On Sisterhood and Skateboards and Gripping the Lunchbox with Both Hands

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When the twins were born I wrote a post recognizing myself as a feminist. I had resisted the title for many years because I didn't understand the title. It wasn't until I gave birth to daughters that I recognized the importance of pushing back and standing up and saying something. 

I wrote about my purple skateboard, then--about how, when I was little growing up on a street surrounded by boys, I wanted to be one of them. Except they didn't want me to be a part of their group so they broke my skateboard and told me that girls couldn't skate.

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.

"Are you sure you don't want this one?" I asked, pulling down a quieter version of the same lunchbox "Or this one with a Hello Kitty?"

"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 wearing a higher-cut top or a quieter color  trading in the light-up lunch box for something that would perhaps garner less attention, keep the boys from hitting, help her stay anonymous in the crowd, she stood up. She stood up to them and she stood up to me and she said the word that I struggled so hard to say as a child, a teenager, a young woman, and even now.

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."
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I wanted to wake her up and tell her how right she was.

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...
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And while we're at it, let us please hold onto our light-up lunch boxes with all of our might, regardless of how tempting they are to others to touch, tamper, take away.

Turning them off should not have to be an option.

My five year old daughter taught me that.
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