When our son was 9 years old, he placed second overall for the season in our local ski racing club. It was his first year of racing and he was absolutely thrilled. His coaches congratulated him, breaking the good news with smiles, hugs and a round of M&Ms and high fives.
I was, to say the least, quite proud. So, I arrived at the end-of-season-awards party, camera in hand, prepped to take some Olympic-style photos of my son, on the podium, sporting his medal.
I never got those shots.
Sometime between the last race of the season that morning and the afternoon award’s ceremony, my son’s name was mistakenly dropped. So instead of happy silver medal photos, we had tears.
I tracked down the race director as quickly as I could. Her answer was along the lines of “whoops.” And while the club eventually made it right, my son received his medal in the mail.
It wasn’t a good photo opp. The magic was lost. It was a pretty hollow victory.
Rolling With It Until I Can No Longer Roll
If you ask my son today whether or not that event mattered to him, I bet he might not even remember. He’s won plenty of medals, and had plenty of defeats, in the intervening years, not just in sports, but at school and in life.
We all do. And, I try to tell myself that “life isn’t fair,” and roll with it.
But every once in a while, something happens that IS JUST NOT RIGHT. These are things that make a normally sane mother crazy.
Two years after the silver medal debacle, our son was in a ski accident where everything went wrong and nothing was right. I’ve written about it, and the process of putting words on paper helped me to work out a lot of my fear, anger and frustration. I also learned, at that time, that even if life isn’t fair, sometimes it’s worth fighting for what’s simply right.
After that event rocked our lives, I swore that I would never again let others define our positions and our rights.
It’s A Personal Problem
Through the years, this mama bear instinct has generally served me well. Last year, something pushed me so far that I staged my own personal “sit-in” in the school office to explain an event that I passionately believed was unfair.
I didn’t win the argument, but at least I got to calmly state my position and I know the principal heard me. I truly think we both learned something and we both left feeling good about the situation.
Most recently, the tables turned and I had to advocate for myself. It was, to say the least, traumatic. As a mom, as a woman, it’s much easier for me to protect, promote and support my kids than it is to protect, promote and support myself.
I feel guilty speaking up, making a “big deal” or being a “bother.” I don’t think most men feel that way. I think many of them just state their piece and move on.
When I state my piece, I worry how I’m being perceived and I worry about losing “friends.” I end up self-censoring, second-guessing and feeling pretty lousy – even if things are resolved in my favor.
And really, all I want is to be heard. But it’s hard to be heard when you’re censoring yourself.
Where do you come down on advocating for your kids? For yourself? Am I the only one who feels guilty for speaking up? And where does this stupid guilt come from? I’d love to read your thoughts.
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