About two years ago, I came across a personalized garden stepping stone while shopping online. The stone had little cartoon stick figures with a person’s name above each one. Gary likes to garden, and I loved the idea of having something unique and personal to give to him. As I placed the order, there was only room to enter 5 names, so I shrugged, left mine out, and ordered the stone with Gary’s name and the four children’s names.
When it was unveiled, the kids loved it! They asked which figure was them, laughed at each other’s little stick person, and thought it was cool that their names were on it.
Then, the puzzled looks started, and the folded arms, curious glances, and finally one of the kids turned to me and demanded, “Where is your name?”
I explained to them that the company who made it only left room for five names, and mine didn’t fit on the stone. I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t, not by a long shot.
“Why isn’t your name on here?”
I’ve been asked that question more than once since then, and every time we have moved and found a new home for the stepping stone, one of the kids is sure to point out, “Smirking Cat’s name isn’t on there. She should have put it on there.” Followed by sidelong dirty looks, like I committed a federal offense and had yet to make retribution.
That stepping stone is by our front door now. I walked past it after being called “nothing” by Gary’s ex’s father about a week or so ago. The look on Bear’s face when he heard that and turned to look at me was indescribable: confused, offended, hurt.
Nothing? To who?
To people who carry on like tantrum-prone toddlers in front of the kids? To people who pay no mind to how much their behavior and words scare and hurt the kids? To people who so blindly reject the fact that the kids care for me that they stomp all over those feelings without a second thought? I can’t say I lay awake at night worrying what people like that think of me.
To the kids who insist my name belongs on that stepping stone with them and their father?
That is what is important to me: who I am to the kids, to Gary. To the people who matter.