Several years ago we got caught in a massive rain storm after grocery shopping. My husband ran for the van while leaving the four of us with the groceries under the awning. Another couple was there and the woman looked at her male companion with that look that clearly said that he should run and get the car while she wait. He looked at us with a rueful thanks random folks and took off running. She yelled after him “its not like you are going to melt.” My middle daughter looked at her and said “dissolve, you don’t melt in water, you dissolve, and the human body doesn’t dissolve in rain, it would take a LOT of water and time-lots of time, right mommy?” That was the truth, we don’t dissolve in water, which is a good thing for the human form.
I was proud! As a PhD chemist, I was proud of my second grader for knowing the difference between melting and dissolving and the proper application of the two. I absolutely scored that as a mom win.
Fast forward four years and the same daughter is in the guidance counselor’s office. We were two surgeries and one chemo infusion into my treatments. She was adjusting to a new school and switching classes and a much larger population. When a boy said to her that she shouldn’t be so mopey just because her mom was going to die of cancer. She replied “My mom will die, she says that she won’t die any time soon from cancer, but everyone’s mom will die. The human body has a 100% failure rate, we all die at some point.” This is where the boy doubled over and fell to the ground crying. Thankfully no one thought she punched him or anything, but the closest teacher heard the exchange and sent my daughter to the guidance counselor.
The counselor called us, not to tell us she was in trouble but to find out if she needed to do more to help. We initially called her to make her aware of what our daughter was going through, what we as a family were going though and please keep an eye on her. She wasn’t in trouble, she was just being checked on because that was a rough encounter.
She spoke the truth, the human body has a 100% failure rate. But was that boy and those around her ready to hear that? Did they need to hear that ever? Is the truth always the right thing to share at any time? Is there a right time? So many questions. This didn’t feel like a mom win.
When she came home from school we talked. She said that she was fine, that she felt bad that he cried, but didn’t he deserve it from his comments? We talked about how she felt when he said that. She felt bad for him, bad for herself and bad for the situation and that she wanted him to know that truth hurts. This was the mom fail, truth as a weapon, a retaliatory weapon, but a weapon none the less. Mom. Fail.
I have a personal button, a serious button where I lose my stuffing, for people who say cruel things and follow up with ‘but its the truth’ like that somehow excuses it, like a little thoughtfulness would be a hardship. I don’t want her to be that person, and I certainly don’t want to be the model of that person for her. I did a lot of soul searching. That moment when I was so proud of her for the melting vs dissolving comment, did that reinforce the wrong thing? How many more moments were like that?
She looked at me and asked if I was ok? I told her my concerns and what I was thinking about. She apologized and told me that she wished she could take it back, that she wished she would have realized that she didn’t know what he was going through that would cause him to say something like that to her. She would like to write an apology to him, but she is pretty sure he would make fun of her for it. She wrote an apology to him and I let her decide for herself if she should give it to him. She chose to a few days later with help from the guidance counselor. They are actually friends now.
I would call that a mom win, but I didn’t really do anything except process my own insecurities and fears in front of her. I do call it a humanity win. I know that the world is a better place for her being in it and that is the truth.