We were living in Miami at the time. Which means I was around eight years old.
I raised my hand.
“May I go to the bathroom?”
“Yes, Sedie, go ahead.”
It was a typical day. We were learning. Things were going fine, until I went to the bathroom.
I heard someone come in.
Then, she crawled under the partition, into my stall.
Her name was Sara. She was in my class. We were friends. It’s foggy, I was eight. We only lived in Miami for six months. I didn’t know her well, but she was my friend.
And here was my friend, Sara, standing in front of me, in my bathroom stall, pulling down her pants and showing me her vagina.
“What are you doing?!”
“Show me yours.”
I quickly got up, pulled my clothes together and tried to leave the stall.
She tried to kiss me.
My eight year old self was confused. What happened? Why did she come into my stall? Why was she showing me her vagina? Why did she want to see mine?
Why did I feel scared? Why did I feel ashamed?
I’ve never told that story before. As a matter of fact, I haven’t thought about that incident in a long time
It came to mind because the other day I was talking to my mom about my son. We were sharing about how open he still seems to be at thirteen.
Then I thought about Sara. About how I never told anyone what happened in that bathroom. How, I felt so ashamed and nervous afterwards.
Looking back, I wonder if Sara ever said anything to anyone either. She and I never talked about it. I didn’t tell on her. I didn’t tell anyone, ever. We moved.
As a mom I’d like to think I can protect my kids from hurt. I want to think that they’ll tell me what’s going on with them, by making sure I give them space to be fully open and honest.
But they’re not going to tell us everything. They’re not always going to say when they feel confused or frustrated. Especially if they feel ashamed or nervous.
They’re going to move on and pretend everything’s fine, or they’ll forget.
What happened with Sara? Did she keep crawling under partitions into stalls? Did she grow into herself and acknowledge that she was gay, or at least curious? Or, did she bury herself and her curiosity deep inside because of confusion?
I’ll never know.
Something I do know, our children will never tell us everything. Because when I think about it, I realize that I didn’t.
We didn’t, we don’t tell everything ourselves.
I could have gone home and told my mom about this little girl that came into my bathroom stall. I didn’t. Which is why I’m not naïve enough to think my kids will tell me.
No matter how safe they feel in talking to me, and we work hard to make our home a safe space, they won’t. What I hope is they’ll learn to process and cope.
Until we’re able to process the reasons we keep ourselves buried, we’re destined to live in darkness. We can’t be upset at our children for not sharing everything with us, when we don’t share everything with ourselves.
Homeschooling my daughter the other day, we worked on a reading comprehension activity. I looked at her work and noticed a couple of wrong answers so I sent her back to review. She reviewed then brought it back. I glanced and started to tell her that what she did was wrong as she started to get emotional.
When I looked closer, I was wrong. I didn’t take the time to look closely, thinking I already knew what I was doing, and I was correcting what she’d done, when it was already correct.
I looked at her teary eyes and said “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”
But I didn’t stop there. I want to empower her to speak up so I said “it’s okay to tell me if I’m wrong. I will be wrong sometimes. Okay? No matter who it is, they can be wrong. If you know you’re right, speak up.”
She nodded, smiled and we moved on. What I’m hoping she’ll learn is, even if she’s not willing to tell me everything, she will speak up for herself and process outwardly if necessary.
As we mature the extent we allow ourselves to learn and grow is the extent we’ll be able to allow others around us to learn and grow.
We’re not called to live anyone else’s life, even our children’s. What we’re called to do is be and project the best versions of ourselves. That’s how we empower ourselves, our children and our loved ones to be the very best of themselves.
Then, when someone does crawl into their bathroom stall, they’re equipped to handle, process and move beyond that situation.