When I was in the middle of labor with First Son, there was an announcement that came over the loudspeaker of my hospital room:
“Tina Lee’s boss is here to see here.”
My main nurse, who was herself about 9 months pregnant, rolled her body in the equivalent of a corporeal eye roll and yelled “Oh come on!”
Husband and I turned to a doula (yes I hired a doula. Mostly because I wanted to try every single experience available to me and it took so long to get pregnant, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get here again. Her name was Sarah Pancake. I couldn’t not hire her with that name.) She said, “[Husband] will go out there and tell Tina’s boss she’s unavailable at the moment because SHE’S IN THE MIDDLE OF GIVING BIRTH.”
It was helpful. I can recount details later but I was very angry. I told Husband “My boss is trying to take over my birth story.” Husband was very wise. He counseled “Only if you let her. She is a minor character in our story.” I listened to his advice, and I also just accepted this incredibly aggressive invasion of privacy and never complained about it or reported it to HR.
It’s been years, of course, since that day, but I thought about it yesterday, because Wonder Twins are dealing with a multi-year challenge with a school bully. After he punched Wonder Twin Girl hard enough in the stomach that she cried (she never cries), we were invited in for an unproductive meeting with the school administration that dismissed our concerns. Things seemed to calm down when I filed an official complaint and passed bully’s mom, who gave me creepy vibes (she’s a bit scary, I will admit. She body-checked the Twins’ teacher last year so I wondered, how will I react to being body checked? Why can’t I be more like Husband? I am always scared in these situations, and he gets angry and absolutely confident in his right to be here. Phew. An inspiration.) But I recently find out that school bully is still physically intimidating both twins and I am reminded how we as a society cater to bullies.
Of course, there is Trump, but there are bullies everywhere. I was in a job for 18 years that supported abusive, toxic behavior from its leadership. In this place, it was men who were the screamers. There would be these well-suited men who would rail and scream nonsensical abusive diatribes at staff, and everyone else would talk normally as if this was normal, because we all kind of normalize this behavior. We’re all invested in keeping the surface calm, keep the social fabric going, even if there is obviously a psycho behaving like a toddler who needs a nap.
I have a lot of thinking to do as to what allowed me to stay in a position for so long where abuse was so pervasive and prevalent. (That office’s culture was to let things roll “like water off a duck’s back.” Old school culture is all about being “a good soldier.”) I was listening to a Neil Grasse (not Degrassi, which I’ve said for years, but that is Degrassi High is the series that brought Drake to stardom so can you blame me) Tyson (omg who is so brilliant and charismatic. Excellent speaker and explainer of obscure, inaccessible content in a mellifluous voice that implies some kind of professional training — and if that’s his natural voice, it’s not really fair) interview on Larry Wilmore’s podcast — he said that children are not taught to be thinkers but to be obedient, to be seen not heard, to be good soldiers — and man, I’m so sorry to realize that is true.
So among my parenting duties, I have to teach these kids that yes, we have bullies in our lifetime and how to face them. The answer is not to fall down and absorb their aggression, as I have done for so many years. The answer really is to disrupt the status quo and say, dude, this is not right and I will not accept this. I will not deserve this. You can even be polite while asserting yourself, but you have to do it. If not for yourself, for others who can’t do it this yet.
Anyway, this is ongoing.