This Girl’s Going To March

granddadpieceryleigh

Since we’ve been in Boston recently, we’ve spent a lot of time with my ex’s family.  It’s great for the girls to once again have a feeling of community in their lives, and to be loved on by people who remind them of my own mother and siblings.  And here comes the BUT:  Their parenting ideals.  Their beliefs about children.  Their insistence on using fear and intimidation to control children, as I myself once did.  This notion they often have that a cry or a whine, from a small child, is generally unnecessary.  And then here I am with Logan.  She whines, she cries, she still breastfeeds, I still wear her.  They tell her to her face that she’s a baby and that babies won’t grow up.  I of course use these moments as opportunities to enlighten them, but it hardly ever gets through.  Ryleigh has been witnessing all this and asking a lot of questions.  She speaks up for her sister so well.  Over the weekend, she really surprised me.

We were at her grandfather’s house with my children and my sister-in-law’s children (I don’t call my in-law’s ‘ex’, probably never will – love them, known them so long).  The youngest, Marcellus, whom we call simply M, is two years old.  He loves being held.  When I babysit him he toddles over to me and extends his tiny arms (he’s soooo short!) and gives me great big eyes and a smile.  My in-laws sometimes tell me to not pick him up!  They say leave him, he doesn’t need to be babied.  What do I do?  Well I bend my back and reach my arms out and take that baby into them, bring him to my chest, hug him, and whisper into his chubby cheeks.  He looks into my eyes and smiles, and sometimes even kisses me.  That’s all he wants.  So what, he wants to be babied?

Ryleigh’s grandfather was having none of it.  He got so upset with Ryleigh for holding M that he yelled at her.  He actually said that he wasn’t going to let Ryleigh and me be responsible for making M gay.  I had no words.  I almost cried.  What a sad message to send to all the children there, that we shouldn’t hold baby boys and show them affection for fear of them becoming homosexual – a sad message on many levels.  I tried to stay as calm as possible and said right there, “Mr. S, I absolutely don’t believe that and I don’t think Ryleigh does.”  Ryleigh again went to hold M, because he still wanted her to, and her grandfather stood up and yelled for her to put him down.

Ryleigh looked her grandfather in the eye, I could see she was hurt and nervous, but she said it:  “Children have rights, Granddad, even boys!”  Then she ran out and  locked herself in the bathroom and cried.  I knew how she felt.  She was hurt that M was being denied affection because of his age and his gender; she was hurt that her granddad held such silly, baseless beliefs; she was hurt to think of what it would feel like to ask someone to hug you and be told no for no reason (or for the dumbest reason in the history of the planet and all the galaxies and civilization); and, mostly, she was hurt that there was nothing she could do.

I went to Ry and hugged her and told her she’d done the right thing.  Her grandfather came out and, to let her know he wasn’t sorry for what he’d said, told her he wasn’t trying to make ‘friends’ with his grandchildren.  I was flattened and ready to go.

We left and Ry and I discussed it.  I’M WRITING THIS IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I AM SO FLIPPING OUTRAGED THAT I WANT YOU TO KNOW I’M SCREAMING.  I TOLD RYLEIGH THE REASON BEHIND HER GRANDFATHER’S WORDS: IGNORANCE.  Plain and simple.  Ignorance.  Ignorant thinking, ignorant behavior, ignorant words.  Not that her grandfather is ignorant, but that this line of thinking is.  I told her how proud I was of her for how she’s really starting to speak up for younger children.  It so surprised me – as I’ve been on this journey, she’s been with me; but I guess I didn’t totally realize it.  She’s learning just like I am.  She agrees when I tell her that she has a right to demand anything she needs from me.  She loves the security that comes with knowing I endeavor to keep her love cup full, not on my terms, not in a way that works for me or that I think will keep something like being gay from happening to her – but however she needs me to do it.

What’s more, since I’ve started to treat her so much better as a person, she desires that for all children. Isn’t that the goal of peaceful parenting?  I mean of course we do it for the benefit of our own babies, but don’t we also do it so that they will be able to go out and treat others well?  How often do we participate in threads chock full of comments such as, “My parents loved me but they just didn’t know any better…I don’t want that for my children”?  Aren’t we trying our damnedest to raise children who will say we loved them and we showed it, we knew how to show it, we learned how to show it, we fought through exhaustion and sleep deprivation and stress and sickness to show it?  I am.  Because those are the children who will fight to show love, against odds.  I want Ryleigh to fight to show love even when someone mistreats her, or when she doesn’t understand them, or when she’s maybe not feeling so well herself - I want her to appreciate the healing power of loving someone else, for who they are.

And recently Ryleigh, my skinny little chicken with her head always in a book, has shown me – I’m doing it.  She is not content to sit by and watch children being mistreated, especially by those who love them.  She sees it as I do; not “Hey I’m better than you so I know this…”, but, “Hey, we both love these children so let’s talk about some loving options to this COCKAMAMIE BALDERDASH YOU JUST SPEWED FROM YOUR MOUTH.”  (I may have paraphrased her feelings right there.)   She is so passionate about the right all children have to be loved that it makes her cry.  Good for her.  Good for all of our children.

I’ve told Ryleigh not to stop.  Not to feel ashamed that she cried.  That the little boys and girls who cry over children today are the forces to be reckoned with tomorrow, the ones marching and plastering signs on cars and dropping cards into books and starting petitions and sharing on Facebook pages and rocking it.  For children.  Because there are some well-intentioned, IGNORANT-MINDED people out there, with some awfully dangerous ideas about how babies and children should be treated.  And the babies and children aren’t always able to speak up.

We are able, and therefore we must.  That’s what I told Ryleigh.  She agrees.

