I literally spent five hours on facebook yesterday. It was a beautiful day outside and yet I couldn’t stop taking quizzes and picking my top 5 things I want to punch. I won’t be too hard on myself because the fixing men were fixing my bathroom and I didn’t want to leave while they were here. I could have gone out and danced, but I was just making excuses to stay on the computer and idle my time and mind.

I didn’t even read Dracula. However, I blame the chemical fumes on that one. After they left, the apartment smelled like processed broccoli and I had such a headache I just watched the movie Erin Brockovich. I never saw that movie in my life and yet I watched it yesterday.

But I digress.

I started thinking about what it was like being a child and then looking at my childhood as an adult. I took it one step further and started recalling the people who lived on my street when I was younger and how they, too, would some day start looking at their own past with adult eyes. What kind of memories and horrors will they dig up?

As children, we go into everything blind. We don’t know that our Uncle Ted is a racist; we just accept his views. Then we get older and we start becoming more aware of his words and their meaning. It hits us that this uncle that has sat at our dining room table for years has been spilling his racial views all over the table for years.

Children just accept words. I didn’t know what a birthday suit really was until I was in my twenties. I just thought it was your favorite outfit you wore on your birthday. When I really stopped to think about what it was, I felt like the dumbest person in the world. But this all comes from hearing a phrase when I was little and never questioning what that phrase meant. I created my own meaning and no one in my family corrected me.

Children also accept actions. If the actions are bad enough, children will think they had something to do with it and they will blame themselves for it. I spent so much of my youth blaming myself for my dad’s death because I surely did something wrong to make him die. As a nine year old, I thought the world bended to me. Whatever actions happened around me, it was because of what I did to make them happen. I am sorry to say that this isn’t unusual. All children think this way. No matter how much you tell a child otherwise, the child will still twist it to be the blamed party. However, I will add that kids pick up on lies like those lies are a freshly baked chocolate cake. So if you think you can go around pretending everything is ok and you are sticking it out for the kid’s sake…your kid already knows there is trouble and he or she is already blaming him or herself. Just sit down and talk to your child honestly.

How many words and actions did the kids on my street take as fact? When they started looking at their childhood with adult eyes, what did they find out? How many bad things happened in homes that I thought were so perfect?

Kids hide things from adults and even peers because kids think they had a hand in it. How do we raise kids to understand it isn’t about them? How can we tell little Johnny that his father beating his mother has nothing to do with Johnny not eating all his dinner? How can we get Mary to understand that her mother drinks because she is sick and it isn’t because Mary was playing with her dolls too loudly? How do we tell little Simon that daddy is leaving not because Simon didn’t do well on his math test, but because mommy and daddy just grew apart?

I don’t have the answers. All I have is my childhood. I wish someone would have explained things to me and been more honest with me. If my mom didn’t hide the facts of my dad’s death to me, maybe I wouldn’t have blamed myself. It took me until late last year to understand my father was just a man.

So with that fact in mind, if I am pressed to give an answer on how do we help our children understand tragic events, I would say that we have to repeat the truth (no matter how ugly it is) to them over and over again. Let them think of it as a tape recorder and then when they are older, they can play it back in their mind. Let those words seep deep into their mind and their veins so there will never be any doubt. Children understand more then we give them credit for and it is because we don’t give them credit, we hurt them more then if we just told them the truth.

Advertisements