Parenting and Your Inner Badass (or The Day I Cracked)

I want to start off by saying that this is not a rant against public schools or liberals. I am a pro public school liberal myself. This is about parenting in general and going with your gut.

Recently, my sister, in her parenting blog, theyearoflivinghopefully.com, talked about not being able to ask for help. She had an advocate help her write a letter stating her (long-awaited) needs for her child, and when the teacher got defensive, my sister apologized. She realized that she hadn’t yet found her inner badass (although she’s badass in many, many other parenting areas). That made me think about my own inner badass, and I tried to pinpoint a time when I made the switch. I think it happened when my daughter went to sixth grade camp.

I’d had moments of badassedness here and there, but during my daughter’s sixth grade camp a switch flipped, and it stayed flipped. Just a few days before the four-night adventure, the school held an informational meeting about sixth grade camp. My daughter was excited. It would be only her second time away from home overnight.

During the meeting, the director of the camp mentioned a hike at Bodega Head, which hadn’t been mentioned in previous discussions. After the meeting I asked, “Isn’t that the place with the trails along cliffs?” The director told me that the counselors did not use the trails closest to the cliffs. They’d be well away, she assured me.

Still, something made me uncomfortable. I told the teacher (whom I’d always liked) that I would like to zip out to the camp just for that hike. She assured me that my daughter would be fine and explained that the trip was about independence. I told her that four nights away from home was plenty of independence and that a couple hours one day would not take that away. The teacher reiterated that parents were not invited.

I lost sleep. I couldn’t tell my kid she couldn’t go to camp, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those cliffs. My kid was somewhat clumsy and inattentive for her age. Finally I told the teacher, “Listen. Bodega Head is a public place, and you really can’t stop me from showing up.”

The teachers didn’t think much of that, but you know what? I showed up. Me, who hates to navigate new places alone and never wanted people to dislike her. I parked on the dirt road and waited for the buses. When they showed up, I followed them.

The kids and teachers disembarked, and no one gave me a hard time for being there. A man sitting in a folding chair, the only person who wasn’t with the group, told me he’d come there every day for years and it was the best whale day he’d ever seen. Well, I thought, even if the kids don’t walk near the cliff I’ll be glad I came. I’d never been whale-watching, and here I was stumbling upon the best whale-watching day in recent Bodega Head history!

I followed my daughter’s group. They stopped under a tree, where the camp counselor told a story and gave a short lecture on Bodega Head flora. Then the counselor led the kids up a path toward the cliff. I could see where the path went, but I still couldn’t believe it. We walked right up to the edge and turned, the path not one foot from a sheer drop of at least fifty feet. I peered down at the rocks below. One bully-shove and we’d lose a student forever! I pulled my own kid back a step or two and asked another girl to take a step back. We watched the whales until the kids got bored, which of course was long before I did.

The whales put on a show for us. Maybe fifty yards out, they swam back and forth, seeming to enjoy the task of coming up for air. I thanked God for the whales and for my gut instinct.

Back at the school after camp, my daughter’s teacher sought me out to apologize. “You know your own child, and we should not have told you not to come.” I think that was pretty badass of her. The kids might have been fine without me there, but the point is that my gut was right, and in pushing through the worries about what the teachers would think of me, a switch flipped.

Some people might be able to make a minor adjustment, not careĀ quite so much what others think of them after an incident like this, but I’m afraid something in me broke. If you need someone to come with you and make sure you get your point across without backing down, I’m your girl. You’ll probably have to rein me in. Badass squared. Someone might think I’m weird? Or pushy? I. Don’t. Care.

That’s probably why I’ve lost a few friends. I wish I cared more. I just don’t. My sister is making the transition more gracefully. Then again, I’m afraid of flying and she’s taking her aching back and knee across the country to the march in Washington D.C. Who’s the badass now?

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