You want your children to grow. And so you allow them to be who they are. You send them out into the world all tender and unscathed and raw and full of optimism and promise. You encourage them act on that optimism, knowing full well that one day the world will take some of it away from them. The most you can hope for is to delay the voice that says “maybe I shouldn’t.” To delay the possibility of hurt.

You assume when it comes, it will be a mean girl. A boy who breaks her heart. A coach who doesn’t let her play. You never think it will be some adult who should know better. Some pathetic, cowardly, asshole adult with a political agenda, misdirected anger, a lack of critical thinking skills, and far too much free time to spend leaving hateful comments about a child on a newspaper’s website.

Especially when that child is the sweetest, kindest, most loving, most empathetic child who ever walked the planet. The child who takes all her birthday money and asks if she can give it to Haiti or to girls in other countries who can’t go to school.

So then you beat yourself up. You second guess your decision to let her make her own choices. You wonder if you should have talked more about how standing up for what you believe in doesn’t mean everyone will be proud of you the way your parents are. You wonder if you should have said no to that newspaper. You wonder if you should have protected her that much longer.

You cry. You rage. You feel sick to your stomach for hours. You plot horrible revenge fantasies in your head. (Pick axes and letters to employers may or may not be involved. Your husband may or may not have used terms like “incurable, degenerative mouth herpes that rots away your face.”) You sleep restlessly.

And then, you wake up thinking, she doesn’t know about the bad people. Only you do.

She doesn’t know about adults who behave in ways that she has been taught never to behave herself. She doesn’t know about adults raised so pitifully, who are so morally bankrupt and out of touch with their own humanity that they would attack a child. What she does know, is that so many good people said kind, supportive things about her. And that every time she reads one of those things, she smiles that beautiful smile that can never be contained.

You wish with every ounce of your being that those are the people she will grow up to be like.

One day, of course, she will discover the hate. You can’t stop it. But when she does, you can only hope that it doesn’t break her spirit. You hope it will strengthen it. Just as it does for you.

You want your children to grow.


55 thoughts on “Grow.”

  1. It won’t break her spirit. With sass like that, she’ll just laugh. And probably feel sorry for them.

    There is something seriously wrong in comments sections everywhere. I’m no wowser but I *think* it’s moral decay. Hard to not let it rock the boat when it’s aimed at you.

    (You are a wonderful mother.)

  2. Thalia – people all over the world are standing up and cheering for you today! You should be SO proud of yourself for standing up for what you believe in, and you’re parents should be just as proud for raising you with the tools and confidence to do so! Don’t let ignorant, horrible haters with nothing better to do than spew bile at strangers on a talkback make any of you doubt that for even a split second.

    *giving Thalia – and her parents and all those fifth graders too – a standing ovation from over here in Israel*

  3. Those disgusting people would never dare say anything like that to her face because they hide behind their keyboards. And, I doubt many of them even understood the point of the article since they were screaming, “don’t take away my rights!” as if Thalia were trying to take down the Nesquik manufacturing plant on her own. And some of the more personal comments? Not worth your time. Those who matter know Thalia is none of those things.

    Hang in there, Liz. This is her little moment in the sun right now and she’s going to bask in it. Don’t let those comments cast a shadow on you.

  4. I didn’t see the comments on the article. I don’t plan to because it sounds like it would just ruin my day. You and your lovely daughter certainly don’t deserve such garbage.

    You look at the course of human history and the strange tangle of beauty and horror we are capable of, and realize how deeply flawed people are and always have been. I fear the loss of my children’s innocence will come not with any discussions about sex but of the Holocaust, where I have to reveal the depths to which people can sink and then they must live with that knowledge.

    I’m sorry people can be ignorant and cruel. Thalia is lucky to have you to guide and protect her.

