All I Know

When I tuck my daughter in at night and sing to her and stroke her hair, I try to stay present in the moment, because it is the best part of my day, every day.

But sometimes, while I sit there beside her bed and look at her long lashes and her impossibly beautiful reddish-good hair, I feel afraid.

She knows nothing yet of the grabbing hands and the staring eyes and the vile words.

But I know she will.

It is as inevitable as the sun rising and setting every day.

And it makes me feel so helpless.

Helpless like the time I was thirteen years old and was walking to the corner store on a bright summer’s day, and I noticed that a truck with four or five adult men in it was slowly following behind me as I walked.

As helpless as when the owner of the store told me I could not stay there if I was done shopping, and when I told him about the truck he looked at my still-childlike body which had only barely entered puberty, and said, “Well, if you wear shorts like that…”

I wake up at night and try to figure out a way to protect her but also give her the freedom that should be her right.

But it is a riddle that cannot be solved, and I know it.

I know the wolves that await her further down the road. The ones that smile while hiding their teeth and say come just a bit closer. I see it all, because I have been down that way before.

It is all I know.

I just want her to know differently.

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