A Word on Politeness

Sometimes I find it hard to get the words out.

I need a go-between, whether it’s cartoons or writing or (in years gone by) acting. It’s a way to hold up what I’m feeling to the world and see if anyone else has felt that way too, without, you know…speaking…like, in real life.

I’m okay with that. It’s kind of my thing. But…


Sometimes, it would be nice to have the words.

Something kind of scary happened on the subway platform the other day. My three-year old daughter was pushed to the ground by a young man with mental health issues. His mother was there and tried to get him to apologize, but he attacked me instead.

It hurt. It was scary. And the ‘what-if’ scenarios running through my head were out of control well into that night.

We got away and I held my daughter, who seemed smaller than she did only seconds before. I fumbled for the words to explain that it’s never okay for someone to hit you, that mama will keep you safe, that the young man didn’t understand what he was doing, and on and on and on.

And I felt like a fraud. I felt like I had deeply failed my daughter. Not because I struggled to find the words to explain what happened, but because when she was hit and the mother tried to force an apology, I stood there and waited out of an obligation to politeness.

I felt the words scatter and hide somewhere deep down where fear lives. Instead, the thing that stood up and moved to the front of class was complaisance. I defaulted to the familiar.

The part I couldn’t explain to her, was why I prioritized that urge to please over the unshakable instinct to just get away. Not that she asked me to explain. She moved on from the experience and was asking about snacks again soon enough, but it bothered me. Still does, evidently.

What I want is pretty simple. I want her to be her fierce little self. Her joyful self. Her kind self. What I don’t want, is for her to be polite. I just wish I had the words to tell her what I mean.

Know what I mean? Leave a comment below ↓

4 thoughts on “A Word on Politeness”

  1. So scary. So awful that you had to experience that..but I’m glad you both are ok.

    I struggle with finding my voice too in an effort to be polite or please others.

    Trying to also work on that.

    I think she will learn from your amazing thoughtfulness and deep empathy and consideration for others. And also your personal reflection/journey will influence her to also stay true to her own voice.

    Be gentle on yourself. You are doing an awesome job:)

  2. I have found that often our best qualities are our worst, when cast in a different light. The you that I know is thoughtful and kind, patient and considerate. These are wonderful traits—admirable and respectable—but they also make you vulnerable. They work best when others play by the same rules. Less so when people don’t.

    This is not to say that you are incapable of raging fire on someone who threatens you or your beloveds, I don’t know, but it seems it’s not your tendency.

    I could say more but alas I must run off to work! Please keep posting! I really enjoy seeing your work!

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