  5. Mom-101, you know exactly what you are doing, and I read your site, mainly so I can try to do it a little more like you. I know a 6 year old who would be perfect for Thalia, he wrote a letter to the mayor about traffic and we got some stop signs in our ‘hood. How else is this society going to carry on without kids like them? Keep calm, and carry on.

    1. I read for the same reason Jill does. Keep it up, Liz, it is all worth it, and you are amazing.

  6. Your little “gadfly” is a shining star. Thalia, we need more 6 year-olds like you!

    You are a wonderful mother.

    Haters gotta hate, even if it’s on an awesome 6 year-old girl. (It is very, very difficult for me to not drop expletives all over this comment.)

    Hang in there.

  7. I am so proud of Thalia and can’t wait to tell her in person when I next see her.

    In the meantime, as I mentioned yesterday, I left a comment over at the newspaper article’s comment section as well. I didn’t bother engaging with the nasty commenters because they are looking for a fight.

    I just want my honest congratulations to be read by Thalia in the future when she grows up and possibly looks back at that article. She’s a strong and smart girl. what she did was important and deserves to be applauded.

    1. also, I encourage you to also leave your fine thoughts about how proud you are of Thalia in the newspaper’s comment’s section so that she may read it one day in the future. 🙂

      1. Done. Happily. Even if we don’t agree with them, kids should be encouraged to speak out. It breeds future leaders. Something I think we all should invest in.

  8. I will admit to having wanted to go back and comment again calling “those” people what they are….I can only imagine your anguish….but Liz, you gave Thalia a gift in allowing her to be independent and share her voice. One day you can share the comments with her as a perspective into why it is important for her to keep being passionate…so that minds like those do not rule our discussions.

  9. I was the kid who wrote letters to the editor about my towns recycling program as a kid. It isn’t always easy, and people would lash out at me because they didn’t like my parents (who were activists in a small town). However, as an adult, it has helped me be brave enough to stand up for what I think is right. My career has also benefited since a lot of what I do is voicing an opinion.
    Go Thalia, go!

  10. Goodness gracious, sometimes it’s kids who are the adults and, sadly, the adults who behave like brats. Unfortunately grownup brats will always be around, but I think we can teach our kids that some adults are just not nice and those adults? Should never, ever determine how or what we think about ourselves.

  11. It really, really sucks that adults would use the anonymity of the internet to attack a six-year-old. That she is so much more mature than the commenters on that site says something sad about our society.

  12. I clicked over and read some of those comments, and I am ENRAGED. I am just absolutely speechless.

    Thalia is beautiful, vibrant, and intelligent little girl, and I am so proud of her for standing up for what she believes in and for trying to make a positive change in the lives of others. You are also a fantastic mother, and THANK MYTHOLOGICAL BEINGS Thalia has you there not only to watch her grow, but to show her how to do it with confidence and grace. You’re raising great people.

  13. People really do make me angry. What kind of person attacks a child who is just trying to do something that they believe in.

    Kids can do important things and should stand up for their convictions.

    I am happy that she doesn’t know the vitriol that is out there and sad for you that it exists in people’s hearts and that they have no problem showing it. I have stopped reading comments on my local newspaper’s website because it seems to be the lowest common denominator that resides in those anonymous pages and I don’t need to know what they think.

    You rock Thalia and she is a true testament to her parents I’m sure.

  14. Thalia is amazing as are you. Wonderful response to a very unfortunate situation. I will never understand the cut-you-down human response that people have. I’m so sorry. xo

  15. I actually think most of the parents of these people would be horrified by their own offsprings’ comments. I think this has more to do with a rising culture that thinks it’s OK to say horrible things online with zero regard for the people they are bashing. Sure, people have the right to their opinions, especially on an issue that clearly has struck a nerve, but to take it out on a first grader? Come on people, be better than that!

    1. Alyssa, it also crossed my mind. I am more proud of my child than those men’s mothers can ever be of them. Revenge fantasies may or may not also include forwarding all their comments to their mothers…

  16. People who comment on newspapers online seemingly were raised in the depths of hell. They have no manners, no regard for human beings and absolutely no sense.

