Sunday, January 20, 2008

Respecting Our Kids-Protecting Our Kids

One of the hardest things about being a mom, I've found, is trying to navigate my way through the inevitable childhood struggles, without worrying too much about my kids. I am generally a liberal parent, allowing my children the freedom to soar through much of life without a lot of restrictions- they climb trees and to the tops of jungle gyms at will, they learn to chop food, boil water on the stove, and bake treats along side of me, they, with permission and supervision, light candles and build fires in our fireplace- fear is something I have wanted them to feel as an authentic reaction within themselves, not as an emotion I have taught them due to my own misgivings. Of course, there are certainly scenarios that come up from time to time where I, as a person whose been on the earth a lot longer, deem it necessary to protect them from elements of danger that do exist in our world. Current statistics show that at least one in four girls and one in five boys is sexually assaulted before age 18 in our country. Having experienced this first hand as a child, and knowing that a vast number of people whom I love were victimized in that manner as well, I have made a very conscious effort to reinforce, in my kids, without provoking unnecessary anxiety, that their bodies are sacred and belong only to them. In order to avoid any awkwardness that might stem from a more formal discussion of this topic, I tend to repeat this mantra, along with instructions on how they can better protect themselves, while we're involved in a generic daily activity, like riding in the van or preparing meals in the kitchen. We practice saying "NO!" in a very agressive tone, and remind each other that even adults who we know and trust will not/should not ask to see or touch our private parts (unless its a doctor or if mommy/daddy feels there is a problem in those areas and ask for permission to check it out). Ideally, it would be wonderful if these lessons would provide my children with enough armor to shield them from ever experiencing the tragedy of child sexual abuse. Realistically, I know that we live in a world where it is generally accepted that children and their rights come second to those of adults, and, as a result, they remain vulnerable to coercion in matters of both body and mind.

A couple of weeks ago, a very dear friend of mine, Mary Anne, was relaying to me a conversation she had had with her 9 year-old daughter. While it did not pertain to the aforementioned topic, I believe that the resulting revelation applies just the same. As her daughter, shaking and sobbing, confided to her the pain she had felt during the previous days, Mary Anne, weeping along side of her, said very humbly but with passion, "Julia, I am so sorry that I didn't listen to you and hear you above the adults who were telling me You should [participate in that activity]. I will never ever do that to you again. You knew it wasn't right for you, and I didn't believe you, and I'm sorry." And all I could think, the entire time she was telling me that story, was what an amazing mother Mary Anne is and what a profound lesson she allowed herself to learn that day. May the rest of us heed that advice with our own kids and have the courage to really hear them, above all the other voices which try to persuade us otherwise,in our lives. I believe very strongly that childhood sexual abuse, as well as many other threats to the welfare of our little ones, could be prevented or certainly decreased, if we changed the way we view the rights of these younger members in our society.

Children should be heard and believed...enough said.

Mary Anne, a soulsister-sage woman whom I admire so much as a parent. I am humbled by her spirit and I learn volumes from her values.

Our awesome kiddos, whom we fret over and love very deeply.


About Me

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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