Update: The Orlando Sentinel reports that Katie Vyktoriah Reed was Baker Acted (an act that allows law-enforcement to hospitalize people for mental health evaluations) after making suicidal comments to deputies Monday, according to a Lake County Sheriff's Office. After deptuies visited her home, Katie (which is the author's pen name — her real name is Kathleen Carpenter) told authorities that "the attention obtained by her story and the negative comments and communications to her had become too much stress and she could not handle the situation...anymore." Policemen also noted that Katie reportedly was thinking of killing herself. Later that evening, the police reported noted that, "Based on the continuing media response through Facebook and generated response to the incident by online subscribers, possible video of the incident may be obtained and viewed to in fact verify that the incident actually did occur or if it was all made up."
As I looked through my Facebook feed this morning, I saw that several friends had shared an article from the Huffington Post titled, " What Happened When My Son Wore A Pink Headband To Walmart." At first I was speechless reading through it, then I felt sick to my stomach. I cannot imagine a situation like this where someone I didn't know, placed their hands on my child, made derogatory remarks and then in essence, threatened their life.
The article, written by Katie Vyktoriah Reed appeared on her personal blog ( A Mother Thing) photography, crafts, recipes and family life. Huffington Post picked up the story, where Reed recaps what happened when her son wore a pink headband to a local Walmart. She writes:
Last night, I took my two boys out to pick up a couple of things from Walmart. Mark had to catch up on some work, so I ventured out on my own, which is something I don't do very often. It takes a lot of work to get the kids ready, get them in and out of the car, find a shopping cart, keep them happy while I shop and get them home in one piece. You parents will understand this. After struggling to get him dressed and get his shoes on, I had to pry an overlarge teddy bear out of Dexter's arms, as he was set on taking him with us. This brought on tears and tantrums, which I somehow managed to calm very quickly. But when I attempted to remove my discarded lace flower headband from his head (which he'd been wearing all day), I saw him getting ready to fight, so I left him to it. Who was he hurting? We got to the store, and amazingly I managed to get him to sit in the shopping cart with no issues. The fact that he was wearing a cute girly headband made him feel good, and he was charming all the old ladies by waving like a little pageant prince. I snapped his photo after two old birds came up to tell me just how adorable he was. He rocked that headband. Soon enough, we were done with our shop and were making our way toward the front. As we passed through the produce section, two teenage girls began giggling and one of them asked, "Is that a boy or a girl?" I smiled and said, "He's a boy." I looked on at him adoringly as they continued to giggle. Out of nowhere a big booming voice rang out. "THAT'S a BOY?!" The man was overly large with a bushy beard and a camouflage shirt with the arms cut off. He had tattered shorts and lace-up work boots with no laces. I could smell the fug of cigarette smoke surrounding him, and there was a definite pong of beer on him. "Yes," I said simply, still smiling. With no notice, the man stepped forward, grabbed the headband off of Dexter's head and threw it to the bottom of our shopping cart. He then cuffed Dexter around the side of his head (not hard, but that is not the point) and said with a big laugh, "You'll thank me later, little man!" At the same time as I stepped forward, Dexter grabbed his head where the man had smacked him and threw his other hand forward, stomping his foot and shouting, "NO!" I got between my son and this man and said very firmly, "If you touch my son again, I will cut your damn hands off."
First of all, bravo to this mother for seeing her son for the adventurous two-year-old that he is and for smiling in the face of people who have questioned his gender because of a simple, pink headband. Secondly, I applaud her demeanor in remaining calm enough to step between her son and this man and tell him off. I don't think I would have remained so poised. How on earth does anyone think it is appropriate to place their hand on someone's child and remove an article of clothing? What authority must they think they have to decide what another person should and shouldn't wear and to define sexuality and gender so freely and carelessly?
We make assumptions about other people on the daily, there is no denying that. No matter how hard we try not to judge, not to use whatever preconceptions we have to define or describe someone, it happens. But, there is a line — a clear and defined line that this man crossed.
I want to clap for her again, for this mama bear who stood up for her child in the face of a man who clearly had some issues of his own. It was brave, it was courageous, it was what any mommy would do.
How would you have handled this situation? And what words of encouragement can you give to other mothers who may be facing a similar challenge?