    Thalia is amazing. She truly is and those who can’t see it…well that’s sad for them.

  17. Stand tall, stand bravely and raise your head up. Only by standing tall can we see above the crowd. Comments like that are all about the commenter and their own issues and agenda. It’s people like your daughter that will lead us into the future by standing tall and brave!

    Powerful post, thank you.

  18. With you to guide her, she will grow. And as she does, I have no doubt in my mind that Thalia will continue to make you proud. She’s one special child.

  19. I don’t have anything to add to what has been said already, but I wanted to put my two cents in this way: Thalia did an amazing thing in no small part because she has an amazing mother. It’s a hard job letting them out in the world, but stupid commenters on the Interwebz aren’t going to squash your smart, smiling girl. Hang in there.

  20. Oh my, apparently those adults never learned the lesson, “It’s okay to be mad. It’s not okay to be mean.” It seems like this is a great parenting opportunity to talk about feelings. There are feelings behind every behavior, even the bad behavior of adults. I’m guessing people who leave negative comments feel unheard in their lives and that’s sad, but it doesn’t make their behavior okay.

    Thalia is very BRAVE and on her way to being a great leader!

  21. Oh Liz. I’m so sorry this caused so much stress for you — that something as wonderful as your daughter being proud to speak out about her beliefs and try to make change in the world could end up with you worrying for her and wondering if you did the right thing. You are SO right. We know that one day their peers will do or say something to break their hearts, but adults? ADULTS?!! What kind of asshole do you need to be?

  22. I want Thalia to know that it wasn’t just Kyle and me who read her story and loved her for it, but also our girls. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thalia’s campaign had some far-reaching effects on other kids who’ve got issues they care about too.

  23. Bravo to Thalia for standing up for what she believes in! While I’m completely sickened reading the comments and knowing that people like that exist in the world, it’s comforting to know that we have kids like Thalia who represent our future. For every hate-filled adult who spews nonsense online to anyone who disagrees with their beliefs, I hope that there are just as many kids like Thalia who will grow up to actually have a positive impact on society. You’re raising two amazing girls, Liz – don’t let the haters get you down.

  24. I have to say, as an adult who doesn’t like sugar with his dairy products, acting against sugar in milk is a great idea and something I can really identify with.

    But even if I didn’t really agree with the idea, the fact that anyone would do ANYTHING to combat the rampant apathy that plagues ALL ages is invigorating. *Everyone* has a gripe or three about a public service and it is a sign of a decent education to develop those gripes into real change.

    I envision another great ‘teaching moment’ here with the comments (which largely speak for themselves) is that those people who are negative are much louder than those people who are neutral or positive, creating a false sample. Those knuckleheads care so little to find their happy places and so are content to ruin others’. But kids understand this pretty well. At least my anecdotal experience growing up as a male is that people said mean things to be hurtful they did it when they were themselves hurting. In a certain sense, it was easier to brush off when you figured out they really didn’t mean them.

    Another factor to figure in is scale. I’m actually pretty impressed that so many few readers of the Post (with opposable thumbs?) clanged in, considering the overall readership.

    For what it’s worth, I think you made the right choice by doing the story. As much as the Scolding Child shot is a bit artificial, it’s also not the most damaging or outrageous pose or digital manipulation which has ever been done, especially compared to when someone’s legal freedom hangs in the balance. And I don’t mean to minimize the Stoking an Uproar motives of the selection, but just hope to provide a bit of perspective.

    Did you all pick up on a sexist/patriarchal taint there was to the ‘criticism’ or was it just me? I think it is especially infuriating to them that it is a girl raising the issue. All that was missing was some comment ‘LITTLE GIRL NEEDS TO LEARN HER PLACE’ and it could have been complete.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jeffrey. And yes, I did not miss the fact that every hate-spewing idiot was a childless, sexist, angry white man. Way to represent.

