Last week, an early morning conversation with my fourteen year old daughter…threw me for a loop.
It was one of those parenting moments where I’m left a little bit stunned…a little bit shaken. A whole lot sad.
“I know you’re young right now” I said. “And this might not make sense to you at the moment. But please…don’t forget this conversation. Always remember this…you can tell me ANYTHING and I will listen. I will support you. I will believe you.”
It’s not the first time I’ve had to have difficult conversations with my children.
Almost two years ago, my son and I were pulling into the parking lot of Halifax Shopping Centre while we chatted away with the radio in the background. The next thing you know…based on the topic on the radio, my son said something that he didn’t have a full understanding of. I turned off the car, turned to my son…and we were suddenly in a full-blown conversation about the Steubenville Rape.
We discussed peer pressure, group/gang mentality, drinking…rape.
I was shaken.
I never thought I’d have such a conversation and as we headed into the mall to do a few mundane tasks, grab a bite to eat and purchase new dress clothes for hockey…I felt oddly closer to him…like maybe I got through to him as he sat there listening to me…wide-eyed with new knowledge and understanding…taking it in.
Not long after, on a family vacation in Florida, my social media news feeds began to fill with the Rehtaeh Parsons story…and I knew without a doubt…his would be too. I found myself, once again, sadly turning to my son to say “we need to talk.”
I wrote about our conversation and received a tremendous amount of feedback and support.
Then a few days ago, with tears streaming down my face, I sat across from my daughter as she looked at me…not fully comprehending the depth of the conversation I was having with her but knowing that the questions she was asking…things she’d heard that week…were confusing.
I told her if something ever happened that she couldn’t understand, if she felt uncomfortable, if she was forced to do something without her consent…though she may not understand my words right now, PLEASE, please remember this conversation if she ever needs it in the future…that no matter what happened, whether she was part of it or not, whether she changed her mind…wanted nothing to do with it whatsoever…felt uncomfortable, scared, belittled…in fear of judgement or harassment…that no matter what…even if she was scared of me…that if there was ever something she needed to tell me…she could.
I would support her, I would love her, I would believe her.
It ripped me apart.
Never in my wildest dreams of being a parent would I ever have imagined that in this short period of time I’ve had to have not ONE conversation about rape, abuse, power, fear…but THREE! Each time, as I’m trying to be strong and articulate my words and be confident in what I’m saying…I’m breaking inside.
I’m attacking their innocence.
But I don’t see a choice.
Our children are hearing things…they know things…there’s confusion and mis-understanding and despite being their mother I don’t understand half of it myself and I DON’T HAVE ANSWERS!
But I have conversation.
Too many events have brought me to the point of having to communicate with my children about things that make me horribly uncomfortable…but me being uncomfortable is nothing. It doesn’t matter. By keeping it in…not discussing these heinous moments…not educating my children…it adds to the Rape Culture that folks keep talking about. Burying our heads in the sand and believing we live in a world with fairies and unicorns…hoping things will change…is not the answer.
Teaching our children about respect for themselves and other people…how to be kind, open-minded young men and women who will advocate for others…is the only way to haul ourselves out of this giant hole we’ve helped to create.
I truly believe the only thing we can do to change the way things have been…is to use these horrid events as teachable moments.
I just truly wish…for every victim out there…we didn’t have to.