Last night, my youngest went Trick-or-Treating. She came home puffy-eyed & quiet.

She told me she had an ok night but at one of the last houses, an old man was handing out full-size candy bars & when it was her turn, he sneered at her & told her she looked like a ‘punk’…
She was dressed as one of The Outsiders - a homemade ensemble, b/c store-bought costumes - like everything else - were in short supply and she didn’t decide to go until the last minute.

She was worried she was too old…
Lu’s last normal trick-or-treating experience was when she was 8. In 2019 when she was 9, she was super sick and couldn’t even say “trick-or-treat”. We had to stop after two houses and go home so she could rest.

In 2020, Halloween didn’t happen…

So I encouraged her to go…
The old man followed his ‘punk’ comment up with, “Don’t you think you’re a little old to be trick-or-treating?” and pulled the basket of candy out of her reach.

She said she froze.

Sure, she looks older. She’s 5’9”.

She’s also 11.

She said she was shocked and embarrassed and her friends had already run off and she didn’t know what to say so she just turned and walked away.

I asked her, “Why didn’t you tell him you were 11?”

“Why? He wasn’t going to believe me”…
She was right on some level. Debating her age w/ a crotchety stranger over a candy bar isn’t worth it.

We can buy candy bars. That wasn’t the point. His judgement & disdain had already landed.

Then again, being able to speak up is empowering, even if it doesn’t change minds…
So many kids have been silent through this whole ordeal. They have been shamed into believing that advocating for themselves and their needs is immoral. That letting people know that they have been hurt by the way they’ve been treated…
I immediately wished I had been there to defend her. To stand up straight and walk my 6’3”-in-sneakers ass up to him and say,

“What the hell is wrong with you? You get off off on making little kids feel bad? She’s eleven! Have kids not sacrificed enough for your benefit?”…
But that’s not the fix. I won’t always be there to defend her.

She needs to be able to say it.

And this is on me. That gentle nature of hers is at least partly conditioned.

I raised my 4 girls to be polite & respectful of adults and it’s occurring to me…
that maybe that default respect is no longer earned…

Maybe it had more utility in an world where we trusted that adults valued children.

And maybe now I’m going to start focusing a little less on instilling respect for random adults…
and more on developing and trusting their own competence and judgement and willingness to speak up.

Protesting in the face of injustice can be healing. If nothing else, it helps you feel like you can do something…you can stand up for yourself…
So I went to the store this morning and got her three of her favorite full size candy bars (which are a rare treat, BTW) and left them on her nightstand with a note to find when she gets home from school today…
It says, “I love you I’m very proud of you for being so kind and respectful. You’ve got it down. I say we work together on giving the world a little more ‘punk’, after all. You have a beautiful voice. I want to help you learn to use it. You in?”

“…hurt by the way they have been treated *is wrong*…”
Update: She’s in. ☺️👏💪

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