With a daughter, I would have to change. I would have to respect myself for her: Fable, story with a moral, who helped pave the way for me to better understand myself, the mother, the woman, the girl... who knew how to help everyone but herself. She was my heart and I knew there was nothing I could do to protect her. All I could do was teach her how to build her own shield.
I listened to them. I must have been about seven or eight at the time but those words changed me. I spent my entire high school years dating skateboarders, sitting on their boards, attending their contests, wearing the logos of their sponsors to school on my backpacks and hoodies, hell even shoes. I even worked at a skate shop for two summers, gripping boards and selling trucks and picking up lunch for everyone.
I am bringing this story back from the archives only because, all these years later, it has been weighing heavy on my heart that I was unable to SEE myself as someone other than the spectator.
Not that I would have ever become a great skateboarder but now I recognize that instead of standing up for myself I sat down. I worshipped the very boys who told me I couldn't. And, embarrassingly enough, a part of me still does.
The day before school started, I took the big kids to Target to pick out their notebooks and lunch boxes. Archer went with a blue sack with ample room for his water bottle and Bento box, Fable chose a Sophia the First lunch box covered in flashing lights.
"No, Mom. THIS one is MY FAVORITE LUNCH BOX EVER! This is the one. Let's go."
The kids picked out their notebooks and after purchasing a navy dress for Fable to wear on her first day and new navy shirts for Archer, we went home.
That evening, the kids packed their backpacks, laid out their clothes, and the next day were off to their first day of kindergarten and fourth grade.
Their first couple of days went by without a hitch. Fable made an instant friend with whom she sat with at lunch, someone she had never met before. There was one snag, however, and I didn't hear about it until day three when Fable admitted to me that her lunch box had become a target for punching and kicking, flicking and throwing.
It wasn't a complete surprise. A lunch box that lights up when it's touched is a tempting thing for a child to hit, or in this case, a group of boys to karate chop out of Fable's hands.
I felt my fists clench when she described the scene. How she told the boys to stop but they didn't stop. How it wasn't until the girls told them to stop TOGETHER that they finally stopped.
"Good for you," I said. "But maybe we should get you a new lunch box. One that doesn't cause you any grief?"
"No way, Mom! It's MY lunchbox! I love my lunch box!"
I told her to please keep me posted if it happened again and good for her for sticking up for herself.
"I'm glad you found a soul sister who is brave like you," I told her.
It didn't occur to me until much later that night, what had just happened...
Fable, without even realizing she had done so, had accepted that there would be times when what she wore and did and represented would cause some to want to touch, take and dismantle... but instead of
She said no.
"This is my lunch box. I love this lunch box. I chose this lunch box. They're the ones who need to STOP. Not me."
I wanted to thank her for showing ME what it means to be a sister, and a feminist and an individual who knows how to say NO to those who are challenging her RIGHT to say YES.
So the next morning I did.
"THIS is why feminism matters..."
Because saying NO to others is not enough sometimes. We need comrades and partners, sisters and brothers, friends and family to help us raise the volume, build our muscles, dance our dance...
Turning them off should not have to be an option.
My five year old daughter taught me that.