The Things They Don’t Tell You

Shira Wolpowitz

Photograph by Shira Wolpowitz

The 45-minute drive with my mom from my viola lesson to my brother’s hockey practice was silent, as usual. Having sat through that car ride every week for years upon years, I had memorized the names of every single street we passed, and the different shops along the sides of the road.

Two weeks prior, one of my best friends had just gotten a new pair of UGG boots with bows on the backs. It was late November, and my winter boots from last year were definitely too small. I had grown three inches that year and was now one of the tallest girls in my fourth grade class. I really wanted a pair of matching UGGs, but I was too afraid to ask. My mom was tired, you could see it on her face, and I knew that anything I said might set her off.

As we drove through suburban Newton, I felt the words on the edge of my tongue. I had been wanting these boots for a while, but I just couldn’t get the words out. Growing up as the only girl in my whole extended family, I wore hand-me-down clothes from my older boy cousins and played with blocks, trains, and stuffed animals with my younger brother. In elementary school, I had always seemed like a tomboy. But something deep inside me still wished for the barbie dolls and the sparkly pink dresses that all of my classmates used to wear. I felt ashamed of my desire to be more girly and fit in more with my classmates, because my mom had always had an aversion to that.

I stared out the window of our car, watching all of the familiar houses pass by. The late November wind blew crisp brown leaves up from the ground and through the air. A leaf landed on our windshield and slowly slid up to the roof. My mother said nothing. I wanted her to say something, anything. I wanted her to ask me a question, ask me how my day was. But she said nothing, and I felt the weight of the question fall into the pit of my stomach.

I never ended up asking for the UGGs. It wasn’t like we couldn’t afford them, and maybe my mom would’ve said yes, but I just had this gut feeling that I shouldn’t say anything. From an outside perspective, a moment like that might seem insignificant. Thinking back to it now, I probably should’ve just asked for the boots. Maybe I was just reading too far into the situation.

Someone recently asked me if I wanted to have kids when I grew up. “Of course!” I answered, not thinking too hard about the question. When she asked me why, though, I didn’t really know how to answer. When I think of motherhood, I think of how much work it takes. I think about setting a good example for my children, but I also consider how my actions will affect their behavior, the things they won’t tell me. The idea of being a mother still scares me a lot. Something that I feel is a really important part of motherhood is maintaining open communication between parent and child. I don’t want my children to worry about how their actions will affect me, or to make false assumptions about how I want them to behave. I want them to feel comfortable expressing their feelings, even when it’s for something as insignificant as a pair of sparkly UGGs.

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