I have dreaded having this conversation for the longest time. I have been dragging my feet on this one, but I think it’s time for me to have the talk. My oldest has just entered high school, and I know she is itching to ask to go out with her friends, and I want her to be prepared. But I am just not ready. I remember having the conversation with my mother and the impact that it had on me. God love my mother, but I am still scarred by that conversation.
So here is what prompted me to think it’s time. Last weekend my daughter and I headed out to the mall to return some of the Christmas gifts that were too small. Of course, after our returns, we weren’t ready to call it quits at the mall, we had time and money to burn – thanks to that extra Christmas cash from the grandparents!
After our first purchase, we got our extra wind of retail motivation and headed to one of my daughter’s favorite high-end stores to do some browsing and purchasing. We go straight to the sales rack, my favorite place to start in a high-end store. It helps me work myself up to believe I can really afford the merchandise in the store. Hey, a girl can have high hopes!
We start to browse and somehow, we get separated. She goes off to her corner, and I go off to mine. After a few minutes, I didn’t find anything and was hopeful that my daughter was having better luck. I began to look for her and saw it. I saw the need for the talk. There goes my daughter off in her own little world perusing the sale rack, and right behind, and then on the side of her I saw it happening. She was being double teamed. It was the “Are you trying to steal young lady?” bum-rush of the sales clerk. That sneaky little look, where they peek in your bag to make sure they don’t see any of their merchandise in your bag. The slow follow you around the rack to keep all eyes on you. The movement of getting close to you and every step you take they take, matching step for step with you.
My heart dropped, and tears began to well up in my eyes the moment I caught a glance of it. I ran, literally sprinted, right over to my daughter. My first thought as a protective mother was to yell at the two clerks, “What the hell are you doing! She’s a teenager, and she is too naïve to even think about stealing. She thinks we can buy everything!” (Sadly, my daughter has the unrealistic impression that her parents are an ATM and have this unimaginable amount of money to burn.)
I was ready to go to war for my daughter. I could feel the heat radiating from me, and the anger building. Then reality hit me, and I didn’t want to embarrass her or myself. So, I slowed my pace as I got close to her. My sprint slowed to a fast walk. And as I got closer I gave the sales clerks the evil eye, with the “I wish you would” look. I politely told my daughter to put her selection back, and told her it was time to go.
She wasn’t ready to go, I could tell, but we needed to get out of there. I felt the need to protect her and shelter her immediately from that experience. Her disappointed look on her face killed me when I told her we were not buying anything in this store and that we wouldn’t be returning. It just wasn’t the time to say to her in that moment:
“Honey, you were being profiled. You were being watched with a close eye because of who you are. And I don’t mean because of who you are as in the wonderful, impeccably groomed, honor student, with drive, fierceness and confidence (which radiates from you, if they took the time to see) young lady that your parents raised. But because of who you are as the world has classified, defined and projected onto you based on something that you have no control over. I am sorry, my daughter, that you must experience this, but you will. And as much as I want to shelter and keep you oblivious to this -you are getting older, maturing and soon you will be on your own without me, and I won’t be able to run, sprint, fast walk and give the evil eye to those that will assume who you are.”
So, I think it’s time to have the conversation. It’s time to make her aware of the real world. It’s time to tell my beautiful, confident daughter that she will forever remember this conversation and one day will have to have it with your kids just like my mother had with me.