  25. I admire you for allowing her story to be told. She’s only six, but it is her story, and it’s such a great one–such a 6-year-old one, too! Complete with the beautiful inconsistencies. Brava.

    The news article is about a child expressing herself. The irony is how the commenters chose to express themselves. What a contrast.

    1. All these comments renew my faith in people, parents, and the kids we’re raising.

      100 amazing comments, emails, notes of encouragement in contrast with one small hateful anonymous comment, deleted before I finished reading it. I’d say that’s good odds for the next generation.

      Thank you.

  26. As a parent, there is just nothing worse than seeing an innocent child being attacked by adults who should know better.

    Kudos to Thalia for having the courage to take action to support her convictions, and to you and Nate for validating and empowering her.

    I may be the only one who feels this way, but I personally did not care for the tone of the New York Post article. From the headline “…sugar shocker…” the use of the term “gadfly” and the posed photo making a child shake her finger, I felt as though the Post was purposely portraying a polite request by Thalia as activism that was annoying and intrusive. The fact that they only told certain parts of the story, including the tidbit that she would eat gummi bears for breakfast if she could, makes me cynically wonder if they were attempting to create controversy rather than trying to celebrate a young girl’s initiative.

    I have read enough of your blog to know that you and Nate are great parents and you are raising amazing daughters. I am eager to hear what Thalia’s school does about the chocolate milk that is served!

    1. That’s so nice Sharon, and no you’re not the only one who feels that way. Of course they have an agenda. It’s a Murdoch paper. It ran in the paper on the political page right under a big article about Bloomberg’s “nanny state” soda initiative, and opened with a line about “not fighting the 1%….”

      which is like waving two big red flags in front of an already pissed off GOP bull. To say nothing of the photo.

      The line about gummi bears I said facetiously. If the verb was “her mother joked” it would be more accurate.

      But the Post doesn’t exist to be accurate. It exists to create controversy that sells papers. I should have known better than to think that they would create the “cute” and “inspired” story that I was pitched. Lesson learned.

      Thalia is still proud. And the PTA president was too. I really appreciate your comment.

  27. I hate comment sections on online forums so much, I really can only bring myself to read them on a few certain blogs (usually this one is good!). (and even then I’m not very good about reading them)

    I want to get better at this – but if I read something I disagree with strongly I get so upset. I’m almost physically ill and I can’t really sleep well, sometimes for days. The comment just festers in my head. And heaven (if I believed in it)- forbid that I ever get into a disagreement online myself with someone (on FB or a blog) – I would be so stressed and feel awful.

    I wish this didn’t happen to me, but it does, and therefore, I don’t read comments usually – it’s so bad for my health.

    So I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I were reading something like that about my daughter(s)! The good thing is, as you said, she doesn’t know about it, and yes, eventually she’ll discover that some people are awful, but hopefully not for a long, long time.

    I hope you feel better and can let this go soon (from someone who wouldn’t be able to, but knows I should!)

  28. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve longed to turn our little nest into an impenetrable dome, where the baddies and the meanies can’t get near. The trouble with that, though, is that the good stays away, too, and I rob them of their opportunity to learn, build a foundation for themselves, and grow. I steal their ability to know their strength and worth.

    So, stealing liberally from your title: the more I let them grow, the more I grow.

    Revenge fantasies notwithstanding. Go ahead and have those.

  29. Oh, Liz, I haven’t been able to get this out of my head since I was stupid enough to read that comment thread in its entirety. I can’t get inside the head of someone unthinking enough to bash a 6 year old. It’s pathetic enough to be funny, if it wasn’t so tragic.

    That sweet girl you have is (to me) the human version of a butterfly. Gentle, whirling and floating, beautiful. With enough moxie to get her little butt all the way to Capistrano. My ultimate revenge fantasies include the very realistic possibility that, one day, Thalia may be in a position to fire one of those morons.