I think, maybe someday, that this girl’s going to march.

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Categories: Gentle Parenting

Author:Kimberley

I'm Kimberley, work-at-home single momma to two girls, Ryleigh, 9, and Logan, 3. The Single Crunch is the story of our journey from a lifestyle saturated in mainstream ideals to an organic existence, and learning to love each other, ourselves, and any living thing, unconditionally. I'm passionate about breastfeeding, unschooling, single parenting, writing, grief, childhood abuse, childism, and natural living. I write about all this and whatever else moves me, which is a lot, and I throw in some funny on the regular. I'm humbled and grateful to have you reading, thank you. I hope something here will help you in any way.

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21 Comments on “This Girl’s Going To March”

  1. September 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Wow, I have no words. That is so sad and yet I would be so proud of my son if he did that. We just moved back to the states from living overseas and it’s a little difficult to parent around some people. I’m actually really happy we lived away from family for so long and I had a chance to develop a style of parenting that I wasn’t brought up with. I’ve found my voice (which I never really had before) and I’m standing up for what I believe is right. I’m not a single parent but I love your page ever since I found it. You are raising some wonderful children!

    • September 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Thank you, Jenn-O! No single parent requirement, I’m happy to share with all. It can be EXTREMELY difficult to parent this way, being surrounded by more mainstream ideals, especially when it’s with people you love and respect. Keep going, it’s so worth it, yes? Much love. – Kimber

  2. September 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    It’s amazing and awesome that Ryleigh is so firm in her beliefs. You are raising a great family. More power to her (and you)!

    • September 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Thank you, Samantha. Children really are amazing. – Kimber

  3. Lori Dagg
    September 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Thank you soo much for sharing this! I went through an incident with my parents this summer and this made me fell better and stronger for taking a stand. My dad and step-mom love my son but they have such old fashioned views about children and child rearing. You know the usual: children should be seen and not heard, they’re manipulating you…my dad even called my 10 month old a “whiner” for being tired and overstimulated. *sigh* He also is quick to anger and I grew up fearing and worshipping my dad for all the wrong reasons. I don’t want my son to grow up like I did and strive everyday to respect my son’s rights as a person! My heart exploded when I read how your beautiful daughter fought to love without limits. :)

    • September 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Thank you, Lori. My in-laws are very much like that, it is so hard to remain even-keeled. But I know that speaking gently, with them, is the only way to get through. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Jamie
    September 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    This made me sad, it’s a reminder that there is still that crazy thinking out there! IT’s also a reminder that there are great people out there like Ryleigh standing up for what she believes in and whats right. Tell Ryleigh I said THANK YOU for standing up for boys like my own. My little boy is almost 5 but he needs hugs, comfort and love just as much as my daughter does.

    • September 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      I will tell her Jamie, thank you! She and I are speaking up for own own future son and brother as well, I HOPE. Haha. :)

  5. September 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Wow, way to go, Ryleigh and Kimber! You said it: it is ignorance, and ignorance is where evil comes from. I feel so sorry for that poor little boy. My boys love to cuddle and they’ve been called mummy’s boys by their grandparents. I say, of course they’re mummy’s boys, who else’s? Not grandparents’ boys, that’s for sure.

    • September 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Ha! True that! That’s what I’ve told Ry, to gently say to her gfather that it is HIS choice to withhold affection; NOT Ryleigh’s.

  6. September 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    What a great post, and how proud you must be of Ryleigh! Thanks for sharing. I’m sharing it too!

  7. September 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    Go Ryleigh! Not an easy thing, to stand up to a Grandfather on behalf of a toddler, whether you’re Ryleigh’s age or an adult. You’re teaching your children so well, Kimber. Thanks for the inspiration. Sharing this on Facebook!

    • September 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Thank you so much! And thank you for all of your help with our family. <3

  8. Angela Episale
    September 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    That story made me cry too! Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Alice
    September 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    What a special young woman you have, what confidence she has at such a young age to stand up for what she believes! It takes some of us years to be able to do that. You are doing an amazing job raising such confident and intelligent girls!

  10. Heather
    September 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    This moved me so much. I’m a newly single mom of an almost three year old daughter, and I’ve been doing my best to be an attached parent her whole life. I see little signs that my daughter’s growing into a little Ryleigh herself…I sure hope so! What an amazing, beautiful spirit of a daughter you have! I’m so glad Dr. Markham shared this post…I knew there had to be other single, attachment parenting oriented moms sharing their thoughts online, but I never got around to looking for them. I can’t wait to read more! My ex yelled at me a few weeks ago, telling me not to pick our daughter up when she was crying on the field at her first soccer lesson (soccer was his idea, I should add). He claims I’ve coddled her too much, and that’s why she’s a bit introverted and sensitive. So, needless to say, this post spoke to me so much. Thank you!

  11. Llamamama
    September 5, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    This kind of thing happened to me this past weekend with my own father and his outlandish response to my 4 year old throwing a toy in the house. I did not respond with your grace, but I did stand up for my son and I stood up for gentle parenting to a man who has no idea what that concept looks like except when he witnesses me with my boys. Thank you for writing this and sharing your experience. I have a feeling that there are a lot of parents like us out there struggling with this same generational issue. I felt so floored going through it, but now I know that I’m not alone

  12. Ali
    September 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    I’m sickened from what grandfather did, and feel sorry for baby M to have to live that way. I encourage you to talk to baby M’s mother, her mother instinct might tell her to listen to you and her heart. I admire you and Ryleigh so much. Your words and actions touches my heart. I’m so glad there are people like you in this world! :D

    • September 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Thank you so much Ali! I have plans to talk to his mother, I am just waiting until I’m sure I can do it as rationally and gently as possible.

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