When I write this column I write it for myself. Its something that I do as a creative outlet and a way to document my life for my kids to read later, something I hope doesnt embarrass them too much when they are adults. During the last four years, its also become a way of speaking out about things I believe strongly in when, in real life, Im pretty reserved.
Its only when people mention this column in person that it sinks in that others read my words. I was sitting at the ballpark recently watching my oldest child play softball when I overheard some women behind me whisper, Is that the woman who writes that column in the newspaper?
I get tickled about it, and honestly, Im glad somebodys reading. But what I really love are the emails I get from readers, mostly from other parts of the country now that this column runs in newspapers across the U.S. Ive gotten handwritten letters scolding me for my actions, whether its what I feed my dog or how Im raising my children. Ive gotten emails from readers with political views opposite of mine. And I always appreciate the kind thank-you notes readers who take the time out of their day to say thanks, sometimes for nothing at all.
Last week, I received an email from Liz, a seventh grader in Byron, Illinois, who is working on a writing project. She is trying to persuade her school administrators to have transgender restrooms at her school. She is not transgender, she said, but she reached out after reading my recent column about the bathroom debate, in which I stated that unisex, family-style public restrooms were long overdue.
The issue concerns me and I would just like to make things better for everyone in any way that I can, Liz wrote.
Theres no need to thank me, Liz, for I should be thanking you.
I think back to what I cared about in seventh grade whether my latest crush liked me back and whether Id have the guts to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance, getting squeamish about having to dissect worms in science class, passing notes back-and-forth during school with my friends and stressing over having to run laps in P.E. My generation was too busy obsessing over Kurt Cobain and circling our favorite outfits in Delias catalogs while watching MTVs The Real World, season 1.
As a seventh grader, nowhere on my radar was thinking about people unlike myself. Never did I think that I should do something that could have a positive impact.
As a mom of three kids including two little girls, you give me hope, Liz. Regardless of the issue or political leaning, I pray my kids, like you, discover their voice. I try to teach my children to think of others first before themselves, to ingrain in them empathy and passion for their world. I can only hope that they become passionate about something at such a young age and use their God-given talents to make this world a better place.
The fact that you are voicing your opinion whatever that opinion may be at such a young age is admirable. The fact that, as a seventh grader, you are trying do something to improve the lives of others through the written word is incredible. I only wish my seventh grade self had been a little more like you. With the right words, a little determination and a lot of dedication, it is possible to make a difference. Dont let anyone tell you that you cant.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.