Speaking Up for My Kids When I Struggle to Speak Up for Myself

First, there’s something you should know about me, I don’t like pineapple in my food. I’ll eat it on its own, but don’t like it mixed with anything, even a banana split. The idea makes me cringe. So, that in mind…I remember eating dinner at Chili’s once with my family, it was probably 18 years ago. I don’t recall exactly what I ordered, but it was probably their battered chicken fingers with a side of their yummy mashed potatoes and gravy. The whole meal was turning into a bit of a cluster, I can’t remember exactly why, but it was all a bit tense and the food was taking what seemed like forever. When the food finally arrived, the waiter set a plate in front of me that wasn’t at all the fried goodness I was expecting. Instead it was some sort of Hawaiian-inspired chicken dish with huge chunks of pineapple 😩in a sauce covering a piece of chicken. I think there may have also been ham involved (ham is the one other food I really can’t stomach). So, what did I do? I ate it. Or more accurately, I ate a few bites, pushed the food around on the plate a bit and went home hungry, while assuring my family that it was fine, I was fine, please don’t say anything.

What on earth is this compulsion to not draw attention to myself that’s so strong that I would eat something I clearly didn’t order and I definitely despise…and not only that, am paying for!? This is just one example of probably tens of thousands where I’ve chosen to not speak up on my own behalf. I’m not talking about big, huge, earth shattering things, but little moments in life where I choose to just grin and bear it because I’m not willing to say something. I’m not sure what I think would happen if I did. Probably there wouldn’t be some massive scene, but rather the other party would accommodate and we’d all move forward. Even though logically, I know it’s ridiculous, I still, can’t do it.

There have been experiences in my life that have taught me to make myself heard a bit more, but none more than parenthood. As a parent its my job to be the voice for my kids. When they were babies and couldn’t speak, I had to raise my hand in the doctor’s offices and ask the questions, or more accurately question the answers I was being given. When they attended daycare and there were issues with other kids or concerns with teachers, I had to step into the directors office and demand an explanation. When we found out Lottie had severe food allergies, I had to setup a meeting with the day care providers to train them all in the use of epi pens and the warning signs of a potentially life-threatening reaction, even though they looked at me sympathetically like I was clearly some sort of overreacting lunatic. These are big, huge, earth shattering things. And, if it’s hard for me to send back a meal that disgusts me that I didn’t even order, this is 100 times harder.

But, I have no instinct in life stronger than the one to protect my kids. My inability to protect them from everything in the world often keeps me up at night. But, this, this I can do. So I do it. I make the calls, I have the conversations. I draw attention to myself, risk being viewed as “the crazy mom who overreacts.” Because, at the end of the day, my number one responsibility to my kiddos is to keep them safe and be their voice. I’ve come to realize, in these moments I could care less what people think about me, if what I’m doing keeps my kids safe, that’s what matters.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have to go over what I’m going to say a thousand times in my head before I say it, and replay it a thousand times after. But that pit in my stomach is nothing compared to the weight off my shoulders when I know I’ve overcome my own craziness to be the mom they deserve. If I was served that pineapple and ham chicken today, I’d probably still eat it. But my kids, as long as I’m their voice, they won’t be grinning and bearing any injustice, pineapple or otherwise.

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