Let’s run through your check list: tablespace is set; house is tidy; shopping list… yup you got the last can of cranberry sauce [no one will know that it is store bought if you put it in that new serving bowl and add some fresh cranberries to the corners]; turkey is already baking in the oven; the holiday music is playing in the living room; and the aroma of stuffing, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, and macaroni pie/mac & cheese has the whole house smelling like gravy, calories and broken scales. You look up to check the time and you realize that people will start arriving in a few minutes.
So, you run and change your clothes and apply your make up; and shout out to the kids to put on the clean clothes you laid out earlier on their beds and to make sure they act right. But before you put that new lipstick on (or new shirt if you are a guy), can I ask you to do me a little favor on this beautiful, festive, calorie gaining day? I know that you are busy and have a lot of things to do, so I promise I won’t keep you long… When the door opens and your friends, family, guests are about to walk up into your nest (I don’t care if it’s your momma, daddy or your boss/senator/minister/most important client, and if they are staying from Thanksgiving to New Years. I don’t really care if you live with them – the favor stays the same) … When you get ready to serve all your well-prepared edible delights to them… DO me the favor and DO NOT serve your children over to them on a golden or silver plate.
Maybe I should have apologized in advance for my harsh statements, and maybe I should have made it a little easier to swallow. But it’s not my job to make real life easy to swallow. My job is to look at reality, to observe and experience real life and then to bring it forth in words. And if I can keep one more person/child/human from experiencing unnecessary and negative life changing moments – I will. And yes, words may taste bitter when you speak them, and they may feel like acid pouring down your ear when you hear it. But this topic is too real for me to drizzle it in gravy or cover it in cheese. Today, we are going to have to eat this one unfried, unbaked and raw.
Now that we have that part out of the way, let’s get to this as quickly as possible, because pots are on the stove and people will be showing up in a few minutes. I understand that it is a common practice for families to have their children greet guests, reciting memorized polite words, with their trained salutations and childlike, rehearsed small talk, while sharing brief moments of affection, which often include hugs, holding of hands, handshakes, kisses and sitting on laps. This is the spot in the celebrations where I must intercede and put a little damper to your day. It is not right for adults to demand that children show physical affection to other people, especially those individuals they are not comfortable showing it to. Some of you may now be saying, “Well, I don’t tell them they have to do it.” Really… really now... You don’t have to stand over and threaten a kid with a baseball bat to get them to do what you want them to do. Trust me, as a parent of daughters I know there are many ways we can motivate/encourage/mold children to do what we think is right without saying that it is mandatory. And if you are really good, you don’t even have to say a word – just the look…
Now, before you get all defensive and say, “Well, it’s family…” or “I wouldn’t have my kids around people who would hurt them…” Your rant sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Or you may be one of those haughty types with the big egos and while reading those last few sentences, convinced yourself that this has nothing to do with you. You are correct! This post has nothing to do with you, your companions, your family name or your exaggerated status in the community. This is about your child, and no one else. And for those of you are still defensive and think that I am over analyzing this, maybe you need some statistics:
- Eighty-four percent of sexual victimization of children under 12 occurs in a residence (Snyder, 2000).
- 95 percent of sexually abused children will be abused by someone they know and trust (NAPCAN 2009).
- Of those molesting a child under six, 50 percent were family members. Family members also accounted for 23 percent of those abusing children 12 to 17 years (Snyder, 2000).
Children have a natural intuition. They may not have the vocabulary to explain it in adult terms, but they know when they are uncomfortable. They know the cousin/uncle/aunt/family friend who makes them feel edgy, and that they would rather wash dishes, do homework and clean their rooms than be in a room alone with that individual. This does not make them rude or disobedient kids. It does not make them shy or even introverted. It means they would rather scrub old pots and pans daily than to give this person a hug/kiss or answer questions on what they like to do for fun or why they haven’t run track since their dad and cousins do. Allow kids to be kids – their homes are supposed to represent nests where they feel safe and protected. While we are on the topic of nests… please note that I am not just focusing on sexual abuse/molestation. Kids shouldn’t have to have people go into the sanctity of their bedrooms with the pretense of kids being kids or how children should play together away from the adults. In case you didn’t know, bullies aren’t always restricted to schoolyards. Some of the best bullies carry your last name, though they may act like the most adorable and well-behaved child-in front of you. Know that your second cousin’s or your best friend’s son may be the biggest bully on the planet. And no one should have to be bullied in their own home, especially a child.
Your kids physical and emotional peace is worth more than any viral video or Instagram post. For the guests who may have brought gifts for your kids and expect to be lavished with thank you hugs and kisses, just have the kids work on homemade Thank You cards. And if your guests have a problem with it, tell them to take it to the Lord in prayer and that your kids are not on the menu this year. We have to start teaching our children that they have a right to personal space and that getting gifts should not naturally equal a reciprocation of physical attention and affection. You may think that this is a simple lesson. But in a world where we keep seeing social media flooded with people staying in unhealthy, abusive and damn-right disrespectful relationships, you tend to wonder, “When did they start accepting this behavior as being natural and normal?” But I am going to keep my promise, and keep this blog post ‘short and sweet.’ You have a stove to attend and dishes to serve…..just remember to keep the kids off of the menu this year.