    She is already braver than they are, speaking her own truth to people of power in her world, while they hide in the ether taking swipes at literal children.


  30. Why did I read those comments? Sick to my stomach. Be comforted, as much as you can, that those people are the scum on scum. I’d kick them in their ignorant balls for you but that would not be a good example for either of our six year olds. 🙂 I showed this article to my six year old son and he loved it. He said Thalia is pretty awesome.

  31. I clicked through to read the article and the comments. Reading comments in online newspaper forums is akin to rubber-necking at an accident on the highway. You know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t look away.

    From up here in socialist-leaning Canada (yikes!), I can say that I completely applauded Thalia’s actions. If we don’t teach our children to speak up and speak out early, there’s a chance they never will. I applaud your (and Nate’s) strength and style of parenting.

    It seems to me, frankly, that most of the child-bashing commenters are the kind who simply troll any and all articles searching for a chance to drop their canned “pearls of wisdom”. It could have been a 10 year old, a teen, or an adult making the same stand as Thalia and the comments would undoubtedly have said the same thing.

    What my husband and I have noticed increasingly about America is how polarized everyone is. Every public discussion comes down to a right/left, democratic/republican, Christian/other, I’m right/You’re wrong mud-fest. What saddens me most is the inability for Americans to have a productive discussion amongst themselves. Everything is fodder for partisan posturing. What happens? Things like an innocent 6 year old getting caught in the crossfire.

    I really hope Americans start living up to the potential for constructive conversation and debate that they have… buried deep, somewhere in there.

    1. I’m with you Mandy which is why I’m so glad this community does just that. Agree or disagree, it’s generally respectful–and progress gets made.

      As time goes on and this is more distant and less painful, I am truly taking comfort in the fact that the attacks are on some fabricated caricature, and not any actual person who I know. Especially not my daughter.

      Thanks so much for your (socialist) comment Mandy!

  32. Don’t beat yourself up, just stop reading the comments. They’re not about her (or you), they’re just a result of misguided anger from crazies who are upset at their government/neighbors/moms. I’m sorta glad my hometown newspaper wasn’t online when I wrote this letter to the editor, as a 9-year-old:

    Kudos to little Thalia for standing up for what she believes in. She should join forces with this girl from Scotland!

  33. We know we’re never supposed to read online comments to newspaper articles, but I supposed it would be hard not to when you child is involved. I think what Thalia did was awesome (my own son made a petition at school in his younger years asking for better discipline–and he got more than 10% of the student body to sign it). I saw the article, and yes, did peek at the comments and was all WTF is wrong with people?! Hooray for you and Nate and of course, Thalia!

    1. Good for your son Kim! I have stories about the things we did as kids too. It’s nothing but a good thing. (And yay for your son!)

  34. I’m late to this, but I wanted to take a moment and congratulate Thalia on a job well done! It can’t be easy to read the hateful comments directed at your child on a newspaper wall, I know I’d die a thousand deaths from each asstastic comment. But your daughters are turning out to be awesome inspiring little ladies and that Liz, is a direct tribute to you and Nate. So keep on doing whatever it is you are doing and I’ll sit back knowing the next generation has people like Thalia in it. And that is just awesome.

  35. Truly, comments on any online newspaper dissolve into hateful ignorance by comment number 4…but the Post? Yeah, by comment number 1.

    People with that much hate in their heart? Well, they have to live their lives with that much hate in their heart. Their sin is their punishment. Done.

    Clearly you are raising a thoughtful, clever and funny little girl who is going through the normal stages of becoming aware of things that don’t seem ‘right’ in life and wanting to fix them. It’s a GREAT thing!

    Keep on doing what you’re doing! And if we ever bump into you at Pier 6 this summer, our kids can share their packets of seaweed AND their fruit snacks. 😉

    1. Thank you! It would be our pleasure. (Though my girls are more likely to be sucking on a good humor ice pop, ha)

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