Monday, August 31, 2015

Single Moms - Your #1 Job Might be to DITCH Your Boyfriend...

Last Wednesday evening, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life as well as one of the most horrifying experiences of my life.  And they happened at the exact same time.  I was able to score some tickets to the Taylor Swift concert for my daughter’s 9th birthday and I cannot express to you the sheer joy I felt as I watched my daughter dance carefree, singing along at the top of her lungs, and staring in awe and wonder at the lights, dancers and THE Taylor Swift. It was magical.  And at the exact same time, my world was absolutely rocked as I listened to a young girl sitting behind me get screamed at, cussed at, and berated by her mom’s boyfriend.  There are no words to adequately describe what I heard and saw.  

We were dancing our hearts out in the middle of one of the songs and all of a sudden I hear a man’s voice screaming behind me.  Every other word was a profanity and as I glanced to see what was going on, I found a very petite young girl, probably 11 years old at the most, wide eyed with tears streaming down her cheeks.  In between the man and the young girl, sat the young girl’s mom.  She sat silent, while her boyfriend leaned over her, getting in the young girl’s face with “f-ing this” and “f-ing that,” berating her at the top of his lungs.  When he would lunge toward her with threats of leaving the concert or taking away her cell phone, the mom would push him back a little, telling him to calm down.  He had a bottle of beer in his hand.  There was no calming him down.  Soon the young girl was sobbing, no, whaling.  It was a guttural cry.  After what seemed like an eternity, he finally sat back against his chair.  The young girl sat silently, while her mom turned to her and put her arm around her to make sure she was ok.  The young girl proceeded to ask her mom why she let him scream at her. The young girl then said, “Mom, he doesn’t even respect you or listen to you -  he wouldn’t calm down when you asked him to.” Instantly, the mom removed her arm around her daughter and started berating her own daughter.  “You know what?  YOU’RE the reason he did that!  You provoked him! It is all YOUR fault!”  And on and on she went, hurt and defensive from her young daughter’s statement.  The girl started sobbing again.  The mom rolled her eyes, then turned to her boyfriend, kissed him, and put her arm around him.  The line had been drawn.  Her allegiance was clear.  This young girl had no one.  She had no safe place. I wanted to slip her a note.  “Meet me in the bathroom.  I’ll help you escape!” I wanted to say.  Clearly that would be illegal.  I felt helpless in the moment.  The boyfriend was intoxicated and he was a BIG guy.  I felt fearful for my own physical well being (as well as my daughter’s) at the thought of jumping in.  Perhaps I should have.  The best I could do was keep turning around to let him know I could hear and was upset.  He could care less. 

What happened next was absolutely insane.  Taylor Swift started singing another song and it was one that everyone loved.  The boyfriend jumped to his feet, hollering in excitement and then stood on his chair - waving his hands in the air, dancing. The mom hopped to her feet, singing at the top of her lungs.  They were laughing and happy.  Almost like they had just gotten A HIGH off of what had just happened.  And the young girl?  She hopped up too, following their lead.  She turned off her emotions and jumped back into ‘concert mode.’  She pulled out her phone and started recording the beloved song, singing along.  They walked out of the arena that night as if nothing had happened.  But something had happened.  And I was still sick to my stomach.

I have never, EVER heard someone talk to a child like I did that night. And yet I know it happens every night.  Somewhere.

Single moms: Your #1 job in this world is to love and protect your children.  I know you are lonely.  I can only imagine how difficult it is to raise children alone.  My mother-in-law was a single mom for a season, and I have heard of the weight she carried.  I am so sorry you are in that difficult position.  I know you want a partner to do life with.  Someone to help carry the load.  I also know that at your core, you just want to love and be loved.  That is a very valid desire. I don’t think there’s a person in this world who doesn’t want that for themselves.  But because your #1 job is to love and protect your child, that means you have to date with caution.   No matter how good looking, how much money he has, how good his intentions…. if he doesn’t help you accomplish your #1 job, he  should have no place in your life.  If you think it’s “normal” and/or acceptable for a boyfriend to yell and scream, it’s not.  It’s just not.  At you or your child.  A loving relationship doesn’t consist of rage.  Even if he tells you he’s sorry.  Even if he tries to buy you a gift to show his remorse.  The damage is too great.  To yourself and to your kids.  Love yourself enough to raise the standard.  And if you can’t love yourself enough, love your child enough.  You are teaching your kids what a healthy dating life looks like.  What a healthy relationship looks like.  Stop the cycle of pain.  Show them what strength really looks like.  When your kids are grown and out of the house?  Fine.  Date who you like.  (though it will still ruin your life, at least you’re not ruining other young lives in the process)  But for now, choose your child.  Every time.

To married moms and dads: The above goes for us too. 

To young kids: If your mom (or dad) is dating someone who is unhealthy or unsafe, tell someone.  If your mom or dad is unsafe, tell someone.  If no one in your family is a safe person, talk to a teacher, school counselor, or church leader.  If nothing else, start with a trusted friend.  But whatever you do, TELL.  I want you to know this: It is not ok.  Rage is not ok.  Even if you messed up. Even if you made a mistake.  Even if you “provoked it.”  The response should never be rage and swearing and degradation.  You are of great worth.  You are special.  There is no other “you” in this world.  No matter what you are told or how you are made to feel, you have a purpose in this world.  Don’t let anyone hold you back from fulfilling that purpose.

Look. I know this is a gray area.  It was toward the end of the concert and I honestly thought, “If I go and get a security guard, by the time I get back up here, the concert will be over. And what are they going to do?  He only yelled at her.  He didn’t lay a hand on her or threaten any bodily harm.”  Was it ugly?  Yes.  But was it illegal?  Probably not.  My quick online research in the moment revealed that there are very few steps that can be done to help in a situation like this.  So, to the blog I went.  

Parents - Single or Married - Let’s love our kids toward better behavior.  The shaming and rage and anger is not going to produce the behavior change we want.  I mean, maybe for a time, behavior modification can work with enough fear based parenting. But to reach their heart and have life long behavioral changes, we must start with love.  Love and protection.  From whoever it may be - boyfriend, girlfriend, coach, teacher, parent’s friend… It’s our #1 job.  

And to Staples Center - Maybe, just maybe, one thing that you could do to help in this… stop serving alcohol at events that are mostly attended by children and their parents.  The majority of the audience that night consisted of parents and their kids.  Clearly alcohol isn’t an appropriate ingredient in a “parent/child night out.” Not to mention for the drive home.

And finally to Taylor Swift - We love you and loved your show.  Thank you for a magical evening and  hopefully for lessons learned.