A Few Things

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.

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  1. says

    I am not an eloquent writer by any means. This being said, I realize I have no words that even come close to sending you the message I want to send. But I’ll try anyway.
    Like so many, I found you through this latest life event you shared. I giggled when I remembered what my kids would where out of the house. I smiled when remembering the pointing and good-natured laughter we’d hear. I even got angry remembering some of the ignorant comments that would be thrown at us.
    What I have learned is that we can only control our own reactions. Whether it be fear, repulsion, sadness, or blogging to get it out.

    When you come out of this, you will be changed. I’m sure you know that already. I hope that you keep your spunk and ‘tell it like it is’ spirit.

    I’m pulling for you from Ohio. Sending you good vibes and comforting thoughts.

  2. Melissa Caldwell says

    You have an amazing way with words, a true gift. May your children be blessed to have you as their mommy! While you may feel extremely stressed about the incident and the way it has gained international attention, you are handling it with a great deal of grace and wisdom and are to be commended. Too many people in this world think the answer is to return evil for evil thereby perpetuating the hatred. Your children will learn to be honorable and compassionate by watching you, and will become strong, kind men because of you. Thank you!

  3. says

    I’m not an eloquent writer, but I want to let you know how much I appreciate your original post and your update. I stand behind you 100% and am not sure I would have the decorum to restrain myself as you did if it were my son. Your story brought tears to my eyes because that could have so easily been my son. You are a strong, brave lady, and I truly hope that you will get rest from this mess and that you are shown the respect that you deserve. We must do what is best for our littles, no matter what that means – you know that very well – and I look up to you.

  4. says

    Well said. Well stated. You’re a good woman. You have class and held yourself with dignity. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Continue being you, doing the motherly things you do.

    Best part of what you wrote, “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.”

    Hear! HEAR!

  5. says

    Please Katie, don’t listen to the comments. Just put it all down for a while, until the nut jobs stop name calling.

    Take a breath or two, savor the joy that is life as a mom, and come back in four days. When you do, you’ll find that most of the haters have moved on to hating someone else. And those who found your blog and decided you rock will still be right here with you.

  6. Caitlyn says

    I think you’re doing awesome in a horrible situation and I hope that your life calms back down soon. You didn’t ask for any of this and anyone that blames you is wrong.
    Well Wishes,

  7. cb says

    Katie, thank you for sharing the story of what happened to you and Dexter. I can’t imagine how awful that was. The internet is a double edged sword and I’m sorry for the trolls and hate and stress it has brought to you on top of the experience with that stranger. We still have a way to go in acceptance and tolerance but you made a difference by sharing your experience with the world. Now go do what makes you and your family happy, headbands and all.

  8. says

    Nice to see your blog is up and going again.. I sent you an email and a little something for your kids, though I probably should have waited a week to not add to your email burden.

    Thanks for being such a fantastic mother.

  9. Something to think about says

    “and I am one person trying to do my part to raise awareness. I would never judge a person by the way they look… ”

    Because, apparently, this is not judgment. Right?

    “he man was overly large with a bushy beard and a camouflage shirt with the arms cut off. He had tattered shorts and lace up work boots with no laces. I could smell the fug of cigarette smoke surrounding him, and there was a definite pong of beer on him.”

    • mark says

      She was just describing the man. She wasn’t judging him. If a man in a suit and tie did it then she would have wrote that.

      • Something to think about says

        Then Walmart will have no problem what so ever to find him on the in store video to make sure they aren’t being slandered/libeled correct?

        • mark says

          I’m fully supporting Katie on her decision so far to not report the incident to Walmart. Though I am surprised that the reporter that came to our door didn’t go and talk to Walmart after he left. He found out where we live and it is pretty easy to know which Walmart we went to, what day it happened.

          • Roberta says

            Mark, are you katies husband? My husband would have gone to walmart himself. Why don’t you and then contact police. You can understand why its bothering so many people you refuse to go to the authorities and file a complaint right??? I suggest you do that to protect the community from this man who abused your little son and show how you want to protect your family.

        • JFC says

          What is your issue with this description? Why on earth would Wal Mart think they’ve been “slandered/libeled”??? If Wal Mart was concerned about that issue, they’d be busy removing all the “People of Wal Mart” pictures off the internet.

    • Maureen Mower says

      No, that is not being judgmental, it is a description of the man’s appearance. I’m sure if she obtained the store video, that is exactly how he appeared.

      Now, if she had called him a ”redneck” or something, then THAT would have been judgmental, as it would be an assumption based on his appearance. But simply describing his appearance factually is not passing judgment.

    • JFC says

      To Something to think about: Right! A description is not “judgment”. She didn’t go on to label him as a “redneck” or a “moron” or a “cretin” or “trashy” or any other derogatory term. She gave a dispassionate DESCRIPTION of the person who laid hands on her CHILD.

      Whatever this man’s opinion of the child’s attire or appearance, he displayed utter rudeness by commenting in the first place, but was very fortunate that he wasn’t charged with assault or child abuse.

  10. Roberta says

    Katie, have you considered some professional help like a psychoanalyst to help you dear??? I understand how being a stay at home mom you can sometimes feel cutoff from the world.

  11. Brutinia says

    …I read your first post, and this one too obviously, and my FIRST thought is…..”And WHY again did she NOT call a manager or the authorities?”…You’ve had a lot to say. Some of it I agree with wholeheartedly some of it not based on my moral and religious beliefs, but that’s neither here nor there. What I want to know, is why in the HELL did you not do something when this man supposedly verbally and physically assaulted your two yeah old HELPLESS son? This man was obviously committing a hate crime…he abused your child…And you did nothing but post what you did on FB and here? There is no mother in world who wouldn’t do SOMETHING besides make a few posts if that happened to her child. Which leads me to believe that your story is false and did not happen.

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