32 months since Aria passed away.

321, 21 and 32 have always been my favorite numbers. In celebration of my 32nd birthday, I got my Three Two One tattoo on my clavicle.

Its been 793 days……… It’s a Wednesday and its the 6th.

As a artist and now a writer, I am very protective of the things I say, write, and create. When I express myself, I do it with intention. Especially, when it comes to DoYouCareNow. So in turn, I have become far more aware and alert of the emotional toll and credit deserved by the ideas of others. With that said, I can’t take full responsibility for the idea of “Division” in Aria’s life. Someone, who I will leave nameless, mentioned it a few months after Aria passed. However, the convo ended quite quickly after it began. I either hung up immediately because I didn’t want to hear it. Or I hung up because they weren’t willing to take responsibility for their role in it. I can’t remember but the conversation was over before it even really started.

I didn’t think about it again until a couple months ago. Nick and I were at breakfast at Bunny’s and something caught my eye. If I remember correctly, it was a family where the oldest kid was basically watching over the younger children. The parents were playing pull tabs and drinking and not paying attention. The oldest, who was “parenting” couldn’t have been older than 12. As I sat and watched, I found myself mad at the parents. Even though the young girl seemed happy to help, I was mad. My eyes started to fill up with tears. Not only was I sad for that young girl, I realized, I expected that kind of “maturity” from Aria.

Nick asked why I was crying,

” I think I expected Aria to parent herself to an extent.”

” Well, babe, you didn’t really have a choice, you were alone”

Which is true for the most part. Financially, I was alone, for sure. Although, I am blessed that I come from the family I do. I knew I could always count on them to help me financially if I absolutely needed it. Not everyone has that option. Also, I didn’t want to depend on them. At the time of Aria’s death, I was working 40 hours a week as a social worker and couldn’t pay all my bills. I was also working 10-20 hours a week as a server at Bunny’s. I was very busy and very tired.

Because of that, in a way, I expected Aria to be more responsible than I should of. I was at work by 7:30, she didn’t start school until two hours later. If I worked at Bunny’s that evening, we would miss each other until bedtime. Meaning it would make her responsible for getting herself up in the morning, making breakfast, sometimes dinner and homework. Don’t get me wrong, none of this happened without constant communication. Calling to make sure she woke up on time, calling to remind her to grab her made lunch or lunch money, or calling to tell her I ordered her dinner and to answer the door.

She was only 13.

Here’s the part that I can’t logically justify anymore. From the day Aria was born, I relied heavily on help from my parents and the Burches. With that, came 4 other parents, on top of Rico and Aaron(my partner for 10 years). I believe every single person wanted what was best for Aria. But we all had different ideas of how Aria should be “parented.” There were too many cooks in the kitchen. That created DIVISION. Division between each other of what’s expected and what’s not.

There was Division in “parenting styles” between,

My Mom and I, Myself and Gary, Gary and my Mom, Rico and I, Aaron and I, Rico and his family, Rico’s family and I, Aaron and my family. Aria was constantly adapting to whatever environment she was in because the expectations were different at each household.

As the primary parent, I pulled “rank” but felt powerless many times because of my school schedule and needing the help.

It was a hard balance to keep. How do I maintain a healthy boundary? How do I ask for help without others feeling like they are being taken advantage of? I felt like I couldn’t win either way.

So, when I got my big girl job after grad school and got Aria set up to be ready to start high school, I felt like I could finally back it up, and I tried.

I wanted that role. I wanted to be her sole provider. I wanted it to just be me and her. I felt excited and free. This is what I’ve been working towards for so long. But, I put a responsibility on her without knowingly realizing the harm it was doing. By putting her in a role that required her to be more of an adult than a 13 year old kid.

Not to mention, her own stuff. Typical teenage stuff. For many years, her primary friend group was with 2 other girls. Which never goes well when there is a group of three. Somewhere, somehow, someone feels left out. There was division there.

Being bi-racial, there is division in just the idea of Black and White. No matter how many times we told her how perfect she is. She could feel it. She could feel it in school. The “pretty” girls at Lake Harriet were blonde, tall and skinny. Only 18% of the population at LHCS were considered “minorities.” This is stuff I “knew,” but I didn’t KNOW until it was too late. She saw it on the television. She asked questions. She knew that racism was rooted in a divide of understanding another persons humanity.

Internally as she was unravelling in her sexuality, there was division on what society “expects” of her and who she was attracted to. She was very clear to me that she was pansexual. She was attracted to the person, not gender. I was so proud in how smart and socially aware she was.

But, as I go back and think about the little girl at Bunny’s feeding her siblings, I can’t help but think, I pushed my kid to grow up faster than she needed to. Just like the parents at Bunny’s I was so mad at.

She was not my partner in crime. She was not my best friend. She was my child. I lost sight of that. Granted, hindsight is 20/20. I know better now. Because of the division and my determination, would I have even listened if one of my “co-parents” sat me down and told me that? I don’t know.

So, the person was right. Aria was met with a lot of division in her life. As her mother, I was responsible to shelter her from that, and I failed.

If you take anything from this blog, I hope its this,

  1. Develop a system to support for your child. Mom, Dad, or primary guardian develop structure that will be adapted by all parties involved in the child’s life. ( Think of that song “The Bones” by Maren Morris).
  2. Don’t let your kid grow up faster than they need to. They have the rest of their lives to be adults. It’s ok to shelter them the cruelty of this world.
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  • Amanda (Mandi) says:

    You did the absolute best that you could. It is not fair that it turned out like this. You know in our line of work that people can deal with stuff like this and be fine, and others cannot. It was and is a shitty situation. I am so sorry this happened. As I know you know just based on brain development, she did not have the capacity to make this final of a decision and really understand what it meant for everyone around. I am grateful for you and your activism. And I will still always believe that neither of you deserved this. Sending love and care.

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