Words are kind of my thing. I have always loved reading them. I've always been sensitive to harsh ones. And, I have always clung to the ones that I find beautiful, uplifting, and kind. There's nothing that lets me know I'm loved like words. These are all the words that are sitting next to my bed right now that people wrote about me. Some of them likely don't even know I've hung onto them and read them over and over.
One of the many things I have anxiety about is going places with my children without my husband. It isn't because of the utter chaos it is going to bring. That's just how our family does life. It's because of all the words, the fear of words, and the knowledge that strangers are going to say things to us. Most of those things are innocuous, although sometimes slightly annoying. Like when I'm carrying both of the younger children into a store because I can't push Shilo's wheelchair and a cart at the same time and someone says, 'wow, you have your hands full.' Yes, I literally have my hands full. Thanks.
But, often, they are not. I have been called a whore multiple times because I have children of different races. People ask things about adoption that aren't appropriate such as, 'why didn't her mom want her?' Or, people say things like, 'What's wrong with her?' about Shilo. Or the time a man tried to preach the gospel to me so he could invite me and my colored child to his Bible study for colored people. He really liked colored people, but didn't tolerate the loudness and foul language they use. Or even seeing someone I know from the past who says, 'you have ANOTHER kid?' Or, the woman who explained over and over to me one time, 'I just wouldn't be able to love somebody else's kid. Don't worry, you'll have a kid of your own someday.'
As a result, before I go out into public places by myself with my kids, I have to talk myself through what to do if others use words that are hurtful. It might sound silly, but the times I've been affronted, I have been caught off guard, and didn't respond. So I go through scenarios. Words. Responses. I edit and re-edit them so my children will hear and see that it is okay to not allow people to treat us wrongly, and do it with grace. I take deep breaths.
When I'm out, I'm so caught up with caring for my kids, 'kind and gentle hands' 'I need you to leave the groceries in the cart' 'you need to tell Shilo no if you don't like her touching you' 'stop chewing on (grossest thing you could ever find) it's not food.' And, I'm never ready for the words. Never.
As much as I want to forget them, as I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, they stick with me. They embed in my heart. They exacerbate my anxiety. So much so that I recently realized that I've just stopped going places very often. It's too much. It's physically hard to do things with a very active toddler and a child in a wheelchair. The lifting, carrying, getting the chair in and out, it wears a girl out. But, not so much so that it might keep me from doing things.
The words though, they have done it. They have made me not want to go new places, or do new things. They have me avoiding storytimes because of a specific person, and one of the library branches because of someone who works there. That's not okay. Please think before you judge. And, if by some chance you make a snap judgment, as we're all prone to do, keep it in your head. Leave it there. Feel free to go on believing it if you want. But, whatever you do, do not say it out loud to the person you're judging. It's your issue. Not theirs. I promise you, from experience, they have enough of their own.