How to be a good parent
TW: sexual abuse
My daughter, Elisabeth, fell off a footstool a few weeks ago. She screamed immediately and was sobbing within seconds. I raced to her. I told her that I was right there and "the worst is over," as my husband tried to look at her bloody mouth. My heart was aching. I wanted to protect and reassure but I couldn't fix what had happened.
It's hard to be a good parent.
We're up against so much: our educational level, own history of trauma and perhaps mental health issues. Maybe also poverty or accessibility issues. And always privilege and work/life balance. But one of the best, simplest things we can do is believe our child. We can do this regardless of how much money we make or whatever other circumstances are influencing us. Believing someone is always a choice. For parents, believing kids is a sure bet, good parent move.
In the hit ABC show "How to Get Away with Murder" Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating, an attorney and law school professor. Early in the show, Keating confronts her mother (Cicely Tyson) about not protecting her from the uncle that molested her. Tyson tells her, "it happened to all the women, that’s our curse. It happened to my mother. It happened to her mother.’ Keating never felt believed. That feeling affected Keating likely influencing her choices, for the rest of her life.
Ironically, in a later scene, Keating's mother tells Keating what she did do to protect her. But Keating never knew. (Note: this a really powerful scene but it may be triggering for child survivors of sexual abuse.) Sometimes what happens is not okay (if it''s not okay to them, it can't be okay to us) nor can we always fix it. But parents can believe kids. When we believe them and they feel it, kids know that we are on their side. That feeling of solidarity builds trust. When our kids trust us, they come to us when they are stuck or hurt.
Elisabeth's lip is healing. She will be okay. But if Elisabeth isn't, she'll tell me because she knows I will believe her. Together we can get her the help she needs.