Monday, May 25, 2009

A Lesson in Humiliation

Last week, while sitting on the stands at the baseball field, I listened while a mother humiliated her little girl. I wanted to jump up and pull that mother aside so she could see what was really happening, but instead I knew I could only sit there, with a stomach ache, and wait until it was all over.

The girl, who was about ten, was being accused to going on their home computer and googling a phrase that was (apparently) s*xual in nature. The little girl was horrified that she had been discovered and was flat out denying that it was her. Mom was insisting that it was her and giving her proof by explaining how she can look up the history of internet searches to see where her daughter had been. "I know you did this! But it doesn't matter! It's fine to be interested in this stuff. its totally normal! If you are curious about that sort of thing, you just have to ask." The girl kept on saying, "I'm not curious! It was an accident! I didn't mean to! I typed the wrong thing!" Mom kept on insisting, "I know you did this and it is normal to be curious!"

The girl eventually put her fingers in her ears so she could block out her mom and the whole conversation. The message was sent loud and clear by mom: I am right, you are wrong. I am not to be trusted with your heart.

I can just imagine the scenario that lead up to the google search (and I can imagine it because I remember being a clueless kid when it came to this stuff): The little girl hears some phrase in the gym that "all" the other kids understand but she is clueless about. She laughs along with the other kids, pretending to have a clue while at school but then goes home to figure out what in the world those kids were talking about. She probably has a guess as to the fact that it is s*xual, or at least embarrassing, so she is ashamed to ask mom about it. So she launches a Google search on the subject matter and is even more embarrassed when she discovers what her classmates were talking about. She probably does not know what to do with the information in her head, and is probably ashamed, wishing she never looked it up or learned it - I remember wishing for my innocence back as soon as I learned stuff like this from peers. Her shame is furthered when Mom accuses her of looking it up, insisting that she wanted to know all about that subject matter while in truth, her interest rested in knowing what they were referring to, not in the subject matter itself. (Do you get the distinction? She heard a word and wanted a definition, rather than was introduced to an experience and wanted to learn all the ins and outs.)

The mom's intentions were really good, but she was so argumentative with her daughter that she completely missed a golden opportunity. The poor girl was so humiliated by her mother that it would take a miracle for her to ever come to her mom with further questions. My guess is that she will simply look for a sneakier way to gain knowledge. My heart broke for that girl.

As I was listening and imagining all this, I was keenly aware of the lesson I could gain from one mom's error in judgment.
1. Never, never, never talk about or infer s*x with your child in a public setting.
2. Never accuse your child of being interested in knowing about s*x. "I know you want to know more about it!" (Those were literally some of the words I heard from this mom.) My gut says this will mortify your child and stifle any hope of conversation.
3. Don't argue about non-essentials. As soon as that child denied the google search, mom should have made sure her daughter thought her mom believed her. 'You didn't? Ok. I believe you. If you ever wonder about things that just ask, ok?" We don't want our kids to lie, but in this scenario you don't want to miss the forest for the trees! Let the lie go (it is obviously only covering up embarrassment) in order to build trust in your child in a different and difficult area.
4. Invite your child in to a conversation but don't force them. Matters of the heart take time. So much thinking and processing happens in the quiet moments of the child's heart. You can't rush this process or these conversations. You have to be willing to start and stop them based on the cues your child is giving. So if they are defensive at all, it is time to humbly end it in a way that makes your child know that they are safe to bring it up again.
5. And since the matters of heart take time, start slow and early!

I wonder how applicable this will be in my pursuit to raise BOYS?


Joy @ SAH Missionary said...

Good advice Jenne. Ha! I'm thinking your advice might come in handy with 4 boys.....they just may become interested in this topic at some point. :)
I want to tell you too, that I was particularly blessed by what you wrote in the comments over at Ang's. You are a wise, wise woman. You should write a post about that sometime. I could learn a lot from you. I admire you!

Jenne said...

Really, Joy? YOU could learn a lot from ME? Well, the feeling is at least mutual... if you only knew how much I struggle to do what I say I should do!

I know you are busy this summer in the USA. You are welcome over anytime you need to put your feel up and let the kids run-run-run around! (But no pressure! I know you have 10 times more invitations than you can accept.)