I don’t know how to even start writing anything here anymore. My post has gone viral, across the world on every conceivable platform, and those who aren’t calling for our aggressor to be strung up by his neck are calling me out for being the world’s worst mother. My personal integrity is being called into question with everything I’ve ever said and done (or NOT said and NOT done, as it happens!) being thrown back at me as ammunition for trolls and naysayers.
Let me tell you something, folks, and please follow along carefully because at any time it could be you in this situation. I am 31 years old. I’ve been on the internet since I was 14. In the last 17 years, I’ve communicated with thousands, if not millions, of people worldwide. I’ve joined social networks that no one can even remember anymore. I’ve written comments, blog posts, forum posts, short stories, poetry and more all across the board. I have said things I can’t remember, but the internet DOES.
There are archives of everything we have said and done everywhere. You can’t delete your past, and you can’t condone for mistakes you may have made. I’m sure that at some point in 17 years, I have been guilty of jumping on bandwagons, throwing insults at innocents, and even giving high-and-mighty opinions where they weren’t wanted.
But I never said I was perfect.
What I have NEVER done, would NEVER do and could NEVER understand is bigotry. There are big big issues this world has to deal with head-on, and I am one person trying to do my part to raise awareness. I would never judge a person by the way they look, how they speak or for the mistakes they may have made in their past if they are truly remorseful and trying to atone. We all have stepped over the line at times or made bad decisions in the heat of the moment. We want to be forgiven. We want to move on. And so I try to teach my children that education is more important than retaliation. That meeting hatred with love is the way forward. That the world owes you nothing, but you owe it to yourself to remain respectful and kind in the face of adversity.
I teach my children. And so you must teach yours. How you would react in a given situation is different from how I would react. And while I appreciate every single person who has reached out to urge me to contact the police, I genuinely question why it is so important.
My personal opinion is that people want to see this man punished because it gives the story a happy ending. It means that they can say, “Isn’t that nice? The cute little boy was brought to justice and all is well in the world.”
But all is NOT well. This kind of thing happens every. single. day.
Since the post went live, I have had HUNDREDS of emails from the people it is continuing to happen to. Gays, lesbians, transgendered. They have shared their stories with me and made me cry in empathy. Straight folks have contacted me telling me how they were beaten up as children (some by their own parents) simply for not conforming to “normal” gender roles. Mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sisters, brothers and sons & daughters of the LGBTQ community have chimed in. Amazingly, very few of them have disagreed with my decision not to press charges. They would rather see the discussion from the hundreds of thousands of people who have read and shared the story than to see the discussion die down when one man is caught.
I have even heard from a few different people asking me to have sympathy for the man in question because he may have reacted so strongly due to his own issues struggling with sexuality or gender confusion.
Putting a guilt trip on me and telling me flat out that I would be personally responsible if this man hurt someone in the future is cruel. I have my own family to worry about, and while I would never want anyone else to be hurt, I also can’t shoulder that responsibility by myself.
It is up to me to raise my kids right – teaching them about diversity and acceptance and love and understanding. It is up to you to teach yours the same. The world has the chance to be better for the next generation if we all do our part.
I have spent the last several days in a real state of stress, scared for my family and worried about what the future holds. A few nights ago, we had a reporter show up to our home, having tracked us down by piecing together photos on my facebook and instagram accounts. I have since had to lock them down. I have had terrifying emails from people who want to blackmail me with information they found about me online. I have had people misconstruing what I wrote, and I have had other people completely misreading what I wrote. And they are using it to harass me.
I know the old adage – “don’t feed the trolls,” and it has taken all of my self control not to barge into the conversations I see on forums and websites all over the internet trying to defend myself. It would do no good. My partner tried for a little while to speak up for me, but all it did was serve to give the trolls even more to laugh about.
And while they are all laughing and picking holes in our story, they are not having to think about the real point of our post and why we chose to share it with the world.
First we were angry. But we were angry at the wrong things. The man who accosted us most assuredly stepped over a line. You do NOT touch other people’s kids. It doesn’t matter whether you do it in good humor or bad, other people’s kids are off limits without permission. But this man did not hurt my son. His initial interaction was with a smile and a laugh, and while it broke the rules of social etiquette, he was not threatening at first. I took my cue from my son who made his discomfort known when he stomped his foot, held out his hand and shouted “NO!” (This is a defense he learned earlier this year when he was being bullied at daycare. His teacher taught him to do it when people were invading his personal space.) When he did this was when my mommy instinct kicked in. Had he not shown his uspet, I probably would have let the man’s impropriety slide.
People have chosen to focus on the physical side of what happened, and I do believe that that is my fault. I tried not to overstate what happened, but I am not a thesaurus, and I did not have the right words for exactly how the man touched him. Suffice to say that it was not the strength behind the touch that was a problem, but the fact he touched him at all. I take the blame for any miscommunication there.
The bigger issue, and the one that still brings tears to my eyes, is the words that were said to us. My son doesn’t know what they mean, but I do. And I can brush them off to an extent because a man who would say them to a two year old clearly has problems. But their greater implication haunts me. Men with this mentality exist in this world. They interact with us every day. They could be the man in the “redneck” garb or they could be the guy in the business suit. Bigotry, ironically, is classless, colorless, and genderless. Otherwise lovely men and women make hateful remarks all the time. It may not define them, but it is within them, and they pass it on to their children.
I don’t know what else I can say on the matter.
Something else I want to make clear, because this has been made into a bigger deal than it is – this may have all happened at WalMart, but it has nothing to do with the story. It could have happened anywhere. WalMart itself is not at fault, and for people to insinuate it is makes me a little uncomfortable. I have had bad experiences before in WalMart (as I’ve had elsewhere), and they have bent over backward to make things right. I have no doubt that if I had brought the matter to their attention, they would have done whatever was needed to ensure things were taken care of.
One final thought before I leave this behind us – and that is an apology. It was pointed out to me by a great many people that in my original post, I referred to two elderly women we interacted with as “old birds.” I wanted to make it clear that the term was never meant to be offensive. Having spent the last decade in the UK, I was using “bird” as the slang term for “ladies.” I should have had the foresight to know that not everyone would appreciate that, and I am truly sorry for causing offense.
Thank you to all who have reached out with words of support. You are very much appreciated and I am so grateful for your kindness.