Failing as a mother
This is hard for me to even write. It brings me right back to that day, it may seem inconsequential, but as someone who normally does not keep her mouth shut, when I cannot do that for my child I feel as though I've failed. It was the smallest thing when watching from the outside in...
Most of you who pick up your orders from me know that we live in an apartment building. My son and I had run down for something I can't remember what, but we got into the elevator to go back up and it was a short ride to the 2nd floor literally probably 10 to 15 seconds, and an older woman got into the elevator with us. She was staring at Kenzo and stated how cute he was...I did not think anything of it, but as soon as she said it, immediately after... she then reached out and rubbed his hair between her fingertips and said something about 'oh that must be hard to manage'.
I froze, I was in complete shock. I felt ill, but before it even registered fully, we were walking off of the elevator and down the hall.
Now, I am feisty, normally a firecracker (though my husband to this days swears I am a kitten) and very impulsive (thank you ADHD). I have a natural resting bitch face and frequently get the comment:
"oh you are nice I thought you were going to be a bitch"
more times than I can count.
The level of violation that I felt at this action. My child. Who I should be protecting against this sort of stuff did not permit her to pet him as though he was a dog.
And I. Did. Not. Stop. Her.
In that single moment, I felt that I had completely failed as a mother. It caught me so off guard and lasted maybe half a second and I didn't react in time. It was so off-putting and before I knew it we were stepping off of the elevator and I was in disbelief, I could not even wrap my brain around the fact that she had done that
It is emotional to say the least
Even just writing this brings me to tears and my heart races. As we walked down the hall, I tried to process it, was I being silly? Ridiculous? Over reacting? Why did it cause such a visceral reaction in me. I ushered him out, and as we walked down the hall I said to him when we got back into our apartment and I had calmed down enough...you know if anyone ever touches you and you don't want them to you can tell them no. He said okay and moved on.
But the Mom guilt at failing him, the emotional turmoil inside of me...unreal. Every time I see this woman in our building, I feel anger and disgust.
The anger, who is she to think she has rights to my son...
Because he looks different...because his hair is different?
Not something you are used to seeing?
And you also presume to comment about how it must be difficult to manage?
The least of my problems is doing his hair. Let me tell you, I worry about how he will be seen in society, whether he will be judged on his skin color, how he cannot travel to certain countries and walk down the street safely and god forbid he wears a hoodie walking to the store...
I am thankful we live in Canada, but that does not mean racism does not exist here. It does, whether you see it or even realize it, it is prevalent in every day life.
A novelty in todays society
I have had former co-workers state that they want a "mixed baby" as if it is a novelty to them, something they can just easily obtain whenever they wish to.
But, they don't want the fears, the conversations that other parents may not have to have, because they have the privilege of being white or white-passing. These are never things I thought of or about when deciding to have children with my husband, and maybe that is my privilege showing, because I know he thinks about this stuff regularly, because he has lived it.
On another level, people feel the need to label my son
People feel the need to clarify his background when we are out without his Dad...they leave open-ended sentences hanging
...like oh is the father.....
Why does it matter? Do you need to justify his appearance...does classifying him make it easier for you to digest?
No one would walk up to a Caucasian person and ask for clarification on their background, or a Caucasian baby...oh is their father... there are no open-ended sentences there, no question of their validity or identity, no need to classify or confirm their background.
Racism is so embedded in our society that this woman thought nothing of violating my son's personal space. She probably has no idea of the effect it had on me and continues to have. Racism is buried in everyday actions that have become the norm. They are accepted because BIPOC people are expected to give up anything for those who are not BIPOC, have we ever asked why?
But back to that moment
I re-evaluate that moment often, was it my people-pleasing? My fear of rejection?
What was it in that moment that did not allow me to open my mouth and speak up?
Why could I not protect my child?
There are so many layers to my feelings about this moment, how I reacted, or did not react, the embedded racism, the violation, to name a few.
I went over it with my therapist and what she said helped ease the guilt a bit.
It is not always the action, it is the repair that follows, meaning it is what you do after to make it better, to fix it, to repair. Though I will be honest, it does not feel good enough to me.
Even so, my repair was letting him know that no one has the right to his body, to teach him that and enforce it in everyday life. He is not forced to kiss family members, he is not forced to hug anyone, it is his choice. We ask him if he wants to hug someone bye or give a high five etc. If he does not, we do not make a big deal out of it.
It is funny because he probably will not remember the moment, but I will. Forever. Maybe someday it will bring with it less guilt, and shame, and that lump in my throat will become less. But I doubt it. It is a moment I felt I failed.
Motherhood is made of moments plural
But I have to remind myself that one moment, does not define me as a mother, there are countless other positive moments, I tend to sweep under the rug when it comes to something like this.
I tend to focus on the negative. But I have to remind myself, that I am breaking cycles, we are parenting a child so far from the traumatizing way in which I was raised that is a learning experience for me, I have to consciously choose to react differently than how I was raised.
I apologize so my son knows he is worthy of it. I do not sweep it under the rug and act like everything is normal because then when they grow up and someone neglects to apologize for an act of mistreatment, but does not, I do not want my son to believe he is not worthy of that apology, because he is.
Be gentle with yourself
This is easier said than done. Trust me, I am my own worst critic.
It's easy to forget when you are in the moment and maybe you lost your s**t and once you've calmed down the Mom guilt hits....and boy do we know it hits hard. I have never experienced anything on the level of the dread Mom Guilt.
So I just want you to be gentle with yourself and remember you are doing great Mama and its not the moment it the repair that matters.
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That is where the inspiration for this design comes from so that even when you are watching them from afar wondering if you are doing the right thing you reminded that you're doing great Mama.
Fun fact...my mother moved me out of England, from a predominantly black neighborhood...so that in her words "you would not marry a black guy" ...well jokes on you Karen (yup her actual name is Karen lol)