Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dear Little Girl Who Lives Below Me,

I heard you and your family outside in the backyard today. I was stuck on my couch all day feeling like shit. I lifted my head long enough to peek out my window into the back yard we share. You all were out there. Having a little family barbecue. Your mom and dad were sitting at the table together. Your little sister was bouncing around a bit, and she seemed pretty happy. Your back was to me, and you were coloring on the walkway in pastel chalk.

At first I was happy for you. You all seemed like such a normal little family. Like a family that didn't scream at each other in the middle of the night every fucking night. For some reason, I just kept watching. I noticed that although your parents were sitting next to each other, they certainly weren't talking. Your mom was staring vacantly into the neighbor's yard. Your dad was tapping his foot impatiently, as if he couldn't WAIT to get the fuck away from her. Your little sister was acting pretty normal. And so were you. you were wearing a cute little green dress with purple stripes. And you were drawing pictures of a little girl wearing a little green dress with purple stripes. And the little chalk girl had a big frowney face. And on her little chalk face were little chalk tears.

Sweetie, that was the saddest thing I'd ever seen. You don't deserve that. I am so sorry. Here are some things that I really want you to know.

1. Honey, your dad is a fucking hick. Really. He's disgusting. There's a reason your mom left him, (even though she took him back). He's an asshole. Just as I was coming back from the store today, he came outside and asked if he could talk to me for a second. I stopped and listened as he apologized for the other night when there was glass breaking, you and your sister crying and he was screaming at your mom. Stupidly, I had actually gone downstairs to intervene. I only did it because I heard you crying. So anyway, your dad apologized. And here's why your dad's an asshole: He said "these things happen, you know?" Well, you know what, honey? No they don't. Not always. And certainly they shouldn't happen in front of you. You don't deserve that. You deserve to have parents who care so much about you that no matter how mad they get, they put it fucking aside. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a parenting expert. I don't have kids. But I have parents. And they got divorced, and they had rocky times. But they NEVER fought in front of me. Why? Because not scaring me was more important than any ugly thing they could possibly scream at each other in front of me. You deserve that. I'm sorry you don't get it.

2. Your mom, honey... well, she's kind of a harpy. And shrill as all get-out. I know this because the sound of her screaming "Get a fucking job you son of a bitch bastard" wakes me up at least twice a week. I could live with that, if I didn't hear you crying, too. ALSO, your mom is bad for yelling at you the way she yells at you. WHO CARES that you didn't pick up all your toys? In the grand scheme of things, Honey, you not picking up your toys, doesn't fucking matter. And here's what really sucks about how she screams at you: She won't remember each and every time she screamed at your throughout your childhood, but I bet you will. She might even later forget altogether that she EVER screamed at you. But you will remember. It's not fair. I hope that when you get older, you can put this into perspective, and realize that's she's the bad one. Not you.

3. Sweetie, it won't always be like this. Someday, you'll be old enough to drink.

4. I don't think your parents think much of themselves. And I don't think they think much of you. It's a shame, because you are a beautiful and precious and funny little person. TRUST ME, when you are older, people will see you for the wonderful extraordinary and sweet person you are. And, worst case scenario, you end up a stripper, you will ROCK that stripper pole like its never been rocked before. I promise you that.

5. I think your parents give your little sister way more positive attention than they give you. I'm sorry for that. But here's something I know. That girl has cankles in her future. Bad ones. You're going to be fine.

6. I don't imagine you are going to live here for long. It's a little too small for your family. And you are just young enough that you probably won't remember me. But I need to tell you that I will never forget you, and your crying chalk self. And for the rest of your life, I will be rooting for you. And I will always hope your future chalk drawings only have smiley faces.




Colby said...

Cankles and stripper poles? Lol. You have a fabulous way of infusing humor in a complicated situation.

Anonymous said...

You are so obviously not a parent. Who are you to judge? You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors.

Grace said...


No. I am not a parent. I GET that it's hard. I take it you are a parent? And I also take it you are the kind of parent who thinks it's ok to scream at your spouse in front of your kids? Why else would you defend this behavior?

Yeah, guess what? I feel sorry for your kids too.

And I DO know what happens behind closed doors. That's most of the fucking problem. I can hear every horrible thing they say.

Scott Rose said...

Aw, what a very very sad yet uplifting posting. What a great writer you are, Grace. I feel so bad for those two kids.


Anonymous said...

Oh SO PERFECT Grace, I have news for you. Being a parent is hard. Harder than anything that you in your shallow life has ever had to endure.

It takes patience and stamina. G-d help you if you ever have a child. God help the child. Because if this is your view on parenthood, you will fail, and probably leave your child on someone else's doorstep.

Five Small Meals said...


I'm sorry that you think what's happening in this post, what these people are doing to their kid, is OK. It's not OK. I grew up in a house like that, and It. Is. Not. OK.

