Wolves In the Woods

It isn’t easy to raise a daughter. In fact it is rather like navigating woods full of wolves.

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It isn’t easy to raise a daughter. In fact it is rather like navigating woods full of wolves. As mothers we are caught between two hells. We find ourselves sheltering our daughters from every danger until they are naive and unprepared for the world and its cruelties, or exposing them slowly to the world’s viciousness praying their lights are not suddenly snuffed out like a candle between wet fingertips.

Not long ago I was texting with my oldest son, sending him pictures of his little sister. She’s going to be a beautiful woman he told me. I know, I replied. You’ll need to look out for her, I’m counting on you. Don’t worry mom, she can hold her own he texted back. God I hope you’re right I thought to myself. I made up my mind to continue that conversation with both of her brothers in the coming months. You want to believe your children will be there for each other, will love each other all the way into adulthood. You pray that they will help each other stay afloat in rough waters once you are gone. Of course there are no guarantees.

My daughter sees the world as a friendly place full of wonderful people. Everyone is her friend. In fact when I take her to the park and there are no other children she will ask “Where are the friends?” She is truly a social butterfly. Yesterday when I dropped her off in the morning for school she ran into the room and gave her teachers bear hugs. “I love hugs!” She shouted merrily and ran into my arms grinning.

“I know you do pumpkin.” I smiled at her, relieved to see the calm, happy and safe atmosphere of the classroom where I was leaving my baby girl. When I picked her up, she was her usual happy self and gave all the teachers their round of goodbye bear hugs. As we headed down the hall to leave, I paused to clock her out on the computer like I always do. Alice always plays with the toys on the floor by the front desk or talks to the teachers.  Today she noticed there was a man installing the school’s new security door.

“Look mama, he’s fixing the door!” She stood there watching him.

“That’s right sweetheart…” I barely had the words out of my mouth and she had run past the desk and bear hugged the electrician! I was shocked.

“Alice, Oh my goodness!” A thousand things went through my mind at once. I was momentarily frozen. Finding my legs I ran over to her, summoning words. When I got to her, I noticed the man was smiling from ear to ear.

“Well that was a ray of sunshine! She just made my day, she really did!” He teared up and I instantly swallowed what I was about to say. I stopped short of reprimanding her. Alice came over to me and took my hand.

“She’s everyone’s friend.” I said to the man, and he thanked me still smiling. I was humbled by the joy my daughter brings to everyone she meets.

“I love hugs!” Alice yelled out merrily skipping to the car with my hand in hers. “He said I’m sunshine!” She was proud of herself.

“You are sunshine baby.” I let her have the moment, racking my brain for a way to talk to her about stranger danger and the wolves in the woods and all the evils lying in wait for her the minute I turn my back.

As I said it’s not easy to raise a daughter. It’s like this beautiful balloon of innocence floating before me and I don’t want anything in the world to puncture that purity. At the same time I have to prepare her for battle in the real world. I want my princess to be a warrior princess, slaying the beasts of the field and emerging victorious. I don’t want her waiting for the hunter to save her from the wolf. I want her to be able to save herself.

One day last week Alice came home from school and told me another little girl tried to beat her up. It was the first time anyone has ever been mean to her. She said the little girl hit her and pulled her hair. “She had to go to reset mama.” Alice was confident this was enough of a consequence. “She is NOT my friend.” She said this matter of factly. “I’m hungry can I have a snack?”

“Of course you can.” I turned to my mom who had picked her up for me and was the one who talked to Alice’s teacher. She confirmed what Alice had said and that Alice hadn’t done anything to upset the other girl. “Oh dear that’s the first time that’s ever happened but likely not the last.”

“You’re probably right.” My mom agreed. “But the teacher said the other girl reset herself and they were fine after that.” It was the first time my daughter realized not everyone is going to be her friend. Alice is a beautiful, headstrong girl. You don’t necessarily know she is mixed race until you see me, although that may change as she gets older. Jealousy is a powerful motivator as is racism. These things ran through my mind along with the powerful thought about what Alice will face when she is in grade school. In middle school. In high school. As an adult. I faced my own round of bullying when I was little. Growing up in the 80s and 90s was tough if you were a mixed race kid. You didn’t see mixed race families on television. I was one of only two mixed race kids in my entire elementary school. The only one in my junior high. One of a handful in my high school. I was undeniably unique and now that I’m older I can see I had my own unique beauty that was difficult to ignore. This setup left me a ripe target for bullying.

