I know I haven't been writing here. I have been writing though, copious amounts of writing. I've written a whole novel since I last posted here and have started on a sequel while writing the query letter and synopsis. At some point I'll update, book wise, but that's not why I'm writing here today.
I saw this link on Facebook today: Hurting people hurt people and it made me think. Not only do we need to teach our children empathy, we need to teach them how to trust. They can't learn empathy if they don't know how to trust the people around them. And trust is a hard lesson to learn.
When my children were young, I sent them off to join Brownies and Beavers. I had all sorts of worries. My daughter was extremely shy and had only just started talking to people outside of family. My son, who was later diagnosed with autism, was still very hard to understand and didn't interact well with others. But I trusted the adults in the group to care for them in my absence. A friend of mine was shocked I could send my children off like that. What if one of the leaders was a sexual predator? What if they were abused?
I can't live my life that way. I can't live my life looking at everyone around me with suspicion, assuming they're out to harm my children. And I refused to raise my children that way. I refused to teach them that everyone was a potential threat.
Instead I taught them to trust themselves and to trust their instincts. I taught them the proper names for all the parts of their bodies and that their bodies are their own. I taught them about good secrets and bad secrets. Good secrets are surprises, like a birthday present. The person you're keeping the secret from will find out about it soon and will be happy about the secret. Those are the secrets you keep. Bad secrets are sad and can make you uncomfortable. No matter what anyone tells you, you have to share those secrets right away.
The thing is, safety is an illusion. Setting rules and boundaries help, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying to let your three year old roam around at midnight because, hey, safety is an illusion. I understand the need to try and keep our children safe; I feel it
every time my children step outside and they're teenagers now. I simply disagree with the idea of wrapping children into such a tight cocoon they can barely breathe, while claiming it's for their safety. They can't grow in a cocoon and they can't trust if they're taught everyone around them is untrustworthy.
I've joked before about my lackadaisical parenting. To be honest, it's more of a tightrope walk than laziness, and I'm always aware of who's at risk if I wobble in either direction. Overprotective... underprotective...it's my kids who suffer in the end. And most days I feel like I'm walking that tightrope blindfolded.
I used to belong to a community group in my former apartment building. There were not many people in the group, especially for the size of the community. Two men joined shortly after I did. Both had names that started with J and both used scooters, although I seem to recall one only part time. I believe they said one was the uncle of the other, although maybe they were cousins. Obviously I didn't know them well.
It was late summer and the local exhibition was due to arrive. One of the J's ran into me outside the neighbouring plaza and commented they were going to the exhibition the next day and would love to take son with them, they'd pay for his tickets and his train fare. I still don't know if I made the right decision. Chances were it was an innocent request. Chances were my son would have loved the trip. But the offer ran all sorts of alarm bells in the back of my mind and I refused politely, claiming that I didn't think son would be able to handle the crowds. I never told my son about that offer.
I got a call from a friend of mine that same week, offering to take son out for the afternoon. Maybe this would have raised alarm bells for some; the friend in question is male, childless, and not straight. But I'd known him for over a decade and trusted him. My alarm bells didn't ring. Son had a great afternoon and talked about it for months afterwards.
Of course, life isn't easy. Sometimes you trust the wrong person. I sent my daughter off for sleepovers at a friend's apartment after stopping by and meeting the child's mother. Several visits later I discovered the mother was on probation for fighting AND was dealing drugs. The sleepovers stopped then and thankfully they moved across the province a short while later.
I think the most important thing we need to remember is we're raising our children to let them go. That's our ultimate goal, to raise them to be good, kind, and decent adults. Like the video in the link I posted, it's up to us to show them and teach them. They look up to us. They model us. We need to teach them how to take care of themselves, we need to teach them to be trustworthy, and we need to teach them how to trust.