I was driving around town in the babe-mobile, listening to little girl chatter and taking small sips of my Wendy’s drive-thru Diet Coke, when a Honda Accord nearly barreled into the side of me. I hit the brakes and turned my steering wheel just in time.
The light had been green, but the other driver read it as a green arrow (I’m hypothesizing), so while I was cool to turn right, she was *not* cool to turn left. She was wrong; I was right. (I like typing that sentence.) She was shouting and gesturing and her face was turning red.
“Mommy. Why is she screaming?”
I’m ultra-sensitive. So sensitive that a friend casually said “I have no idea how you’ve survived the internet for so long” and I joked that I usually don’t. Confrontation turns my blood cold, so when I feel compelled to write about refugees or corruption in the Church or misogyny or racism, I hit publish and lie down on the floor and wait for it all to blow over.
But I never want to avoid confrontation so much that I end up throwing my kids under the bus. It’s something that I realized I had been prone to in the past (this daycare is fine, probably! — it wasn’t fine, but the amount of sweat my body produced over ending that contract is unparalleled) and something I realized I needed to work on in order to be the best kind of mom I can be — the kind that protects, the kind that gives, the kind that leads by example.
Whether it’s talking to a doctor and trusting my gut when one of my girls landed in the ER or firmly telling an obnoxious old man — not the sweet, endearing type, but the kind that loudly shares archaic opinions, like interracial marriage shouldn’t be a thing and women should only wear skirts — to stop hovering over my three-year-old and making angry faces at her.
These may seem like small things, but frankly, they’re the moments that have always sort of terrified me.
It’s clear that at least one of my girls has inherited my sensitivity trait. We’re the ones crying together during movies, books, re-telling of stories. We’re the ones that feel bruised when others can shake it off. Being sensitive is a good thing, but also a tough thing, I’ve told her. We’re able to empathize easily, but sometimes big feelings are crippling.
I catch her eyes in the rearview mirror, and she’s obviously shaken by the woman screaming.
“Rem, she’s wrong. I’m not. She can scream all she wants, and honestly, if she were to get out of her car right now, I’d happily let her know that.”
“Yeah, babe. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. But … you know … this probably isn’t one of those times. We’re both moving along. In fact, I think she yelled because she’s embarrassed. This is one of those times where you channel your inner Elsa and let it go.”
::regrettable song interlude::
A few nights ago my online bank was giving me a hard time with my account. After a twenty minute phone call, their fix for my situation was for me to mail in every check I receive. No other solution. We’re very sorry, ma’am. Our systems won’t let us override this.
I ask to speak to a supervisor. I push a little more than I would have three years ago.
“You’re an online bank; the entire appeal is the ability to do everything via website and app. The fact that you’re asking me to mail and fax documentation feels archaic and eliminates all of the benefits of even banking with you. At this point, I might as well be standing in front of the blue-haired woman at my local brick & mortar.”
Within ten minutes, everything was settled, and I walk into the kitchen with both arms in the air.
“FIXED! Everything deposited! FAX something in, can you believe it?” I’m humming and dropping it low in the kitchen in victory while the girls eat their dinner at the table and my husband is leaning against the counter, unfazed.
“I heard you talking, Mommy. Were you in an argument?”
“Not an argument, exactly, Rem. Maybe a dispute. It was important to have and it got resolved in the end. Because sometimes you have to let things go but sometimes you have to what?” I quiz her.
“Stand up for yourself.”
“Say it louder for the folks in the back.”
“Stand up for yourself!” She breaks into a grin. I do, too. Sometimes the learning and the teaching happen concurrently. Parenting, you wild, unpredictable beast; the things you do to me.