You know that gut feeling when you just know something is off about someone?
I recently had that feeling about someone’s child – one of my son’s favorite friends. The issues came slowly over the period of a year….some innocent. An odd comment from my, under 10 year old boy, “Mama, we saw the picture of you and Daddy in the closet having SEX.” What?! Turns out my boy and said friend had been playing hide and go seek and saw an engagement picture of us kissing under the trees. I thought it was odd that the friend, so young, would think that kissing was sex and explain it to my son as such, but I laughed it off, explained to my boy that it wasn’t sex and hoped to God that said friend’s parents would laugh and know we did not have pornographic photos of ourselves on display in the closet.
Then, I walked in on a group of boys playing truth or dare, in our home, where someone’s pants were down. I corrected the situation. I loudly told the whole group – “We do not play truth or dare, and we certainly do not pull down our pants in front of others in this house.” I was upset with my son as we have had all the body talks that you may be screaming at me, through the computer screen, to have right now. We have read the books, called all the body parts the appropriate words, and chatted extensively about who can and cannot see/touch your private parts. That said, I wasn’t upset that the boys were playing because in my heart I kind of thought boys will be boys?
There were more tiny events.
A flutter in my stomach that something was wrong. Lots of whispering at playtime…my husband even pointed out that he didn’t like the fact that he could hear the friend whisper “Your dad is coming…” when he would hear us walking down the hall. I was officially on high alert whenever the friend was around, but was my gut talking or was it just boy stuff and my anxiety acting up after long days of work and chasing the kids?
Then it happened, I won’t share all the details, but I was not paying attention for less than 10 minutes. Things got quiet and I walked in on two boys, under the sheets, they popped up looking guiltier than a cat that swallowed a canary and I knew IMMEDIATELY. I just knew.
There was a lie, and I sent the friend home.
I fell to my knees and asked my son to tell me the truth. I was shaken. Shaking. Words tumbled out, I heard “he begged me, it was just playing, I don’t know why he lied.” In the end it could have been way worse, but I sent my boy to his room because I was so disappointed. I have read ALL the articles, shared with him so many times how his private parts are his alone, and that NO ONE should be able to convince him to do something he does not want to do.
The next day, home alone with two kids and no childcare, I was able to make an appointment with a local psychologist by phone to talk the issue through. Through tears I explained the whole story and the two main take aways from our conversation will always stick with me. One, we teach our kids about body parts and good touch/ bad touch not to ensure that it doesn’t happen to them, but so that if it does they will tell us and we can fix the situation and protect them. Two, studies show that when someone is sexually abused (and truly I think my case was “just” a case of sexually inappropriate play) the most damaging thing is when parents or loved ones react in ways that cause shame.
So, we are moving on with life.
Making new friends. We have stricter rules in our house. We are loving our boy and hoping that this is not a blip on the radar that is his life’s story…