I was raised by the quintessential Jewish mother. In other words, her favorite pastime was (and still is) worrying about her children (and now grandchildren). There are many things that can, God forbid, go wrong to the people you love. And I have inherited both my mother’s unrelenting love for her young and her wildly active imagination for the disasters that could befall them, Heaven forbid.
My mother got extra ammunition from watching the popular daytime talks shows of the 80’s where all sorts of abductions and molestations were always the subject du jour. My mom wanted to make sure that my sisters and I were safe, so she sat us down at all of 5 years old to discuss good touch and bad touch. And for as long as I can remember, I was empowered to know that my body belongs to me.
And that is the same way I have raised my children. I start them off young. I discuss good touch and bad touch. I remind them that their body belongs only to them and that when it comes to private parts there are FOUR rules to remember:
I review this before every school year and every camp season as there is always a new cohort of caregivers who my children will spend hours with each day. I remind them that if anyone tells them that they can’t tell their parents something – even if they threaten to hurt someone they love – they still must tell.
When my son recently asked me “but what about doctors?” I explained that in specific times and locations, with supervision, a check is appropriate, but although he is only 8, I decided to elaborate that some of the top gymnasts in our country were abused for years by a doctor who was supposed to take care of them. I never go into explicit detail, but I always want my kids to know that no question is out of line, no topic is off base, and with this approach, they feel free to talk about anything, even into their teenage years.
He wanted to know what the big deal is. Why getting your private parts touched hurts a person so badly. Touching someone’s nose or arm wouldn’t inflict the same sort of soul-crushing pain. This is a question I’ve thought about before, and it’s certainly troubled me. Why is it that children who are molested can become walking dead?
I obviously don’t know if this is “the” answer, but perhaps I came up with “an” answer. God created the world so that sex would reach our souls. The intended purpose, according to Judaism, is for a husband and wife to become one. Adam and Eve started off as one being in the Garden of Eden and were separated into two halves. The idea is that when a husband and wife are intimate with one another, they are supposed to unite in body, mind, and soul. Because the world was created in a way that such an act could reach the depths of a human being in the most positive, wonderful way, perhaps that means the flip side, the horrific downside, is that when this kind of touch is misused, it can reach a soul to destroy it.
So speak to you kids frequently: so they feel empowered, so they feel comfortable to talk to and ask questions, so that they are safe. So that we can lead our children to experience the most wonderful bliss our world contains and prevent them, God forbid, from ever being harmed.