And although I wasn't feeling very good, the summer air, the people out on the sidewalks, the music, the city ... it was familiar in a good way. And I met up with some good friends who I love and miss so much. There was some of that. And even though I walked away from them, leaving them to their night of endless possibilities ... it was okay. At one time, I spent every weekend with them going to bars, conversing, staying up too late, doing whatever we wanted. And now I walked away pushing my baby in her stroller with a lot of things running through my head. Too many things. Looking at all the young kids going into the bars and feeling old.
And then something random but totally necessary happened. I changed routes and upon doing so, came upon a family of three. A young girl who was obviously upset. A dad. And a son. To put things in perspective, I am guessing the father was 32. I confirmed later that the young girl was 12, and the little boy was maybe 6. And the dad was yelling at her. Tears rolling down her cheeks. An obviously dysfunction situation.
So I followed until the dad was being a royal douche. And then I ran, pushing the stroller, until I caught up with them. And I asked the girl if she was okay or if she needed help. I didn't really know if it was a boyfriend, step dad, or whatever at this point. It was just a bad scene. And the dad said, "Yeah, she needs a lot of help." And she looked at me with big brown eyes that reminded me of my CJ's. And I said, you can stay with me. I'll make sure you get home. And she stayed with me.
So we sat and talked. She was beautiful, even with too much make up on for a natural beauty. She was taller than me and just soooo sweet. And she looked like she was 16. When she told me she was 12, I didn't believe her. I wanted to cry. She was way too old, way too mature, way too sad for a 12-year-old. But we talked about why her dad was so mad and why she was so upset. And her dad left her with me and never turned back. On main street downtown with a total stranger.
She explained to me in a maturity that no child should know at such a young age that her dad was drunk and yelling at her in front of a crowd of people. I told her I have a daughter and that sometimes I start yelling and I don't even know why I am yelling but I can't stop. And she said, "Well you should never do that. Because it hurts us. A lot." And I wanted to go pick up my CJ and tell her I was sorry for every time I yelled at her because I was mad at someone else. I don't get drunk and act crazy in public but I have yelled at her. She's a teenager. Any way, we decided to start walking and continued talking until we caught up with the dad, who had stopped and calmed down finally.
During our walk, I asked her if she was ever scared or if he hit her; she said no. Then she said, "I'm in therapy. Not because of him. But I know where to find help."
When we reached her dad she told him exactly how she felt and he told her (in an unfortunately less mature manner) how he felt. And obviously it was none of my business but I told him that she was very open and mature and her argument was pretty solid, so maybe he could compromise. He should feel lucky that she told him how she felt so openly. And all she asked was that he not yell at her in public and humiliate her. She was the one who suggested he could pull her aside and talk to her calmly, instead of yelling at her in front of a million people at a concert.
And she said, "Do you know that when parents talk to their kids and tell them, 'I don't give a shit, walk home alone.' what that does? It makes us want to kill ourselves."
It was heart breaking that she was so willing to talk and so simple to see that she just wanted to be loved. She just wanted him to express his love in a less combative way (and sober). And he was being a drunk a-hole. But still, probably really did love her and had good intentions. He just never was taught what to do. He never developed standards. He never had someone say, you know it's not super cool to get drunk and take it out on your kids.
We talked for awhile; I mostly listened to them. And then, finally, when I knew she was safe and things were good, I gave her a hug and told her she was one of the most beautiful girls I knew and that I was really impressed with her. And the father (who easily could have told me "it's none of your business, fuck off") introduced himself and he thanked me. Everyone seemed okay and were on good terms--no more yelling. And then they doted over Lucy and I told them a little more about my teenager. But I was the one before I left that had to thank them. I had to thank this 12-year-old for saying, "Yeah, it makes me feel like shit when you yell at me." I told her that I needed this lesson because I just assumed CJ ignores me most of the time. But why can't I just talk to her?
And as pissed as I was at the dad for being a total ass, it made me look at myself and think what I need to do to be a better parent. Am I any different, if I am sober and being unreasonable? Is doing it in my own home any different? I needed to talk to this family. I needed to see it from the outside.
If you have a dad that you can talk to, and that you know cares about you and loves you, you should let him know. You should not take it for granted. If you have a memory of fishing or golfing or him putting a coat over you during cold weather, you should cherish that moment. You should appreciate that he makes the effort, no matter how he chooses to express his love. It breaks my heart to look at my baby. She may never have to put up with a dad who yells because boys are trying to pick up on her, but she won't ever know a daddy that is passionate about her and would do anything for her. Is it my job to tell him that he needs to do that? Is it my job to call him on Father's Day and ask if he wants to see her? Is it better for her to see him? No matter how I feel?
At least we are trying. Those who don't even try ... they are the real assholes.
Anyway, it was a weird experience tonight and I normally wouldn't even insert myself into a situation with an angry parent and a child. But I am glad I did. And I got so much more out of it than I expected. And seeing them walk away, hugging each other and talking, was sad but comforting.
There are so few families now that do the right things for their kids. There are so few traditional families. I guess we have to make it work. But it hurts. I know. And I think this 12-year-old was insanely courageous and a gifted communicator. And she just wanted love, respect, and to be trusted. She was the one who was hurt, yet she was the one acting more mature than the parent.
So if I felt so strongly about her safety and how she felt that I interjected in a potentially violent situation, maybe I need to do something even remotely as brave in my own life. I shouldn't assume that CJ knows I love her more than any thing in the world. I need to tell her that when I yell or have a bad day or cry every 5 minutes for no reason, it's NEVER because of her. I need to cherish her. I think she is amazing. She is courageous. She is one of the strongest, most resilient, talented, beautiful, witty teenagers I know. And when I see her tomorrow, I am going to hug her for four days and never let go until she knows that.
Fathers. Mothers. Families. At the end of the day, we need our families. They are the most important thing. In the end, they are all we have. It's all we are. By blood or by love or by happenstance. Love the people who love you and care about you. Love them back. Love those that don't want your love. And tell them.