The recent events in the news and the over sexualization of society have opened up all sorts of opportunities to rip children from their innocence and childhoods. I don’t want those burdens for my children, neither do I want to leave them ignorant. This has brought up some memories,
It was just another day in the van. The 3 yo was kicking the back of my seat, but since she’s no longer messing with the baby, I left it. The 6 year old was singing “My mama don’t wear no socks”, while the 12yo boy was rolling his eyes right out of his head. I turned up the radio to hear the weather and instead I got an earful about the latest scandal including lurid details. I turned off the radio quickly and hoped. Yet somehow above the general din the 6 year old heard it all, using her amazing senses that she usually only employs for when I’m sneaking food, she heard every word and asked, “What is rape?”
I died a little inside. But I’ve thought this through, so I prayed, took a breath and began carefully:
“There are different ways to hurt people. Biting kicking hitting.. Rape is another way of hurting people. It involves the private parts of our bodies so to preserve the privacy and out of respect to the victim we should be careful in how we talk about it. It is never okay and it is never the victim’s fault in any way; nothing she could do would ever justify someone assaulting her. Our job is to love and help people.”
Because sex was mentioned in the news, I add, “sex is beautiful and wonderful. Assault is nothing like that. It’s the difference between a good hug and a tackle. Similar in some ways … but very different.”
Then I waited. I hoped it was enough. That day, it was.
I’m ready if it’s not.
I don’t believe young children need to know more about sexual assault and rape. Although I will answer any of their questions as honestly and openly as I can, I care about their young, tender hearts. Quite a few years ago I was reading in The Hiding Place. I read about Corrie ten Boom’s father as he practiced wise parenting in his own perilous times.
After giving her some information he talks to her about his heavy suitcase. He says lifting it would hurt her muscles. Then he comments about how some topics of conversation are too weighty…not for our muscles, but for young hearts and minds. He pleads with ever curious Corrie to let him carry the weighty topics.
I have taught my children this concept and they know that although I will give them enough information to generally understand, I do not want to overly burden their young minds and hearts.
In some cases the child will continue to be empathetic, or the news will be ongoing, and a child will persist. In other cases, I will be motivated.
In those situations, I do not give more information. I repeat the suitcase mantra. We don’t need more details to claim our role which is to love and help. I have called local women’s shelters and brought over pillows and pillow cases-or whatever they need.
Doing a simple act of service can help a child, and an adult, feel less helpless and more hopeful. Although we can’t change other people’s awful actions, we can take our own place as loving individuals who are willing to comfort and help.
With any heavy questions use a similar pattern: PRAY, give them simple, age appropriate information, remind them you will carry the rest, then move on to compassionate action and hope.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.