One week has gone by and I am still unsure about how to get this on paper.
I saw it coming, and didn’t know how to stop it.
I needed those words in my head... she has to know her value... but they weren't there.
Some might not have noticed what happened, but many did. Those who know me, and have been a witness to my single mother days witnessed the tears I wiped from my eyes. It was fairly obvious if you were looking. I choked back the tears and tried to prevent those around me from noticing that I was crying like someone who had been so deeply hurt that it was as if blood was flowing. But it wasn’t the kind of pain that comes when the skin is broken; it was the kind of pain that cuts deeper than the numbness that you thought would protect you from pain.
I didn't know my value; I let it happen.
It was finally the day of the celebration. Months and months of preparation... time and money spent, and never the consideration that my self worth would be an issue at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. But it was. I planned for everything... extra favors in the car, to be personalized on the spot for those who showed up without responding. Back up battery pack for my phone to capture all the details in case my camera ran out of battery power. The table clothes blended with the balloons and lanterns and the photos and centerpieces were carefully planned to represent her life up until this point, where in the Jewish faith, she was a woman.
Hopefully, she will be a woman who knows her value.
I scoured over a decade of photos, trying to capture her growth. In the background, there was a theme of her evolution as a dancer. Dancing was the decorative theme of the party. I was so proud. She worked so hard at everything she tried.
I was proud of her work, and thankful to be her mother.
Learning to do a split... photos sprinkled through the carefully created montage demonstrated her increase in flexibility, until her body met the floor. For girls like her, that is a monumental accomplishment. On the sidelines, I captured it all. It was always me, alone, with the other moms and the occasional dad. Her dad was foreign to the day to day celebrations, only showing up for the big things in life. Even when I was married, I must have seemed single to those around me. I was the mom at home plate, and the mom shopping for jock straps. I played both mother and father.
I never knew my own value.
Finally the day came and seemed to be going along without a hitch. Her work and study payed off. Her Torah portion was long, and she held the room as it was beautiful to share. Once over, it was time for the party.
The invites had gone out months before, and of course, they matched the lanterns and the carefully placed details.
When the host of the evening called us to share the photo montage, I was secretly proud. I was proud of my daughter, but I was proud of my work. It was the third time I have created such a montage, and they have remained with me as lovely memories to be revisited as time passed.
1,2,3... 6 What? SIX Pictures of the step mother appeared in the photo celebration of her life. I DID NOT EVEN HAVE 6 PHOTOS OF MYSELF WITH MY DAUGHTER. I had not put them in there. Limited on time and space, I made sure that both her father and I were equally represented in the photos in spite of the inequality in our participation in her life.
I overheard one of my friends speaking to my sister. She simply has to understand Her value.
Who had made the changes? Where did the pictures come from? Why was this woman, barely a part of her life taking up space in this montage? What happened to the pictures that had been removed? What happened to the sequential celebration of my daughters accomplishments? Her final step of the split was gone? Why? Replaced with a stranger who was seemingly misguided on her own self worth.
Gradually, those at my table looked at me, knowing that this was not my work. It was so obvious what had happened here.
Whispers of "I'm sorry" and head shaking as Step Mother stepped into every attempt at a family picture. Thin and young, I didn't want to be in the same picture. Knowing that lovely poised lady who is my daughter is no more a product of her step mother than milk can be a product of a chicken, wasn't enough to get me through the day.
I didn't know my own worth. I let it happen. Dreams of me violently shoving her out of the way have filled my nights.
I woke up the next morning in tears. The step mother and I had been placed on even ground by my ex husband. It hurt like a knife in the gut. Did he not think? Did he not care?
I tried to tell myself that those who matter know. She injected herself where she didn't belong. She should have known to step back.
Tired of remaining silent, I texted my ex. I let him know that I was deeply hurt. I knew she had added those pictures, and ruined my keep-sake and my memories of the day. I let him know that I deserved better. I let him know that I was the one who had parented those children on my own, and that it was me, not her, who had earned the right to stand in those family photos and be honored as her mother. I reminded him that his wife was HIS choice; she had nothing to do with the charming, intelligent beautiful children we have.
His pitiful excuse was that he had simply let the photographer know who the "players" were. To which I replied, that's just it; she's not a player.
Those who matter know what happened. It was time for me to know my own value. I cannot change the day. Sadly, my memories are at least temporarily colored by my failure to take charge. What I can say is this, I will never let it happen again. I will know my own value, and never again be afraid to confront those who take it for granted.