Sometimes one mom is all it takes.
Sometimes one mom doesn’t seem like nearly enough.
Sometimes both feel true. (It’s weird when that happens because you feel thankful and disappointed at the same time and that combination of feelings isn’t comfortable.)
C.J.’s fifth grade school year was a dumpster fire. A hot, inextinguishable, shit-smelling dumpster fire. It burned rancid and infuriating for months, until the final bell rang and the school’s PA system blasted “School’s Out.” I dreamt of boldly giving the middle finger to all of the students, parents, buildings and blacktop while tears streamed down my face.
When things get hard, when they are complicated, I get quiet. I curl inward. That doesn’t mean my brain, soul and heart shut off. It means they are working overtime.
I curled inward in February and I haven’t quite returned to my normal self. I’m not sure I ever will. That may not be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s just a thing. And things change us.
February was when my son’s best friend told him that she couldn’t hang out with him anymore because he is gay. That’s when she and two other girls started kicking, pushing, hitting, stabbing and stealing from him at school.
We ended the school year emotionally exhausted, but thankful. Thankful for C.J.’s supportive and protective teacher, because without her, I doubt he would have finished the year in a traditional school setting.
And, we were thankful for one mom whose daughter attends C.J.’s school and is in his grade.
C.J. goes to a school with 999 other students. There are lots of parents and guardians. When I write negatively about the school — say, a PTA meeting during which homophobic and transphobic remarks were made — the moms from school swarm me. They post to my social media platforms and theirs. They seek me out at school. They want to meet off campus to talk. They give me dirty looks and refuse to acknowledge me. They call me a liar (even though I fact checked my work with two sources – one was the principal).
But, one mom saw my Instagram posts about C.J.’s bullying and messaged me. I could feel her heart hurting with mine. She is good, kind, warm, caring and loving.
She said her daughter would wait for C.J. outside of his classroom, both, at recess and lunchtime. He could go with her and play with her and her friends or he could say “hi” and keep going — but he would always know she was there for him. She told me where C.J. could find her daughter if he passed her at his classroom door and, then, changed his mind about needing her.
She helped her daughter make a list of conversation starters in case she and C.J. ran into an awkward silence. She told me her daughter would play handball with C.J., even though she prefers to play tetherball. Her daughter readied her friends to accept C.J. with open arms.
C.J. immediately felt safe knowing that that one mom’s daughter cared about him and wanted to be his friend. He also felt foolish because he knew that she felt sorry for him. In the end, he went with her. They played tetherball. They talked about makeup. They never found an awkward silence.
That one mom checked on C.J. and me every day. And, while she did, I found myself disappointed that more of the moms who knew my child was in pain didn’t care enough to help him. But, that one mom, she was enough.
We couldn’t wait to get to summer. It seemed long and languid before us. When we flipped the calendar to August, we saw the first day of school and a bit of dread fluttered within our family. We caught a faint whiff of that dumpster fire. I curled inward a half a rotation.
I thought of that one mom and instantly felt hopeful, thankful and comforted. Sometimes one mom is all it takes. Sometimes one person is all it takes.
Never doubt how powerful one person can be in another person’s life. Never fail to be that person for someone else. And, never get so jaded by a back alley dumpster fire of a year that you forget to be thankful.