As the kid walked past our room, she noticed my frown and her mum with a bag! Being the expressive one, she asked are you and mum fighting? Is mom leaving? Now it was ok if she’d asked this to us in private, however, she did this in a room full of people, not family!
So we decided to sit across the table over dinner and explain to her the family value system. We were not upset she asked a question, but that it was in front of other people we consider as general friends or good acquaintances.
So we said, yes friends fight, they argue, but they also makeup, it’s normal and natural for people to disagree and sometimes agree to disagree. However, it is not ok to share what we discuss in the privacy of our family with strangers outside.
The kid nodded. But I sensed she was confused, so I prodded her to speak freely and she asked some very simple questions, whom to trust, whom to not trust, what is the right way to find out? Is there a way to rank them? It set me thinking.
While the messaging was clear, that family matters should remain within the family, the exceptions were not made clear to her.What does it mean, what does it entail? When does she know that even family could be wrong sometimes?
Say if we could stack rank trust, could this be the hierarchy :
- Mother, father, and siblings.
- Grandparents, maternal and paternal.
- Best friend ( they are different from good friends you hang out with )
- Extended family cousins
- People you know over a reasonably long period of time.
Yes, I know the list could go on, particularly if you have a daughter, you want to protect her and make her stronger, advise her more. However, as we spoke, we realized that each of the stack ranked categories, could also have a negative impact on her.
For example, if she marries or associates with someone who has an abusive family, or is abusive himself, then her first instinct would be to keep quiet about it! She could be in denial, keeping quiet about anything that goes wrong in the family thinking it to be the right thing to do because her parents said so and drilled the so-called value system in her mind since childhood.
It also applies to sons. If your child is the sensitive kind and has an emotionally attached best friend, then he could be at risk too. What if the best friend did something wrong? He would support the friend because that’s what his parent taught him, isn’t it? Children can be very vulnerable to the messaging we give them. The risk of our messaging being misread or misinterpreted runs high.
Of course, when I cite these examples, they are more applicable to children at an impressionable age, one learns the hard way or smarten as they grow up. The point is how do we minimize the pain for our children growing up in this increasingly complex society? Knowing well, that we can’t protect them at all times, so to make them stronger, better equipped to fight for themselves, save themselves from harm’s way, what do we teach them?
It is indeed easier said than done. The paradox of everything you teach can come back to haunt you later in life. So is it imperative to make them aware of the gray areas as they step out from their largely black ‘n white lives, where things were simple, straightforward and uncomplicated?
Yet, once you do teach them the grays, you take away their innocence, you could make them cynical, perhaps paranoid, not trusting anyone. And that is the parental paradox!
And oh, did I mention we were debating whether to keep the old bag in my study or in the storeroom!