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This week I lent my support to the #metoo campaign of women and men helping to make more women and men aware of what we all supposedly already know, but apparently also don’t know.
Really? We still don’t know?
I’m sorry. I guess I thought we all knew.
And honestly, I thought one of the reasons we all knew was because it had happened to most, if not all of us.
I don’t say that to sound either naive or cynical, jaded and negative. I say that because almost all of the women and many of the men I know have had experiences that I believe must have included some degree of sexual harassment at the very least. I also say that because almost all of the harassers I know came into contact with many more vulnerable people over the years than just me.
I honestly wish I had more to offer during this ‘ ‘watershed moment’ of awareness’ or whatever the media is calling it. I certainly have my own stories, but I don’t really want to tell my stories. I don’t enjoy telling my stories and I don’t get much out of reliving the details of them.
Now if I thought telling my stories would help anyone, I would tell them in an instant, of course.
So maybe someday I will tell my #metoo’s.
But these days I’m surrounded by kids who do most of the talking. I’m surrounded by kids, thanks to two pro-procreation brothers and a few local cousins. I’m surrounded by a few teens and pre-teens who talk to me and who graciously let me hang out with them from time to time.
Maybe I’ll tell them my stories when the time seems right. Like if they ask a question or seem curious or seem in need of that sort of information.
Usually, the questions of the teens and pre-teens start because of song lyrics or a particular episode of Catfish or because of a snicker in the car about something somebody said or didn’t say.
And of course YouTube prompts billions of “I didn’t know you knew that” kind of moments now.
Luckily, the cool thing about kids is that they talk if you let them.
I’ve been thinking about how valuable my words could be to the young people I have access to…but then I’m really not sure. I’m really not sure if I can help because I can’t quite identify the words that might have kept me from having some of the experiences I unfortunately had.
What could someone have said to me that would have kept me safer?
Well, I guess someone could have warned me not to be alone with men older than myself, even if they were family friends, neighbors, relatives, etc.
That would have been helpful.
And really, there’s not much reason a young girl needs to be alone with men older than herself.
Maybe I would tell the kids in my life to never be alone with any adult or kid they felt any sort of discomfort with.
I know, I know…you’re thinking “well then, you can never do anything since that’s too broad.”
To that I say this:
I was talking to a teenager today and she said something really smart to me. She said that kids her age need curfews because bad things happen after a certain time of the evening.
Now THAT is smart.
Even this teenager knows that bad things are more likely to happen under certain circumstances.
So yeah, I would say to kids just don’t hang out with adults or kids where it feels weird or uncomfortable or more likely that something uncomfortable might happen.
Let kids know it’s okay to feel weird and leave because you feel weird.
And that not knowing if it feels weird is reason enough to leave.
And oh yeah. I also wish someone had told me that sometimes an adult will say something that just sounds weird or makes you feel creepy. I would say to kids that at those times, it’s no longer necessary to be kind or polite. At those times, you are allowed to say “eeeeewwwww….that sounds weird or makes me feel creepy” before you run off (fast) to look for your friends or your parents.
Okay. So those are two helpful pieces of guidance I didn’t have when I was growing up.
I talk to my sister-in-law about issues like these pretty frequently.
We talk about how to protect the kids without smothering them. How to keep an eye on them without limiting their experience of the world. How to keep them safe without making them scared to go out of the house.
She may or may not know that whenever I can, I remind them that I am a safe and non-judgmental adult. I remind them often to call me if they ever need an adult to call. I tell them I will come and get them or that they can come to me or that they can use me as an excuse to leave wherever they are.
Because sometimes kids are stuck and just need an excuse to get out.
I tell them to remember I am a safe adult if they ever need a safe adult to help them in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation.
Today I told the teenager I was with to count me in as a safe adult. I told her to call me anytime of the day or night and promised that I would be there.
After a week of #metoo, I plan to now say ‘I’m a safe adult’ so many times that the kids in my life get sick of hearing it. I want them to hear my voice saying it when they are in precarious situations, the way I here my own protective voice these days.
And I think I’ll start sharing more with them about how to trust your gut.
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn to trust my gut until decades after it was too late. When I was growing up, I was told to trust adults, not my gut. 😦
But now I have a gut worthy of trust. And maybe I can lend it out to the kids in my life.
Maybe I’ll say “If you’re not sure what to do, think about me. What would your Auntie Dee say? Would she say ‘no big deal?’ and laugh this situation off? Or would she say ‘I’m coming to get you right now?’
Maybe I can’t come up with the guidance for how to avoid bad situations entirely, but I think I can do my share to help the kids I love to know bad situations when they see them. And, more importantly, maybe I can help them to feel those situations are WRONG when they happen.
And they will happen.
Because no matter how many of us say #metoo, there will always be people out there who know that someone younger or more vulnerable is just that….vulnerable.
#metoo. And hopefully #notyou.
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