I was talking to my therapist a while back. We were discussing many things that session but at this particular point I was talking about an event that I was agreeing to allow my kids to be a part of and I had mentioned that I was worried about one of the people involved.
Not because I thought this person was seriously harmful to my children, like a pedophile, an abuser or other significantly harmful behaviour.
No. This person merely had occasional asshole tendencies and did not always think before they spoke.
Now, I had harm visited upon me as a child.* And one of my parenting missions statements is that ‘harm stops with me’.
I said this to my psych and she challenged me on it.
She asked me to elaborate on harm. And what I was more afraid of.
What I said was that ‘I had harm visited upon me and I didn’t want that to happen to my kids.’
Standard stuff. Good sound parenting ethos.
She then questioned me:
Her: ‘ why don’t you want kids harmed?’
Me : ‘because of the years of pain and therapy (!) and that’s what parents should do!’
Her: ‘Could anyone have prevented the harm that was visited upon you?’
Me: ‘um. Yes. The person who harmed me.’
Her: ‘ not anyone else?’
Her: ‘ So harm, like shit, happens?’
Me: ‘yes, I guess.’
Her: ‘what makes harm worse?’
Me: ‘ being alone and unsupported. Not having the ability to deal with it appropriately’
Her: ‘why is that so bad?’
Me:’ because you feel alone, ashamed, guilty, confused, fearful. ‘
Her: ” So, the true harm is not the event as such, but your ability to deal with it?”
The conversation went on, as it does, about stuff.
What came out of it is this:
What I actually want for my kids is that they are able to negotiate life with minimal harmful outcomes. I want them to deal with life with resilience and tenacity. I want them to live and feel and be.
What that means is NOT preventing any harm ever befalling them (because that is impossible) but allowing small risks to be taken, teaching the kids to deal with outcomes on a small scale. Not actively seeking assholes to play with, but acknowledging that they may occur.
There is no way in this world that it is possible nor ideal to remove every hazard from your child’s path. Your role as a parent is NOT to remove all these hazards, but to teach your child what do each time. This is how they learn to recognize shit situations, shit people and what to do about them.
By us being open, honest, supportive and present we protect the kids from the real and ongoing damage of harm – shame, guilt, fear, isolation.
And if real harm does befall them, they have some tools to help themselves and an open communication and support network to love them and minimize the true harm – the unresolved feelings. The shame. The isolation.
So, the boys went to this occasion. The asshole was there and acted like an asshole when the need overcame them. And my boys are OK.
They recognized that this person said things they don’t agree with and we chatted about it and their response?
‘Mum, they have funny ideas, but that is OK, we just didn’t talk to them about those ideas.’
*some things have been generalized to protect relationships and because the specifics aren’t integral to my story here.
I have also obviously paraphrased my hour long conversation in session! The last thing you would want to do is read a transcript of my therapy session – dear lord!
Since preparing this blog post a few weeks ago, a few other articles have come across my view that resonate and relate. They discuss that allowing your child to be disappointed, frustrated, to miss out, to fight for what they want, to suffer setbacks and sadness and obstacles, is all character building. As long as you also let your child know that you believe in them and love them and support them. Hands Free Mama and Safe, not scared