I know it's hard. I do. I know my mother was dealing with depression and some other serious issues when she screamed like that, and when she threw things. And if you're upset at how hard Grace is being on the parents, that's one thing. But to insinuate that that level of yelling is EVER appropriate in a marriage or in front of a child is NOT ok. Even if someone may have a "reason" for causing that kind of pain, it is NEVER an excuse, and it NEVER makes it OK.

And Grace? I think you're fabulous. And I think that you did the right thing going downstairs. When I was a little girl, someone came next door and jumped in to help -- I never forgot it.

And I'm sorry that wastes of space like Anonymous above want to give you shit for caring about the well being of your little neighbor.

Grace said...

Am I on glue? Anonymous, you're like, MAD at me because I think my neighbors are shitty parents, and SAY SO?

And trust me. I don't think I am perfect. But since I think screaming at small children is wrong, I am pretty sure I'm better than you.

Thanks for reading though! :-)

Anonymous said...

This letter was so sad, and sweet, that I *almost* teared up. Because I've had a lot of little girls come through my life who only know how to paint their lives with frowny faces and it breaks my heart.
That kind of behavior is NEVER okay and it says a lot about our society that people think it is. Just because there may be a "reason" for whatever drama is going on doesn't justify how the situation is handled, and certainly not in front of young children.

It can be awkward to get involved, but when there's a child...props to you Daisy.

And seriously...who is this anonymous person? Because I didn't know I was reading the blog of a shallow girl who's going to leave her babies on someone else's doorstep (?!?!). I thought I was reading the blog of a woman who cares about the girls who live downstairs and is contributing a whole heck of a lot to the world.

Anonymous said...

And by Daisy, I mean Grace. Geez, that's what I get for reading your blogs back to back! Sorry :)

Scott Rose said...

I love how these cowardly anonymous posters are too afraid and too cowardly to post their real names and identities, and meanwhile they are out becoming the abusive parents, pedophiles, and serial killers of the future. To both of the anonymous people who have posted so far, you are DAMN LUCKY you are not in prison right now. You both need to be put behind bars and taken out of functioning society, where you do not belong.

Butterflyfish said...

I am a child of parents. I remember every time my mother threw dinner at my father and every time she slept on the couch for weeks on end while I took care of my siblings and every time she yelled at *me* because my father was still out drinking. Thankfully, I didn't end up on a stripper pole.

I'm a parent. I could write a whole blog full of post about how we never fight in front of CF, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know and isn't upset by the tension he feels. I worry about it. But I have to think its better than the alternative.

As to the rest, Grace, dittoing TD and Scott and non-anonymous others -- good post.

Grace said...

Aww... Thanks guys. And FYI, it's just one anonymous poster who posted twice. I love Sitmeter.

Nutmeg said...

I can't put my feelings into words other than to say thank you. Thank you for believing it's wrong, thank you for intervening, and thank you for writing this.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Parents who call the love of their lives cunts, raise kids who do the same, who raise kids who do the same, who raise kids who...(with decreasing or increasing strength in the concentration of vileness depending on personal choices).

The frown in chalk reflects the frown of everything she knows.
And yet, enough people like you in her life cause tiny, significant fissures of difference, that are sometimes enough, just enough, to birth a pearl from all that sand.

Vikki said...

I am a parent and we make mistakes and we say things to our kids that we never intend AND that does not make it okay. Parents need to be accountable too.

This was beautifully and poignantly written and now I too will be thinking of that little chalk drawing and rooting for the girl who drew it.

Fianna said...

Your eloquent post caused tears.

Scaring your child, causing a young girl to draw pictures, which is the only real way she can express herself at her age, because she is a child, of herself sad and tearful, is a shame. I don't care how upset you are with your spouse, that child is being scarred.

For the parents to not care enough to pay attention to what this little girl is drawing, simply shows the level of care they have already exhibited through the thin walls of your apartment home.

Anon, I will include your kids in the prayers for this girl. Hope these comments have given you something to consider as a parent.


Jane Know said...

Great post, Grace... it also brought tears to my eyes. Having grown up in a pretty dysfunctional family, it would have been nice to hear those words when I was her age. Especially the part about one day being old enough to drink.

Anonymous said...

shallow as a shot glass...

Grace said...

yes, anonymous. It takes a special kind of idiot to drown in something so shallow.

Jane Know said...

Haha... I'm calling DCFS on Anonymous. They obviously can't empathize with a neglected child and are too focused on their own shortcomings as a parent.

Claire said...