I had a horrible bully in the 4th grade. His name was Eric. He bullied me every day in school, holding me down by the throat on the playground so he could kiss me. Grabbing me between the legs when he stood behind me in line. Teasing me mercilessly. It took my poor parents ages to get something done about him, the principal of the school was slow and stupid and immovable. He was eventually expelled after the teachers who witnessed him bully me in the ways I just described complained about him. Unfortunately for me it didn’t end there. One day he found me after school when I was buying candy at the quick stop on the corner of my street.

“You little bitch.” he said to me and grabbed my nose, twisting it so I was forced to turn my head and neck. He was literally holding me up by the nose. The pain was excruciating. “I know what you did! I know you told on me! If you tell anyone about this I will kill you!” Saliva dripped from his lips. We were in the back of the quick stop with the soups and soy sauce bottles. He let go of my nose and ran out. I could hear the bottles clinking as he brushed them with his jacket. I steadied myself with the other shelf, tears streaming silently down my face, my cheeks burning hot with anger. I did not tell my parents about it until years later. Too late for them to have done a thing about it. That night and many nights after I dreamt about grabbing one of the largest soy sauce bottles and smashing it over his head. I wished I had. I was angrier at myself for not having fought back harder than I was at him for attacking me. I still am. I want my daughter to grab that bottle and hit her attacker over the head. I don’t ever want her frozen in fear because it may take years for her to melt. If she ever melts at all.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

I want the woods to be lovely for my daughter, the way they were for Robert Frost. I want them to be full of icicle trees, softly falling snow and the occasional picturesque farmhouse. I want this but I know what hides in the shadows and lives only to swallow her whole. I have to teach her to keep her eyes open, her guard up and her sword at her side. Of course the lessons don’t end there. Supposing the worst and someone hurts her. Tries to steal her glory, snuff out her light. She needs to learn not to wear it like a second skin. That it doesn’t matter what anyone does to her, she will only grow stronger and more beautiful. That she is not now and never will be anyone’s victim. Not my girl. She is now and will always be a survivor. A warrior princess today and as a woman, a warrior queen.

As I said it’s not easy to raise a daughter. But one look into those sparkling eyes, one mighty bear hug from those strong little arms, one bask in the warm rays of her sunshine and you know with your whole heart it’s worth it.

 

A Woman

All this shit I been through
I don’t wear it on my skin
It doesn’t live in the curve of my spine
The swing of my hips
The rustle of my skirt against my legs

All this shit I been through
It doesn’t kill my smile
Or dull the sparkle in the pupils of my eyes
It doesn’t mark me
My blackness is a beacon

All this shit I been through
It doesn’t stop the music of my voice
My song rolls out through my mouth in a mighty wave the notes dripping like honey over the souls of my lovers
My heart is as big as the sky

All this shit I been through
Can’t stop the momentum of my fierce message
My words march before me stomping down my enemies, over them I stand forever victorious

All this shit I been through
Makes me stronger
Makes me
As bright as the sun
As smooth as butter
As soft as moonlight
As cool as still water

All this shit is what makes a woman
A woman.

Kimkoa 2018

Author: bravelybipolargirl

I’m a writer and stay-home mother of three. I live with my husband, mother and 4 1/2 year old daughter in Wasilla, Alaska. My two teenage sons 14 and 16 spend summers and holidays with us. I am diagnosed bipolar 1 with psychotic features and my mission is to eradicate the stigma of mental illness in our society.

4 thoughts on “Wolves In the Woods”

  1. Such a good read. My eldest daughter struggles with social conflict with her social group. If only we could bubble wrap them 24 hours a day!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s so hard to tackle life lessons with a beautifully starry eyed soul. On the one hand you want them to keep their enthusiasm for kindness, on the other you want them to be able to deal with difficult social situations. Your daughter sounds like the kind of person this world needs. Whether the world is good enough for her is a different story. X

        Liked by 1 person

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