Since I was molested as a kid, for many years and on many different levels, I am now very proactive with my kids’ safety. I wasn’t sexually abused by a stranger. It was someone in my own home. Someone I trusted and loved. And I didn’t know the rules. I’ve never blamed my mom for not making the rules part of our everyday life. She was raising kids in a time when saying no to drugs was all the rage and people rarely talked about sexual abuse.
Since I can’t go back, the best thing I can do is go forward with my kids having knowledge I didn’t have. Because grooming starts young, it’s never too early to teach kids about body safety.
It makes things awkward when your child tells every stranger he meets about your rules, but that’s the price I willingly pay. Even that time when someone bumped into him and he yelled, “Keep your hands off me! I’m da boss of mine body!” Poor 30-year-old stranger in the Aldi produce section. He had accidentally bumped into Graham’s shoulder. I just smiled and said, “He knows his body rules.”
These rules work for us. As our kids grow, our rules morph to accommodate changes in understanding. Keep in mind that these rules are for an almost 6-year-old. Graham’s known and practiced how and when to say “No!” and how to find a safe adult since he was barely 4. But I wish we would’ve started earlier.
1. We have no secrets. Mommy doesn’t keep secrets from Daddy. Daddy doesn’t keep secrets from Mommy. We don’t keep secrets with Grandma. We don’t keep secrets with Uncle or Aunt fill-in-the-blank or Cousin XYZ. The kids don’t keep secrets with either one of us. Or from either one of us. Even silly stuff, like what I’ve eaten or bought. Graham has, more than once, told Dave at 5:30pm that Mommy ate a cupcake before breakfast. And our little inventory specialist will tell everything you bought on your little stop at Wal-Mart. There’s none of this “Don’t tell your Daddy” or “We don’t tell Mommy” business in our house. No secrets. Many a Christmas surprise has been ruined, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
2. We only help with grownup problems if we are a grown up. Safe grownups ask one another for help. They don’t ask kids. We’ve taught Graham to say no to helping with a grownup problem. Unfortunately, he has often extended that past what we intended. Bess was vomiting the other day and I was yelling for help and asking for a towel. “Mama, I am not da mom. I didn’t make Bess in mine belly. She’s yours job. I’m not a Daddy.” Okay, not what I meant, as I was catching vomit in my hands. But I love that Graham stands up for what he believes in.
3. We have special parts. We don’t let people see or touch our special parts. If anyone tries, we tell a safe grownup right away. I stress over and over again that Graham will never ever ever be in trouble for coming to us and saying that someone touched him. I don’t want him to ever feel shame for someone else’s actions. And we don’t touch or look at other people’s special parts. We also stress that God meant for only a husband and wife to touch one another’s special parts, and even husbands and wives still decide when and how they want their special parts touched. We have had lots of talks about sexuality, but nothing beats our first. It was hilariously awkward.
4. We are the bosses of our bodies. Which Graham has yelled at people who tried to force a hug or kiss out of him. I am constantly reminding family of this one. Our kids decide who they want to hug. When they want to kiss you goodbye. If they will sit on a lap or snuggle on the couch. If they want to say “I love you”…if you try to force anything on my children, I will address it right at that moment. Adults can’t force children into social norms that take away their ability to use and listen to their inner voices and checks in their little spirits.
5. We have doctors to check our special parts if they need to be checked. And Graham, obviously, never sees a doctor on his own. And we tried to make a blanket rule about not even playing doctor, but that blasted Doc McStuffins became so famous. So we made a rule about the things we can do when we play doctor. Height, weight, blood pressure, shots, check eyes/ears/mouth/nose, and knee reflexes. We do not remove clothes or check special parts when we play doctor. Graham’s favorite part of playing doctor: “Take dis medicine and get a sticker and don’t forget to use yours doctor debit card to pay me.” Little eyes always watching everything, even when we pay with a Flexible Spending Account.
Those are our rules. Well, the ones about our bodies and sexuality. We obviously have other rules, like always washing hands anytime we go to the bathroom. Graham tried to lawyer us on that one and stopped washing hands when he peed, stating his hands never touched anything dirty. So, we changed the rule to always washing hands when we flush. Lawyered again. He just stopped flushing for a week. We changed it back to anytime we go to the bathroom. That’s when he informed me that he hadn’t wiped or flushed or washed his hands the entire week of VBS. Fantastic.
Recently, a mom heard me going over our special parts rule before Graham went up into a playplace filled with bigger kids. “Wow. That seems a little untrusting of everyone. Not everyone gets abused.” I am just assuming she wasn’t a fellow survivor. But 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 8 boys will become victims of sexual abuse. And kids like Adelaide have an 85% chance of being sexually abused. I don’t apologize for being proactive. I don’t want my kids joining the club I didn’t choose. My membership card never expires.