Guest Post: A Girl in Charge

Guest post by Susannah Clarke Taylor. Susannah Clarke Taylor has degrees in English and Theatre and is a lover of all things family history, theatre, and books. She is the mother of three, including a daughter with Charge Syndrome and Lennox Gastaut Syndrome and she is a fierce advocate for disability rights and services. More of her writing can be found at www.thegirlincharge.com.

There’s a strength that comes from listening to your child cry for hours on end

Knowing there’s absolutely nothing you can do to help her

There’s a strength that comes from lifting a ten-year-old
In and out of bed
In and out of her feeding chair
In and out of the shower
In and out of her car seat
In and out of her stroller

There’s a strength that comes from managing the
Ophthalmologist
Cardiologist
Audiologist
Endocrinologist
Neurologist
Geneticist
Special Educator
Mobility Specialist
Physical therapist
Occupational therapist
Speech therapist
Hearing therapist
Vision therapist and
Feeding therapist

There’s a strength that comes from developing ninja-like reflexes to avoid
A scratch
A hit
A bite
A hair pull or
A kick in the face

There’s a strength that comes from
Loving a child with such intensity
You think it might actually burst your heart open
Knowing that that child
Could not live
If you did not do
What you have spent ten years
Developing the strength to do

And there’s a strength that comes
From accepting
That this is what the rest of your life will look like
And being at peace
100% okay with it
But not just okay with it
Profoundly grateful
Because without all of the personal sacrifice
You wouldn’t get to have her
Your darling girl
Your heart
Your soul
Your everything

But as that strength develops
Hour by hour
Day by day
Month by month
And year by year
You get to the point
Where you are no longer willing
To tolerate things
You have always tolerated

From the earliest moments of my childhood
I was taught
That it was my place in the world
To please…
To please my parents
To please my teachers
To please my religious leaders
To please my siblings
To please my neighbors
To please my friends
To please my husband
To please God

Please
Please
Please

And I was taught
That my Value
Depended upon
How successful I was
At doing that—

That sweet girls
Nice girls
Agreeable girls
Were the most valuable kind

So when I had an opinion that differed from somebody’s else’s
I buried it
When I had a goal that got in the way of what other people thought I should do
I buried it
When I had a feeling that might inconvenience someone I loved
I buried it

And the message was continually sent
That by burying
My thoughts
And feelings
And goals
And desires
And hopes
And dreams
That I was aligning my will with God’s
And earning my place in heaven

It was ingrained in me that
Humility
Submissiveness
Meekness
Long-suffering
Patience
Kindness
And turning the other cheek
Were the qualities that mattered–
The qualities that made a girl worthy

This pursuit of worthiness, and its sister message
“Your worth is conditional”
Shadowed my thinking for nearly four decades
But little by little these last ten years
As I have advocated for a little girl who could not advocate for herself
That shadow has shifted, and the
Revolution
Brewing in my Soul
Has surfaced

For the first time
I can see the truth staring me right in the face
And that is
That living my life focused on pleasing other people
Did not make me more Worthy
It made me more Vulnerable
To Men
Who were raised in a world built
By men
For men
Who claimed to Love me
But who didn’t know how Real Love behaved
And who believed that because I was a Woman
My job was to please

…and it is killing me…

Too often I have been told
That the Girl in Charge
Was sent to me
Because I was Special
But I have come to believe
With a conviction
More firm than words can express that
No, in fact, she was sent to me
Because I was broken

I was broken because I was taught that my Value
Depended upon what Men thought of Me
I was broken because deep down I believed that
I
Didn’t
Actually
Matter

That what I wanted
How I felt
What I needed
What I hoped for
What I desired
Was immaterial

My job was to please

I was
After all
Just a girl

For the past few years
I have been living in a place of in-between
Smiling on the outside
But dying on the inside
Trying to keep the peace for my kids
Trying not to rock the boat
But knowing I couldn’t go on like this forever
Everything on the outside has looked the same
But I am not the same…

And the time has come

I can no longer stay silent about the policies in my religious tradition that at the very least have propagated, if not promoted, the inequality of the sexes. I can no longer stay silent about men, who within that religious framework have been abusive and oppressive to their wives with zero accountability from the very leaders who claim to have the best interest of those women at heart.

I can no longer stay silent

The time has come for me to use my voice
To Speak Up
And Speak Out
For myself
And for my children

My family is broken
My religious tradition is broken
And they will not be whole until women are treated as equals

What caring for
The Girl in Charge
Has taught me these last ten years
Is that I don’t have to take it anymore
The way she demands Autonomy has transformed my thinking and given me permission to do the same

Watching A GIRL-
MY girl-
The Girl in Charge-
A Fierce Warrior Princess-
Unapologetically Own Her Own Worthiness
Has Healed My Soul

She has taught me that
My job is not to please
My worth is not conditional
My boundaries should not be crossed
My opinions are valid
My goals are important
My feelings do matter
My dreams are not an inconvenience
My voice should be heard
My existence makes me worthy
And that Like Her
I have
And have always had
The Right to Be
A Girl in Charge

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11 Responses

  1. Beth Young says:

    This is exquisite, thank you.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Susannah, your writing is so powerful. The pleasing and burying ourselves, to be accommodating and not rock the boat rings so true in my own life. The platitudes people have handed you about you and your daughter to comfort not you, but themselves, is clear. I love how you have framed your’s and your daughter’s experiences as healing for your soul and everything your precious girl in charge has taught you. This is beautiful.

  3. Em says:

    So powerful. Thank you.

  4. Worth reading again and again. Thank you!

  5. Katie Rich says:

    I want to quote back so many parts of this poem, but these lines hit me hard:

    Watching A GIRL-
    MY girl-
    The Girl in Charge-
    A Fierce Warrior Princess-
    Unapologetically Own Her Own Worthiness
    Has Healed My Soul

    Thank you for sharing these powerful words.

  6. Linda L. Bateman says:

    BRAVO and thank you.

  7. wishtrish77 says:

    This is tremendous. Thank you for sharing your soul; it spoke to mine.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    So much truth here. It spoke to me.

  9. Kaylee says:

    This is so lovely and hard and brave. I’ve had to come back and reread it. I don’t know you, but I just want to wrap you up in a big warm virtual hug.

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