my back-a rock I was pushed up against at a high school bonfire. I will tell her how I can still remember exactly what I was wearing, and how I never wore it again after that night. I will tell her that I continue to have sleepless nights, nights where if I close my eyes my head instantly betrays me and I am 13 years old again. I will tell her that I still worry after all these years about running into him when I am “home” visiting my parents. I will tell her how for years a scarf around my neck felt like a shield for me, a form of protection I carried with me at all times. And I will tell her, over and over again, how I said no and how no meant nothing to him. When she is old enough, I will tell her my story.
But, until then, we have to do better than this. We have to do better than the same old story. It is time to rewrite the story. It is time to change the ending. We owe it to our little girls, and to all of the amazing boys in the world to stop the story. And we owe it to everyone who had to write the words ” me too” on social media this week.