See what you're saying, Grace. And to some extent I'd agree. Also, having read your blog every so often for some months now - I get that you're probably acquainted with the idea of privilege. And that's where the common ground runs out in relation to this post. Some of what you said there in attack was necessary, funny, relevant and sweet and cool. And some was unnecessary and ugly and lacking in understanding. The judgments you're making on the parents as people aren't justified by the little girl's tears, or concern for her wellbeing. Best interests of the child always, no questions asked. They deserve to reach full potential in every way in every situation. But your approach doesn't help at all - and parents are humans so they probably deserve some modicum of understanding as well. Also I feel like there are probably some class issues happening in the situation that are going unrecognised. Bit toxic. So yes, and no. Yes to the empathy, no to the lack thereof. Thanks for the post, it made me think. I'm on the side of the kid too, just not necessarily against the parents.

rem said...

you're good. you can't help it.

Anonymous said...

you know, don't you, that predicting a child will grow up to be a stripper is offensive, right?

furthermore, you know, don't you, that suggesting that a child will eventually overcome her problems by drinking, that's not good either?

couldn't you also have predicted that these offensive statements may have alienated some of your readers? i mean, it's clear that you have a fondness for the girl. and it's clear that you are trying to display some sympathy. but what's not clear is why you think it's sympathetic to make fun of her and her family.

of course, none of us live in your apartment. none of us gets to hear the family fighting. that might be a reason why a few of us were bothered by the things you've chosen to write, and you're not bothered by them. however, you could have predicted that you couldn't possible relay all this experience (the fighting, the screaming, the waking up) that would somehow make it OK to predict a little girl is going to grow up to be a stripper. right?

just for the record, the stripper thing, that's where it became obvious you don't have kids. because if you were a mom, you would just think it is sad. you wouldn't think it was subject worth waxing witty.

i'm not the same anonymous as before. but i would like to remain anonymous. i do fail to see how calling myself "anonymous" is any less identifying than calling myself butterflyjam when your name is not butterflyjam. or grace, for that matter, when your name is not grace.

if you really want to show the girl some sympathy, have lunch with her one day. spend some time with her. read a book with her. maybe then she won't grow up to be a stripper.

as for the blog post, it sounds to me like you wrote this for the same reason that she made said Sad Chalk Drawing. it gets people's attention.

a mother

Grace said...

Dear the anonymous mother,

I don't care about alienating readers. It's not like I get paid for this. I write for me. If you or anyone else doesn't like what I read, well, then... don't read it.

FYI, though... don't assume that I don't reach out to this lovely and brilliant child every chance I get. This is a blog, that shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Anonymous said...

A noble suggestion, had I not already read it. As a lawyer, you do know: you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Nonetheless, I'm glad to hear that you do reach out to the girl. Really. And I'm not trying to be critical of your blog. I've enjoyed reading your posts. I just feel like 1. that post was more coarse than sympathetic and 2. your perspective on parenthood is a wee-tad myopic.

i mean, we've all been kids, right? so we all know what it's like not to get enough (positive) attention. it fuels our behavior well into adulthood. it informs our career choices, or our desire to write blogs. it scores our relationships. it forms who we are.

and being a parent is amazing. it's so great that it's embarrassing. i am humbled to have become "one of those parents" who is simply wowwed by her child, to everyone else's ennui.

but the shitty part about being a parent, that i think many people who aren't parents don't understand (i certainly didn't), is that when you're a parent, there is not a single moment's break from being a parent. not one. without exception.

you know how awesome it is to kick back and have three, four, five margaritas and a boatload of guacamole on a friday afternoon? or how sweet it is to party until the paper comes? if you have a kid, forget it. forget getting drunk, it will never relax you the same way again. in the back of your mind -- no matter how blitzed it is -- you will know that you're either on the hook if your daugther wakes up with a fever, or someone else who you're paying to be trustworthy is on the hook for such. when you are a parent, there are no free drinks.

i make that point as an allegory to say that when you're a parent, there are no free decisions, either. no decision doesn't have the potential to bite you in the ass later. i love my marriage, but sure i argue with my husband sometimes. and sometimes i'm less-than-thrilled with my marriage. the word regret sometimes sneaks into my mind. but guess what? no matter if i love him, leave him, live with him, or divorce him, i've still got to see him, at least twice a month in some mcdonald's parking lot for the NEXT SEVENTEEN YEARS. because he's my baby's daddy. there's no getting rid of him. it's not like dating. i can't argue with him, get indignant, pack up my high school yearbooks and my high heels and drive off into a thelma-and-louise sunset. oh no. he's here, for ever and ever, even if he's not my husband anymore...

most people out there are just trying to get by. you. me. moms. even sleazy defense attorneys in brown polyester suits. most people make a lot of bad decisions, but they are trying to make the right ones.

i say all this to say, there are nuances to your neighbors. you might hear all their arguments. you might see all the sad chalk drawings. but there is more to it than that. and that other anonymous mother who posted those messages here, she might not have been articulate. but she had a point.

take care of yourself, grace. and thanks for the thoughtful exchange.

the anonymomma

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