I vividly remember picking up one of my daughters at her gym class, when she was 10 years old. As I walked in, the class was empty except for her sitting by herself, waiting for me.
“Where is everybody?” I inquired.
“They were all invited to a birthday party”
“Whose? Why weren’t you invited?”
When I found out that one of my best friend had omitted to invite my daughter at her daughter’s birthday party, the only one from the entire gym class, I felt angry. Disappointed of course, but so angry. I just could not believe someone could do such an insensitive thing, someone I knew very closely, someone I trusted and liked.
I hugged my daughter, shared with her my sentiment but she just kept on repeating to me:
“Please mommy, please! Don’t say anything…I don’t care.”
You see, when I saw her sitting alone, my childhood came rushing back and I remembered how I was bullied, not blatantly but insidiously. I was left out so many times, living with so much pain. Growing up in Paris, I was like her, a dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned girl, very shy and an outsider. I did not have many friends. I wasn’t French enough, but not quite Persian enough either. The effects of my childhood are buried deep beneath the surface but were the fuel to propel me to the mother I am today: bold, honest, independent, strong (still very sensitive) and fearless.
Moving to NY and marrying David were big changes in my life and I made sure raising my daughters would be different from the way I was raised, that their life experience would be unique and remembered fondly. I don’t blame my mother, far from it. She is a gentle soul, a selfless, giving, loving human being. Being plucked at 19 from Iran and moving to Paris not speaking a word of French was extremely challenging. She had no idea, was busy raising us without her family. I learned to fend off for myself slowing developing a hard emotional armor. She did the best she could, I adore her and I will always be grateful for all the sacrifices she made to bring me here today.
Growing up in NYC, my children knew that they were different but I made sure that their heritage and dark features were a badge of honor. I always showered them with hugs and encouragement, was transparent with them about their strength and weaknesses, sometimes painfully so as they like to remind me. David had given me the confidence to be me, and as such had opened the “lion’s” cage. I made sure I did not repeat the same mistakes my mom did and I protected my cubs with shameless ferocity.
So when I got home, I picked up the phone and called my friend.
I told her how I felt, my voice shaking with emotions running so high that I started crying. I explained to her the damage she had done: to my daughter, to my friendship, that the example she gave to her daughter would be impactful for the rest of her life. Her poor excuses did not assuage my sadness and after this incident we barely talked and lost touch. I just couldn’t help it, and may be it was the wrong thing to do and just ignore it. My daughter was embarrassed but in hindsight I have no regrets. I was able to convey my complete dedication and loyalty to her. She knew I had her back.
I am blessed to have a great relationship with my daughters. There are many instances when I disagree and argue with them but I have learned to shut up, knowing that the relationship is more important than my ego. They are not afraid to push back, always reminding me that they are the product of my raising them. Good for them: they learned well.
Motherhood is about unabashedly, unapologetically, unwaveringly protecting your children, the most consequential job. It's about expressing love, unconditionally, even when many times it required me to say "NO". It's about earning their trust and their respect so that they welcome you as their friend. I think I’ve done my part and I am really incredibly proud of the young women they have turned out to be.