As writers, the world is our oyster. As family members -- not so much. What we say impacts the people we love. Even if it's not about them per se.
Hypothetical situation. You're a woman. You have interests. You love your husband. Your kids. The city where you live. Hip hop. Romantic comedies.
You were never the kind of mother who fretted over a tumble at the playground. You don't know when the geometry test is, or exactly what day spring break ends.
But you do know their best friends, favorite book, the last time they cried and why. You know their quirks. What will piss them off. Or make them laugh. Or both. You’re involved, but respect their independence. Their privacy. The value of being bored. Even, of lying.
And then one day, your thirteen year old is mugged.
He calls you right after it happens. Tells you there were two guys. Bigger than him. One asked the time; the other grabbed him from behind. They took his phone. He's fine, he says, but you can tell, if his friends weren't around, he would cry. He doesn't want you to over-react. Or scream. Or bawl, which is exactly what you want to do. But he needs you to make him feel safe again. He doesn't say this; but you know.
You remember many things at once. Like pushing him into this world. How hard it was. How your very kind midwife, doula, best friend, husband, all looked at you and said, you can do it. He's coming. I see him. One more time.
And you loved their voices. You needed their voices. You needed them to help you help this baby be born. Until the moment he was. Shhh, you said. Shhh, you said it again. And then you moved in to say something to him, but really, you just felt his cheek on yours. You didn't speak, but you told him, he was okay; that you were here. And he was.
Your boy is on the phone, waiting for you to tell him what to do. You hear his friends being silly in the background. You want to kill them. How can they have happiness in their voices when you know that your boy is scared.
You make a plan to meet him at a friend’s apartment. It’s closer.
You call your husband. XXX has been mugged, you say. You answer his questions. Tell your worried/logical husband where your son is. You formulate a plan. Then you sob, my baby's been mugged.
I'm coming home he says. You’re glad.
Parents whose children have died come to mind. Children with cancer, abducted children, victims of car crashes, overdoses, pedophilia, war-- all swim in your mind. You feel for the first time in a very real way: love hurts too much.
Your husband makes it home in record time. On the way to get your boy, he calls the phone company. He is doing what he does--trying to fix things. You know-- very little can be fixed.
You thank God. You really, really thank God, the whole time not wanting to bring too much attention to how lucky you are. You beg God not to let cancer, abduction, car crashes, overdoses, pedophilia and war come anywhere near your litter.
You even pray for the boys who mugged your baby. If they’d hurt him-- you wouldn’t have done this. But you are grateful. Things could have been so much worse.
You knock on the door. You want your kid. You’re surprised his friends aren’t talking about what happened. In fact, they’re eating pizza. Watching TV. Boys are not like girls, you think.
In the elevator, he doesn't speak. You believe this is because he doesn't want to cry.
You can tell he’s still frightened which makes you want to hurt someone. He’s as tall as you, but you want to envelope him. Make him hold on. Make him not let go.
You balance your need to swoop in and process, with his need to watch Japanese animation and separate.
You notice he doesn't eat much for dinner.
You fail to notice, neither do you.
The night takes care of itself. You call your mother. Take a bath. Your husband and you keep looking at each other; feeling lucky and nauseous at the same time.
Your son comes in to make contact. Talk a little. Then not talk anymore.
You want to tell everyone you know. In time, you do.
You notice some people speak about the economy. Others, self defense. You feel foolish that your kid has an expensive phone. Annoyed when someone mentions an old study where criminals all pick the same photo of an easy mark. You hope no one tells your kid about this.
You don't want him to take side streets. Or go out alone. Or go out at all.
But you know this wouldn’t be good for him, so you make him meet his friends. You make him leave you.
You know, as you've never really known before: you are powerless.
Because you’re a writer, you long to turn the experience into words.
Because you’re a mother; you know this is not your story to tell.
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