I remember hearing about the shirt on Scary Mommy. The shirt was a big deal because mothers were being recognized, finally. Normally it's all about Daddy. It was available for girls and boys.
I bought the shirt at Target.com.
But when it came, I hesitated on giving it to my daughter to wear. I hesitated.
I hesitated because I doubted myself. Was I really strong?
I mean...I got knocked up at 19. I was a statistic.
I don't have a career. I mean, I write, and I get paid for it sometimes, but I don't get up and go into work. I've always been at home with my kids. I am not walking around in heels while grasping a briefcase. I am not changing the world.
My mother, she helped change the world. As an officer in the Air Force, she endured sexist remarks. But she kept going. She showed me what a strong woman could be. She was a commander at countless bases and left her mark. I'd like to think that she left each and every one of those bases better than when she arrived when it was time for her to move on. In fact, I know she did.
My Grandma, my Nana Jo, she went to college in a time where women were expected to get married and pop out kids.
Me? I found out I was pregnant in college.
So what have I done? What am I doing for my daughter? What am I showing my daughter?
I hesitated. I had the shirt in my hands, and I almost put it in the give away pile. I was seconds away from it.
But then my daughter came into the room.
"What's that?" she asked, nodding towards the shirt.
I showed her.
She smiled. I nearly expected her to say, "But how are you strong?" Instead she went, "Cool." She turned to leave.
"Natalie," I called out.
"Am I...well...do you think I'm strong?"
I've always told her about my mother, her Grandma. How she rose through the ranks in the military. How she didn't let some gross men get her down. She knows about her Nana Jo. It's hard to not know about Nana Jo. Nana Jo is strong at 95. If you want an honest opinion, go to Nana Jo. Nana Jo let me know how disappointed she was when I got pregnant at 19 but also lets me know how proud she is of me now.
"Well, yeah. You took care of us when Daddy left."
I thought about it. My husband went on countless deployments. He did a year in Korea. I stayed behind with the kids. It was tough. There were tears. Lots of tears. But I got through it. I taught myself how to fix things. I put things together on my own and you have to understand, I'm terrible at putting things together on my own.
I also helped Tommy when he was diagnosed with autism. Even before he was diagnosed, I was the one taking him to appointments, trying to figure out how to help my little boy. I wouldn't give up on him, never. He be writhing on the floor screaming, and I'd vow to help him. (I'd later discover it was a tag in his shirt that was causing him grief. I would learn that he felt things more than I ever could. He'd hear things that I would never hear. The world around him was constantly at an increased volume.)
So no, maybe I don't have a career outside the home. Maybe I'm not walking around with a briefcase and heels.
But I'm here.
Doing the best that I can. And I hope one day Natalie will look back and think, "My Mom never gave up on us. She was always there when we needed her."
Maybe I won't change the world.
But if I can change my children's world for the better? Well. I've done my job.