Like every Mother’s Day that has gone before, I anticipated lovely handmade gifts and touching cards. What I did not expect was the intimate conversation with my daughter that would once again remind me that the greatest gift of all a Mother can get is the opportunity to show up and be wholly present for her children.
This morning began as almost any other, with the squawking of our parrot Rio, who clearly didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to sleep in today. Perhaps he was anticipating the family walk at the Greenburgh Nature Center, a 30-acre oasis in the heart of Hartsdale NY’s shopping district. Feeling only semi-cheated at being awakened early, I focused instead on the feta cheese omelet I would enjoy at our favorite local Katonah restaurant. Day-dreaming about brunch, I stood with dripping wet hair in my far-too-small bathroom, as my daughter, just 11, pushed in. Apparently, Mother’s Day doesn’t assure me of any additional privacy.
While I am accustomed to the usual litany of “Mama, can I borrow your lip gloss . . . shirt . . . brush…”, etc. I was not prepared for the question that floated casually from her lips.
“Mama, did you know there are sex slaves in the USA?”
Apparently she did not see the stunned look in my eyes or perhaps she did and was being gracious enough to grant me a moment to recover and think of something to respond with. Without skipping a beat, she switched subjects to tell me all about her friend’s birthday barbeque the night before.
“We had a cake fight and oh yeah, we had s’mores and mine caught on fire and later Molly scared the fujiggles out of me when we were playing manhunt.”
My daughter is still in that phase of life where she makes up words like fujiggles and talks about whampy-dampers — a word she thinks she either invented or read in a book that means “something surprising that happened.” Yet the yin to this innocent yang is that my budding tween girl is also still in a place where she’s processing and healing from something that most Mothers never, thankfully, have to handle – early and devastating child abuse at the hands of her biological father. And she’s doing it with grace, courage and a maturity far beyond her years.
Without betraying that my heart was still lodged somewhere between my chest and my throat, I let her finish the recount of her soirée and then casually asked how she knew about sex slaves?
“Well I was talking to a friend at school… and you know it’s a problem, and I want to help stop child abuse for kids, so do you think we can do something and get involved?”
Clearly there was more to it than simply helping other children, many of whom are victims of a global sex slave trade that is shocking and pervasive beyond our ability to comprehend. I found it slightly unusual that along with the current “health” unit (yes, it’s time to have that conversation), sex slaves were topics du jour among her 5th grade cohorts.
I nudged gently. . . afraid, but knowing I needed to hear where this was really coming from.
“Well you know . . . with everything that happened to me (she let the word trail off), I want to help, so can we do something?”
My daughter’s experiences are not directly related, thank God, to sex slavery unless you are aware of my daughter’s history or the fact that statistically predators of this kind do prey on victims of abuse or anyone who has less than a strong support system and certainly low self-esteem.
So I consider it a miracle that almost exactly a year after her PTSD flare up that prompted her first of two hospitalizations within a twelve month period, my daughter was standing before me offering herself as a self-assured, caring and dynamic young girl who wanted to make a difference in the lives of other young girls whose life experiences are even more insanely tragic and infinitely less hopeful.
I thought this Mother’s Day would be another day to feel what it is to be a normal mother just celebrating what regular kids do and say. But this has never been the case for me and once again, I am reminded of how incredibly blessed I am to have such powerful experiences. They continue to shape who I am as a mother, as a woman, as a human being.
Along with the ridiculously cute and touching handmade cards that I got, the best gift I received today was having this conversation with my daughter. This was a moment of connection – hers and mine – shared in a way that only a mother and daughter who have been through the fire together, can understand.
For more information on how you can get involved and make a difference in the fight against sex trafficking, please visit: