This post is maybe the most difficult one I have written in a long time. I am going to write something I feel strongly about and I realize that some parents reading it may have a negative response or an immediate defense to it.
I hope that as you read this, you have an open heart and an understanding that this comes from a place of experience that, while not difficult to be honest about, has cost my family much. I truly pray that you have never yet experienced this and never will.
If you have difficulty reading these words, please know I am not judging – my adamant appeal comes from experienced pain and awareness that prevention in this area is some of the best protection you can offer to your children in this world, that ripples through to every area of their lives.
If you need to leave because it’s too much for you, please come back and take the time to read more in the little chunks you need – because your children need you to build your strength for this.
If you feel the need to comment, please do so with love. You are speaking to a real person, one who has been through the hell she is praying she can guard your family against, by arming you with reality, truth, and compassion.
Bodily Honesty with our children – Sexual Honesty. Why is this so important to me? Well, first of all, it’s about the human body – you know, the ones we all live within. I am an advocate for informed consent, which effects basically every issue under the sun, but especially the issue of the human body.
Family Birth & Circumcision – everyone desires for their body to be respected and allowed informed consent before their genitals are touched in any way
Teaching Our Children About Bodily Autonomy – there’s a link here to Gavin deBecker’s Survival Signals
Health Selections – curriculum additions/substitutions to Ambleside Online through the years
We deserve to know our bodily heritage. We deserve to know the ramifications of surgery, drugs, and allopathic treatments’ interaction within our body. We deserve to know this information about more traditional (or so-called “alternative”) methods, as well. We have not only the right to know, but the duty to know, as adults. These bodies were given to us as a gift from our gracious Father, and we are called to care for these temples.
Let me quote something I’ve said before, because it’s just as important here, beginning with the reference to 1 Corinthians 6:
In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
“It speaks directly to sexual relations, and yet, there is more to this verse. The point of it is: what you put in your body is of huge importance to God, whether it’s the food you eat, drugs you ingest, or the people/person (hopefully, prayerfully… singular) you allow yourself to be sexually intimate with.”
This is no less important for the beautiful people, our children, that God put into our care. They have the right to know about their own bodies, the changes that will come (future tense, not present – they deserve to be prepared beforehand), the consequences of various medical treatments if they face medical issues, and most of all they have a right to know how to protect themselves from the negatives of anything going into their own body, sexual, medical, or other.
Something struck me as odd the other day, as I realized how frequently I hear parents saying they wait until their child is a year before or into “teenhood” to have discussions of “the birds and bees.” I often hear cited that a boy hears The Talk from the man in the family, while a girl hears The Talk from the woman in the family.
I cringe every time I hear this or read it. This is where I hope you will listen with an open heart and mind and know my cringe is not judgement, it’s concern.
There are a few things at play here, a few challenges to waiting this long to share with your children the reality of their bodies and the biological play that has been being acted out since before they were even born.
First, these changes have already been taking place long before 12-13. Their bodies have been preparing for puberty since conception (for females, we were carrying our future children while we were in our mother’s wombs; every woman pregnant with a girl is carrying her future grandchildren as well!).
To share the information of the implication of these changes with them, at an age when they have already experienced them (and may have been hesitant/ashamed/nervous to come to you, because it had not been a topic open to discussion before) has kept them in the dark.
Second, this ignorance causes confusion – “why am I so weepy lately?” “what am I doing not talking to my mom right now?” “why do my armpits have a smell in them?” “Ah! why is there hair growing there?” (The latter being a question even most adults don’t really know the answer to.)
This ignorance causes unknowing endangerment.
Here are the statistics on child molestation. You might already be aware of them, but I want you to think of it like this: if 10 of us mothers got together in a room and we each had 1 boy and 1 girl, 4 of us mothers would be secondary survivors – family members of victims; if our children had painted handprints on their clothes to show the statistics, 2 1/2 of the girls would be covered and 1 1/2 of the boys would be covered in handprints – the evidence of touches we don’t actually see. Of those children/families, 2 of the victims would be assaulted by a friend you let innocently into your child’s life, 1 of the children (probably a girl) would have been assaulted by their father, and the other child by a relative. It’s rare that it will be a stranger who hitch-hikes through town and takes your child on a horrifying stroll through the woods (though, it does happen, VERY rarely).
Since there are ten of us in the room, maybe you can feel safer knowing that my family already takes out the father statistic and one of the girls is now accounted for. But you are forgetting that many children, *especially* when they have been abused by family members, are hesitant to share they have been abused. I did not. I hid it all away even from my own mind because it was, frankly, too traumatic to deal with and as a small child I felt abandoned by my family who unknown to me at the time were at the will of corrupt courts.
Unfortunately, one or more of you are standing before a daughter or a son who isn’t covered in paint handprints, but has been covered in them none the less.
And I want you to catch on particular statistic: of those that actually DID report sexual abuse, 34% were already 12.
At that age when some parents think it’s finally time to sit down and have the “birds and the bees” conversation with the same-gendered child, they’ve not only already started the process of puberty and changes, but many children have already been taught the dark side of the “birds and bees” by a family member or family “friend.”
Based on these statistics, it is imperative that not only do we make this a life long conversation, starting as soon as words can come out of our children’s mouths, but that we do not wait until they ask questions. This does not mean instilling fear into our children. It means informing them. It means letting them know that mom and dad are and should both be safe people to talk about every facet of their lives. It means arming them with knowledge that can save their lives. It means empowering them to know “it’s my body, I don’t like that, don’t touch me” is ALWAYS acceptable to say and you will always fight for their right to say that and be honored in it, whether it is a doctor, a priest, a relative, or anyone they are talking to.
I cannot stress this enough: it is a grave failure to wait until they are halfway through their childhood to talk about their bodies and their sexuality.
This is part of a poem written for a child in the Parent’s Review magazine, but I could not help but resonate with it for parents, who leave things undone or unsaid because they are squeamish, or do not think their children “ready” to be knowledgeable about their own bodies (and by extension, how to protect them). The Sin of Omission (the rest is beautifully said; click the link to read all of the poem):
“For life is all too short, dear,
And sorrow is all too great,
To suffer one slow compassion
That tarries until too late.
And it’s not the thing you do, dear,
It’s the think you leave undone
Which gives you the bitter heart-ache
At the setting of the sun.”