In case you missed it, here is a recent post from “Rosie to the Rescue”, my blog for Parents Magazine. This was a very personal post for me, as it covers so many important parenting points. Don’t miss the rest of the “Rosie to the Rescue” posts, available here.
I was playing with my son this morning, drawing and naming different spring flowers. We decided we’d buy some tulips after school. It was a lovely few minutes, just the two of us talking. I had just come off the red-eye from Seattle and I was so glad to have a few moments together before the hustle and bustle of the day.
We had arrived early at school and were waiting inside just outside the classroom. My son’s school is attached to a church, and a few of the church elders came by and greeted us with their warm smiling faces. Usually they fill me with such comfort as they finish nibbling their coffee and cookies and head on their way. Through their usual smiles, one suddenly looked down and noticed the tattoo on my foot. We were sitting on the floor as they had laid their coats on all the available benches, so my foot was exposed. (I make it a point not to hide my tattoo. It is not a regret of mine.) One of them asked, “What’s that pattern?” and I thought he was referring to the drawings my son and I were having so much fun doing. I started talking with pride about my son’s new interest in spring flowers and nature, when I realized he was referring to my tattoo. I simply explained it was a rose, from much younger days, and smiled. Another gentleman responded, “Oh yes, my son made a mistake like that”. To which the other chimed in: “I suppose you’ll have to do that laser thing to have it removed”. And to just go that extra bit further a third added, “Well, at least you don’t have them all up and down your arms, as bad as those basketball players.” All this was while my son watched and listened.
I can’t quite describe how hurt and angered I was at this and it didn’t even occur to them for one second how judgmental and inappropriate they were being. To my great shame, I started babbling excuses about my earlier choices in life, rather than standing my ground with pride. As they walked away, my thoughts started to clarify (isn’t that always the way?), and my blood started to boil. First, these were Christian men. Second, they decided to attack a personal choice of mine in front of my son with complete disregard for my or his feelings. And third, they decided to paint such a negative picture of me and my choices in front of the person whose opinion matters the most to me–not to mention the offensive reference to basketball stars, who of course my son looks up to.
I should have stood up for myself. It was a different time in my life and I want to teach my children to be proud of their evolution as people, and to know that even their parents have a past but it has shaped who they are, that they are proud of who they have become, and that they should love themselves. When the church elders finally left, my son said, “Good thing you have a rose on your foot mommy, so we’ll never forget how to draw one.” If only everyone could have the purity and non-judgmental honesty of a child. Just as in parenting, there is no one size fits all. We are all individuals, so let’s teach our children to embrace those differences and to stand up for themselves, to love themselves but loving ourselves, and our differences with pride.
I am so ashamed I didn’t say anything. For my kids, I will always speak up from now on–definitely one very important lesson learned by this mom. So thank goodness for my tattoo, thank goodness for my differences, and thank goodness that it is I who will teach my children how to treat others, and not the gentlemen passing us by.